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Case studies

The One Percent Rule

Stockholm’s One Percent Rule commissions public art. Besides bringing about aesthetic improvement, its tangible social impacts include:

  • Expanding beyond public buildings to include site-specific art in open public spaces
  • Commissioning art in Stockholm’s peripheral districts and inner-city regeneration areas
  • Bridging the social and economic divisions in Stockholm’s increasingly segmented urban landscape.

Stockholm initiative the One Percent Rule, first implemented by Stockholm City Council in 1963, stipulates that one percent of the total cost of built projects (including new construction, conversion and extension) shall be allocated to publicly accessible artwork.

The initiative is in place nationwide but it is compulsory in Stockholm. It has various objectives: to ensure everyone has the opportunity to experience art in their immediate environment; that urban planners and construction companies invest in the aesthetic environment; that planning the aesthetic environment is integrated in overall city planning.

Similar percentage schemes are in place in numerous European countries. Norway contributes up to 1.5% of construction costs to art in or on new government buildings. Denmark dedicates 1.5% of the construction costs for government buildings to art, and offers a government matching fund with an annual budget of €1.5 million. The Netherlands has also implemented a percentage scheme for art in government buildings since 1951 in which, depending on total construction costs, 0.5% to 2% of the budget must be spent on the visual arts. As a result of the percentage scheme, the Netherlands’ Government Buildings Agency is the largest visual arts commissioning body in the country.

Although many other European initiatives link art spending to government construction projects, in Sweden the scope of the One Percent Rule expanded in the late 1990s to include art in open public spaces (site-specific art). This has produced various works of art in inner-city regeneration areas, in infrastructural projects and in and around educational establishments.

Stockholm Konst, part of the City of Stockholm’s culture administration, is responsible for the commissioning and purchasing of art for Stockholm’s indoor and outdoor public spaces. Stockholm Konst ensure municipal agencies, administrations and construction companies know about the One Percent Rule. They then manage the entirety of the process on behalf of the organisation by leading the construction project (the ‘client’) and monitoring quality. This ensures the client needs no existing in-house knowledge of art or art commissioning.

Projects facilitated by the One Percent Rule begin by setting up a consultation group, comprising the client, a project manager from the Stockholm Konst team, one or more architects and, for larger projects, a local politician from each of Sweden’s two major political parties. Stockholm Konst leads the project to completion, supported by a 10% share of the project budget to cover administrative costs. A second consultation group represents the interests of groups who will experience the art in daily life, for instance representatives from a neighbourhood, school, hospital or workplace. Although there is no formal feedback or evaluation process, Stockholm Konst invites comments on the artwork, and the One Percenter of the Year competition selects the best art that has been produced through the scheme.

Stockholm is a growing city, with its wealthy historic centre increasingly juxtaposed against suburban areas housing less affluent sections of the population. The opportunity to support art in public spaces across the city via the One Percent Rule can be a way to bridge the social and economic divisions expressed in increasingly segmented urban landscapes.

In early 2014 the One Percent Rule funded a mural painting project near to central Stockholm’s Odenplan Metro station. The project sprang from combined efforts by children from Vasa Real school in affluent central Stockholm, and children from Rinkeby, an area of high poverty, unemployment and social housing. Vasa Real teacher Marie Rosen Wiberg, who led the project, reported that children from the two schools developed long-term friendships by working together.

A similar mural in the suburb of Husby was painted on buildings owned by local state-run companies. Organiser Saadia Hussain outlined her vision that the mural paintings could lead to positive social change. Due in part to Stockholm’s zero-tolerance policy against graffiti, the companies were initially wary. “There was quite a lot of fear,” Saadia explains. “We had to cool them down. But it was based on trust. They gave us this wall and they trusted us.”

Although administrative buildings are required to allocate one percent of construction costs to art, buildings engaged in care allocate two percent. The construction of Sweden’s new Karolinska Hospital has therefore yielded an unprecedented budget of SEK 118 million to devote to public art between 2010 and 2017. As part of this, artist Aleksandra Stratimirovic will create a light installation for the hospital’s oncology treatment rooms. These rooms are quite dark during treatment and patients spend considerable time lying down. The installation creates points of coloured light that move across ceilings, helping draw a patient’s mind away from the process. They can be easily installed in a number of different spaces in the hospital.

Projects such as this demonstrate how the One Percent Rule delivers tangible social impact, not just an improved aesthetic environment.