At first glance, the Telefonplan tower in Stockholm looks like an average large building. It’s colorful, but nothing out of the ordinary. It’s only when you call a certain number (+46 8 122 012 35) that things get interesting.
That’s the number for changing the lights on each floor. Select 1 through 9 to choose a level, then decide the darkness/lightness you want. “1”, for example, means less red, “3” means more.
The Telefonplan is an unusual example of participatory design, where citizens, not designers-on-high, get to decide what happens. (It’s also a fun way to kill a few minutes and you can see the results in real time via the webcam).
“Public space is a very important part of democracy,” says Erik Krikortz, one of the artists behind the project. “We need to make constant efforts to protect and develop our common spaces, in order to keep them free and open. There is always a risk that commercial interests will dominate too much, and disciplinary architecture can be used to deny certain groups access to public spaces.”
Krikortz worked on the project with architect Milo Lavén and designer Loove Broms. Before setting up the installation, the building–which used to be an Ericsson research facility–stood empty and dark.
If someone else is changing the colors, the line will say it’s busy. You can also use an accompanying mobile app.
“The advertising ban in São Paulo and other cities shows us how we can improve our cities and public spaces by thinking outside the box,” adds Krikortz. “These kind of creative ideas must come not only from artists, designers and architects, but also from politicians and the general public.