Five weeks in Copenhagen now. It’s hard to know what to report and what to leave out.
I finally visited the famous Danish Architecture Centre. Pretty incredible that my first trip there was to participate in an event (more on that later). The current exhibition is called Co-Create Your City, and is a very lightweight overview of urban co-creation projects around Denmark and a few from overseas. Pretty cool to walk into DAC and see photos of, and quotations from, the people I’m working with here: Anaïs from Creative Roots, Jesper from GivRum, Benny from Bureau Detours. It’s super to see this work recognised and valued by an organisation such as DAC, even though I wasn’t so impressed with the exhibition itself.
What is nice about it is that DAC is running a huge series of events related to the exhibition – a few every week. So my first trip there was to participate in an event organised by Creative Roots. It was a walking tour of the neighbourhoods near DAC, including Christanshavn and Christiania, drawing people’s attention to all the myriad things that make up the city. The point being that co-creation is in no way new or radical; it has always been true in every city.
The event culminated in all the participants raiding the basement storage facility at DAC and quickly creating a ‘pop-up’ lounge in the car park out front. We then say, had a few beers, and discussed co-creation. I was asked to talk about three of our Gap Filler projects and their different ideas of co-creation: the Lyttelton Petanque Club, the Pallet Pavilion and Eyes on the City. And I’m very happy to say that the amazing shop at DAC now has Christchurch: The Transitional City and Once in a Lifetime: City-building After Disaster in Christchurch both on the ‘featured titles’ table!
Most of my social time I find myself spending in Nørrebro, a diverse neighbourhood with a really nice feel. There are lots of markets there, and a big graveyard (where Søren Kierkegaard is buried) that people hang out and have picnics in.
Someone told me there’s a new popular song where the lyrics are just the names of all the kebab shops on the main street, Nørrebrogade. I just tried to find it on YouTube. Turns out there are hundreds of kebab songs. Who knew?
The train line separates Nørrebro from Nordvest where, some people say, suburbia begins. Right at the edge there’s a vacant sliver of land where the city will add a new cycleway eventually. In the meantime, the local area renewal project (run by the council) is supporting and funding a Container City called Linjen run by the team at Bureau Detours. They have container offices, carpentry workshops, welding workshops, a radio station, a tiny cinema, an artist-in-residence, a bar, and a nice garden with chickens. A much, much rougher aesthetic than Re:Start, it attracts quite a mix of people and is a great temporary use of an awkward piece of land right by the noisy S-train track.
Last weekend was a long holiday weekend, so I rented a car and toured around the south of Zealand (the island that Copenhagen is on). Less than an hour south is a beautiful old town of Køge that, like many places here, is in transition. The industrial harbour area is still functioning, but only in part, and there are plans for massive residential developments along the harbour. So: before the big developments come, there’s a big push for temporary activations. For three years now, Køge have supported a wide range of public art and other urban play projects along the harbour. Bettina Lamm, with whom I’m working at the university, has organised quite a few of these projects – and recently published a book called Urban Play.
Unfortunately for us it’s all in Danish, but you can see some of the projects here.
I drove across the 20km bridge to the island of Fyn – after paying the $45 toll (!) – and stayed one night in Odense, the birthplace of Hans Christian Andersen. And then another bridge to the largest island of Jutland, where I visited some adorable and very old towns including Ribe and Møgeltønder. Then I crossed the German border and went to visit an old friend in Kiel. Along the way I stopped at some old Viking forts and museums, and have been pondering the unanswered question of how the Iron Age civilisation of the Vikings outdid the Romans…
This was a busy week, with a public lecture that was held in the old workingmen’s club at the shipbuilding yard on Refshaleøen, which has been turned into a music club. The following night I went out to Studio B33 in Nordvest to give a Pecha Kucha presentation. It was a little awkward, knowing nobody there, until David Sim turned up; he’s one of the team from Gehl Architects that helped with the Share An Idea project in Christchurch. It was great to see him again. He hadn’t really kept up with Christchurch news, so was quite surprised and saddened to hear the fate of the Council’s Recovery Plan.
It has been heartening to read the Press online and see the increasing amount of public criticism of the big anchor projects. Maybe, just maybe, the powers that be in Christchurch will begin to adopt a bit of the approach here, that diverting a percentage of those hard infrastructure funds to ‘soft infrastructure’ – events and activities that create street life and social interactions – is better for everyone in the short term and in the long run.