From a model farm to a production site for culture.

From cows to culture

From what was a state-of-the-art barn at the time, built by one of the 19th century’s leading entrepreneurs, to a production site for creators and entrepreneurs in completely different industries. The history of our site begins in a spirit of innovation and experimentation, a tradition we continue.

Hilda and Lars Magnus Ericsson

In 1895, the couple Hilda and Lars Magnus Ericsson bought Alby Gård, just a stone’s throw from Subtopia, where they moved a few years later. Together, they established a telephone company that remains one of the world’s largest telecom companies today. In just over ten years, Ericsson went from a small workshop a mere 13 square metres in size to a workforce of 700 employees, with most of its production being exported.

Lars Magnus Ericsson was renowned as a competent entrepreneur and innovator who created his company from nothing. Not much is known of Hilda’s contribution to the company from public documents at the time, but we know from the couple’s extensive correspondence and Hilda’s diaries that she played an important role. Hilda had studied longer than her husband and was responsible for the bookkeeping. Together, the couple discussed how the company should be managed and developed, and Hilda was a partner in tests and experiments. In the beginning, Hilda was also responsible for customer contact and supervised the female staff. Later on, when her husband was away on long business trips, Hilda managed the company in his absence.

Hilda och Lars Magnus Ericsson
Hilda and Lars Magnus Ericsson.

Model farm

In 1900, Lars Magnus sold his shares in Ericsson. The couple’s new project was a modern model farm, and in 1902 the buildings that are now Subtopia were completed. The vision was to improve Swedish farming with new technology in harmony with nature. In 1906, they also bought Hågelbygård, which is now Hågelbyparken and part of the same company as Subtopia. Lars Magnus spent a lot of time at the drawing board, while Hilda looked after the farms and made sure the finances added up.

Gammal svartvit bild på kor i en ladugård som blir mjölkade.
The Subtopia restaurant a 100 years ago.

Several items of note hint at the original function of the buildings. Rather than have lifts, the barn was built with a souterrain level so that each floor of Subtopia’s main building had a ground-level entrance. Perhaps you can guess how Subtopia’s Loft venue was used? It’s where the hay was stored for the cows, which used to stand in what is now the restaurant. Hay isn’t the only thing the cows got to eat. Other feed was also experimented with, such as sunflower and peanut cakes. Sheer white curtains were at the windows so that the light was the same all year round. This was to allow the milking to be carried out evenly. Lars Magnus was an innovator who experimented to find solutions, and from that perspective the spirit of the place hasn’t changed.

Small businesses and decline

Hilda and Lars Magnus let their son take over the farm, which was later sold and remained active until the mid-1950s. The area then consisted of small businesses, and there were also rumours of underground clubs, but we can’t verify this. However, the place eventually declined, so much so that in the early 1990s Botkyrka municipality bought the building for a single Swedish krona. They saw the value in the old buildings and chose to renovate them.

Ladugården under renovering
The old barn was in need of renovation. Photo: Ebbe Palm

Culture takes centre stage

The state and Botkyrka municipality invested in a circus hall and, in the late 1990s, Cirkus Cirkör moved to the area. In 2002, the old barn was renovated and Kulturhuset Rotemannen was inaugurated. There were seven associations here at that time.

In 2005, Kulturhuset Rotemannen became Subtopia and, at the same time, the municipal limited company Upplev Botkyrka AB was formed, which included Subtopia along with Lida Friluftsgård and Hågelbyparken.

arrangera cirkusföreställning
The circus performance Breaking Point was played in Loftet 2022. Photo: Björn Babba Callius.

Rapid expansion

In the years since its inauguration, Subtopia has expanded and now also includes Hangaren, a former construction warehouse located near Albysjön Lake, Gula Villan, built as a holiday home for Hilda and Lars Magnus’s son, and several nearby properties. 26 organisations are based here with us and around 200 people come here to work and study every day. It’s not just crops that grow here now. There are also myriad forms of creativity and culture that are nurtured and thrive at Subtopia!

Historiska Alby – dramatik, romantik och teknik, av Martin Rosén.
Entreprenörerna: Hilda Ericsson. Utbildningsradion, Sveriges Radio.
Svenskt kvinnobiografiskt lexikon.