WEEK SIX / UGE SEKS

As a designer I feel it is important to not become infatuated with the environments you experience.  I have managed to see the positive as well as the areas for improvement in “Wonderful Copenhagen”.  I came upon a newspaper publication, which was translated in English for visiting students like myself.  Inside this newspaper was an article titled “Designing Homelessness Away”.  My first reaction was that of hope and inspiration as I thought of how the article must highlight methods being implemented by designers to help this marginalized population.  Then reality set in as I read the sub title text, which posed a question to its reader of if the cosmetic redevelopments create a better city for all residents.

This type of public art helps generate tourism and business around construction sites.
This type of public art helps generate tourism and business around construction sites.

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This sculpture could emulate the homeless residents of Copenhagen. This sculpture is also lucky to have a bench to sit on and have people willing to interact with him. Perhaps they could spare some change.
This sculpture could emulate the homeless residents of Copenhagen. This sculpture is also lucky to have a bench to sit on and have people willing to interact with him. Perhaps they could spare some change.

While I have shared methods and pictures of how the city has combined forces with locals & artists to shield the public eyes from the construction of new rail/subway stations as an appeasement for the inconvenience – I now think of how this affects the homeless population I see everyday.  In the article the residents who live among the public spaces are referred to as ‘rough sleepers, addicts, and the unemployed’.  Although Copenhagen is acclaimed for its design implements through social conscience I cannot help but notice the cultural difference of the marginal and middle-class populations when I observe faces.  It is visibly clear that those living on the fringe of society are predominantly homeless immigrants and begs a bigger question, in my mind, as to what approach policy has for those who are not Danish by birth.

An area near city hall where homeless immigrants move around throughout the day and and dig in for the night.
An area near city hall where homeless immigrants move around throughout the day and and dig in for the night.

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This is a public space surrounded by an office complex - but it isn't even inviting to the general public (not even the trees are convinced as they huddle together for safety)
This is a public space surrounded by an office complex – but it isn’t even inviting to the general public (not even the trees are convinced as they huddle together for safety)

Danish policy and politics are outside of my realm of understanding so I cannot criticize that aspect of the culture – but I am aware that resources are available to Danes.  What I can comment on is what I see as a designer with this information.  Yes, Copenhagen has a wonderful approach to improving the quality of urban life by re-orienting city design towards pedestrians and cyclists; but this design approach does not take into consideration those on the fringes.  Although Copenhagen provides injection rooms and shelters for the homeless and addicts, providing a space for these things doesn’t necessarily get to the root causes of these issues to eradicate these problems from all societies.  I am aware that these issues are more than a systemic and wicked problem (a problem that is difficult or impossible to solve because of incomplete, contradictory, and changing requirements that are often difficult to recognize).  

Underneath bridges are illuminated with color changing lights - a nice deterrent for illicit activity but horrible for trying to get some sleep after a long day.
Underneath bridges are illuminated with color changing lights – a nice deterrent for illicit activity but horrible for trying to get some sleep after a long day.

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Underneath this building is a great location for shelter but all these lights make it difficult to get some rest.
Underneath this building is a great location for shelter but all these lights make it difficult to get some rest.

I think one of the bigger issues that will continue to push vulnerable people out of the public space and eye are designers and architects who continue to create and design exclusionary.  By living in this realm we inadvertently create a false perception of reality that is removed from experiencing these issues – thus leading us to believe that they don’t exist because we don’t see them – or even worse, ignore it.  In the observation of Ninna Hoegh, Director of Projekt Udenfor (Project Outside – which provides support to the homeless and marginalized), catering urban design exclusively to a particular class sends an implicit message about whom the city values.

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A public rock climbing wall and boxing ring are nice to have but – could these sites have been better utilized?

