...because you thought Sweden was Switzerland!

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Virtual Norrköping

As if I'm keeping true to the embarrassing label of "professional student", my life as it looks right now revolves around classrooms of all sorts. I attend Swedish class anywhere between two to five hours each weekday, including some days when I have to run to the campus bus to catch my university classes in the next city. At times it even occurs to me that I exercise in a classroom, cycling away to the command of the instructor three times a week. I know it doesn't sound like my weekdays are brimming with excitement, but there are some exciting too things now and then... and a whole lot of homework.

Swedish class takes place in an old school building a mere 3-minute walk away from our apartment. People in their 60's now could have gone to grade school in that building once; now it's occupied by adult-learners (i.e. anyone above 20) who are enrolled in Komvux, the community adult school that is a language school, technical school and senior high school rolled into one. The building itself, which is designed in some pre-art deco style, is called Sankt Olofsskolan (after the patron saint of the city Sankt Olof of Norway which I wrote about the last time) and was designed by Carl Bergsten, a Norrköping-born and French-educated architect that made it big in Sweden's big cities.

Walking into the school lobby is a fascinating experience and the golden art-decoesque engravings on the green-marble wall communicate the school's power over the students and the supposed importance of going to school (in that Foucault line of thought). Too bad that the rest of the building's interior has been renovated to modernity, with antiseptic white walls and patterned paint-sponged design. Still, framed blueprints on the corridor walls give you an idea of what the building once looked like after its construction in 1909. The gym hall was indoors (!) on the third floor, in what is now the building's auditorium. What was then the receptionist's office is now the school cafeteria.

Originally, I was going to write more on the school building (in the same way as I wrote about our building Markattan), but having found no websites on the building's history, I searched for the architect's name instead and got to an interesting discovery: S:t Olofsskolan features in a PC game!

(A screenshot of the school which I got from one of the game's review sites.)

Or rather, Norrköping city does, in this game called Time Stand Still (noted grammatically correct in the imperative form). In the game (which is in English), you play Carol Reed, an English detective who sets up a little office here in Norrköping. Hired to investigate strange happenings in an old couple's home, she has to ask the city folk for leads and walk the city solving puzzles and picking up other clues. The graphics – taken by camera by the games producers -- are very realistic, but with a Photoshopped effect. As a review notes, playing the game is "like going to a vacation in Sweden without having to go there." Maybe my folks should download a demo? :-)

Even the city museum, the Museum of Work, and the Motala Ström (the river that flows through the city) figure in this virtual Norrköping. I put the borrowed screenshots beside actual pictures I have of these places, for comparison:

You can hardly tell which one is from the game and which ones are real!
(Hint: Marcus and I are the "game characters" in the real photos)

The engraved sundial at the wall of S:t Olofsskolan also figure in the game, as well as the city museum's own room devoted to architect Carl Bergsten – which is how I got to know about the game at all in my search for the Komvux school building.

Maybe people thinking of visiting me should play this game before walking into the actual city? Or will that spoil the excitement? On the other hand, as that review said, it serves as an el-cheapo version of a Swedish vacation, just in case you can't wait. And as a consuelo de bobo, the tour is all in the comfort of your home and you don't have to go through the hassle of numerous bag-checks and customs-intimidation just to get to sit for 14 hours on a cramped space eating microwavables.

External links:
Time Stand Still Review
Time Stand Still Walkthough
Time Stand Still Demo
The game creators' site (They are a couple who live in Norrköping, where appartenly all Carol Reed mysteries take place)

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