Subtle implementations that have pushed out homelessness to the public eye are the disappearance of public benches and shelters at bus stops, public squares, and church properties.  These are indirect consequences of design according to the article’s author and I agree based on what I have seen during my visit.  Globally we tend to give preference to those who are consumers and pay taxes because these are the things that we perceive to make the world progress. I often question my role beyond design as to my future contributions.  Do we abandon empathy and action toward what we view as ‘progress’ or confront it toward real progress?

With all these questions, issues and uncertainties I do know that design will be at the discussion table when the time comes and I will be prepared to challenge our future approach.

Public play/exercise structure along the water
Public play/exercise structure along the water
An open sitting pavilion under a train line...Perhaps shelters could have been placed here?
An open sitting pavilion under a train line…Perhaps shelters could have been placed here?

WEEK FIVE / UGE FIVE

What is a city without culture? what is culture without the influence of art?  I could show you images of traditional Danish sculptures & paintings – but times have evolved.  GRAFFITI is one aspect of art that a majority of Danes have grown to appreciate.  Let me be clear – there is a big difference between graffiti and ‘tagging’.  Also, for context, I will include some traditional public sculptures & murals that caught my attention in the same manner as the modern & recent works.

Public Sculpture
Public Sculpture

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Was this work for the people or for royalty?
Was this work for the people or for royalty?
How often do we walk past the art?
How often do we walk past the art?

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How does one interact with a public sculpture so large & placed on a pedestal
How does one interact with a public sculpture so large & placed on a pedestal

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Even beautiful, traditional, architecture can add to the semblance of a sanitized & sterile city through repetition – however, a bit of pop & color (done in good fashion) can add character or charm to a neighborhood; hell, it might even increase visitors to local businesses.

Public art mixed with branding and signage
Public art mixed with branding and signage

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Another blank canvas
Another blank canvas

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If you look at the landscape there are medieval facades, structures & buildings alongside modern day architecture.  You have historical art in museums & outdoor sculptures standing bold with patina.  Then there are the galleries that have a mixture of old art techniques & new school applications.  Just because the modern day artist may pick up an acrylic spray can versus acrylic paint shouldn’t lessen the quality of the art, in my opinion (plus, have you tried to control those cans? damn near impossible without the right tools and understanding).  There are reference sketches these artists use and well planned methods to execute blending, shading, etc.  What I appreciate about graffiti is how it is public art (accessible to all) and not locked away behind doors after 7pm.

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I attended a graffiti competition (16 July 2015) called “Spray Off”.  at least 16 local artists completed murals & the area is plastered with past work.  There was even an area set up for children & other youth to try their hand at the art form.  Around the city there is plenty of construction taking place & these sites are enclosed by tall green facades.  As a result of the inconvenience (mostly the visual blight) the city has arranged a program where people can submit a request to make a work of art on these boards & the city also supplies the paint & materials.  This is an interesting balance to try to ‘cover up’ the ugliness of construction.

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Finished work
Finished work

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When done correctly, graffiti creates and contributes – not destroys or takes away from a culture or society.  I appreciate the Danes who have pushed against the antiquated understandings and perceptions of what is classified as art and encourage these pops of color through visual stimulation to the dormant areas of our psyche.

 

 

WEEK FOUR / UGE FIRE

It is only appropriate that the number four in Danish is spelled like fire in English – because things are heating up in the studio quickly!  With all the Scandinavian inspiration I have just experienced I was ready for the task at hand…however, getting started and keeping momentum is a task in itself.  It took a bit of thinking of what to share this week & I decided to share some ‘behind the scenes’ work & process. My Urban Design project revolves around redesigning a site on a lake.  The focus is to ‘Bridge the Gap’ and design an urban recreational space – simple right? Well the challenges include the site being next to a main transportation artery leading to and from the center of the city (city hall, Tivoli Gardens and the main rail station to name a few major sites).  In real estate they say location is everything – Unfortunately the orientation of the lake, and heavily trafficked roads created a very uninviting environment for the inhabitants of the surrounding neighborhoods.

The (5) Lakes
The (5) Lakes
Main site & boundaries
Main site & boundaries
Area of concentrated design
Area of concentrated design

(There are more parameters/obstacles in place for this challenge, but I’m not going to bore you with that list)

To create an inviting space where people would want to stay for more than five minutes it is imperative to understand how people currently interact and use the space.  The 12 of us in Urban Design broke into teams and collected data……a lot of data (e.g. scale comparison to other sites with similar functions, climate, sun orientation throughout the day and seasons, connectivity to other areas in and out of the city center, etc). 

comparing climate data to understand where to place structures for shade depending on time of day.
comparing climate data to understand where to place structures for shade depending on time of day.
My map of Copenhagen, assignment brief & rough ideas
(My desk) map of Copenhagen, assignment brief & rough ideas

In order to put all that data in further context our professor facilitated a board game that we used on site to extract a more in depth understanding of the challenges of the site and how to implement change on the ground – because the problem with design these days is that it is not designed on a human interaction scale but from the aerial birds eye view.  Now armed with more data – we retreated to our own thoughts (or nightmares) in trying to solve this evolving puzzle of creating a site that encourages interaction, use, and pleasure.

My desk when I come in the morning and leave at night
My tidy desk when I come in the morning and leave at night
My desk during studio
My not soo tidy desk during studio

After some discussions with my first iteration of designs my Professor (& Professional Architect) encouraged me to expand beyond the surface of the existing ground and don’t be afraid to get creative.  This was a difficult task considering my mentality is that of a practical & minimal nature.  IMG_1771

sketches looking at various elements on site in context
sketches looking at various elements on site in context (e.g. use of water & hedges as an intervention to minimize visual & noise pollution

So I left the studio jumped into the classroom (the city of Copenhagen itself) to explore and see what works, what doesn’t, what’s been implemented, what hasn’t, etc – i.e. observing & analyzing how other spaces ‘work’ in relation to different levels of human interaction.  First stop, our site.

Runners frequent our site, but only to run through. Still used as a through-way
Runners frequent our site, but only to run through. Still used as a through-way
Man briefly on site while family walks on the outer area of site (minimal to no interaction
Man briefly on site while family walks on the outer area of site (minimal to no interaction

One of the things our Professor mentioned was how to define a successful space.  Essentially, success doesn’t mean having an activated site 24/7 like Times Square and I have seen sites here that accomplish a ‘healthy’ level of activity.  Second stop….all over the place to explore!

(Today alone I biked 22k/13.6ish miles)

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Different water pavilions under a metro line about 6 km outside the city.
Different water pavilions under a metro line about 6 km outside the city.

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Attention to detail of material, construction, and integrated lights on decking & benches
Attention to detail of material, construction, and integrated lights on decking & benches

Perhaps I can utilize the approach of the late architect Sverre Fehn, who designed the museum my group presented on, at the site.  Sometimes the natural environment has the raw materials waiting to be used over the man-made imitations.

Very large rocks and small boulders used to create a spatial environment and natural seating
Very large rocks and small boulders used to create a spatial environment and natural seating
what is this natural wind swept looking thing in a built environment?
what is this natural wind swept looking thing in a built environment?
Time to venture through and investigate this urban garden I happened upon
Time to venture through and investigate this urban garden I happened upon

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View from the inside
View from the inside
Another view from the inside
Another view from the inside
Another view from the inside! This space is larger than it looks from the outside!
Another view from the inside! This space is larger than it looks from the outside!

I can now expand on my concept armed with my new images of practical use/implementation from my travels in Copenhagen, next week I will share more pictures of the areas outside the city center, updates & improvements to my process, and another aspect of Danish design culture.  Have a great week & enjoy the following images of my discoveries and thoughts.

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Perhaps I should make room for a few of these on site!
Small food vendors and food trucks all in one very large warehouse! Over 24 options to choose from! YUM!
Small food vendors and food trucks all in one very large warehouse! Over 24 options to choose from! YUM!

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transportation pavilion for the water bus.  A good use of shelter from the elements while allowing the light to come through the structure
transportation pavilion for the water bus. A good use of shelter from the elements while allowing the light to come through the structure

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people watching
people watching
Old building on the left, new buildings on the right, but harmonized architecturally in proximity.  Neither overpowers the other.
Old building on the left, new buildings on the right, but harmonized architecturally in proximity. Neither overpowers the other.
Merge of old facade with modern mural.  A welcomed visual break among the traditional beautiful brick work
Merge of old facade with modern mural. A welcomed visual break among the traditional beautiful brick work
Very nice bench (I say to myself as I observe an older woman sitting on one on the other side of the dock by the Opera house
Very nice bench in front of the Opera house (I think to myself as I observe an older woman sitting on one on the other side of the dock)
One cannot just observe how people interact with objects.  One must also interact with the objects themselves to gain a clearer understanding.
One cannot just observe how people interact with objects. One must also interact with the objects themselves to gain a clearer understanding.

WEEK THREE / UGE TRE

I’m back in Copenhagen and ready to share what I’ve gained from Norway & Sweden!  Scandinavian design and architecture is shared between Norway, Sweden & Denmark.  My week long experience in Oslo & Stockholm provided me with a larger contextual grasp of understanding design, architecture, & landscape.  We observed a lot of architecture but my eyes were often drawn to the details within these environments and how those miniscule details potentially impact on a greater scale.

(Please note:  There were many more stops during this week long engagement so I am going to attempt to share 1 site for each day during the week)

Sweden

First Stop – Naturum Tåkern (Sweden) – This site is home to some spectacular trails, structures, and buildings for bird watching as well as enjoying and exploring nature.  If you remember “The Swiss Family Robinson” this site could bring back some movie memories.  The way this site interacts with the environment is interesting because the roof is made of approximately 36 million reeds.  Here local & traditional materials were used to construct the main building.  I was impressed by the effectiveness of the skylight spanning the top center of the entire roof to bring in natural light.

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Second Stop – Woodland Cemetery (Stockholm) – What was more impressing to me than the architecture of the buildings on site was how the designer, Sigurd Lewerentz and Gunnar Asplund, created a cemetery that did not interfere with the landscape.  Lewerentz & Asplund wanted people to not feel like they are in a place of death so restrictions on the sizes of headstones were made.  The trees, flowers, & green areas make it feel as if you are walking in a park rather than a city of death (referring to the headstones).  The layout of the cemetery creates an atmosphere that is blended between a spiritual & natural one.

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Third Stop – Gamla Stan (Stockholm) – The old medieval center of Stockholm was on this island which has many narrow and winding cobble stone streets leading up (and I mean up) to town squares and the royal palace.  It is always interesting to see soo many ancient structures still in use and standing amid a bustling modern day city.

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Sergels Torg & Kulturhuset (Stockholm) – During the urban renewal phase in the 1950-60’s this area was designed to replace or ‘update’ the historical town square.  This space is serving many purposes with housing a subway, above roads & traffic circle, a sunken open pedestrian plaza beneath the traffic, and of course shopping & restaurants.  The in tent of the Architect, Peter Celsing, was to create a ‘cultural living room’ through an open and accessible building.  The surrounding environment was clearly designed for the automobile; however, pedestrian activity was also considered when looking at the integration of the pedestrian plaza, apartment buildings, and Kulturhuset adjacent to the road.

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Kungsträdgården Metro Station (Stockholm) – Soo Stockholm seems to be a really giant rock.  If you walk around town you will see buildings built on top of exposed rock (sometimes 2 stories above street level).  One of the interesting things about this rocky country is the metro system, or subway.  They carved through the rock to form tunnels for the trains; however, most of the surface contours are raw and unfinished like a cave.  Over 90 of the 100 metro stations have been decorated by over 150 artists who have used sculpture, mosaics, paintings, installations, engravings and reliefs as mediums to breathe life into the natural rock. The Kungsträdgården station, which we visited, looks like a mix between an archaeological excavation of ancient cave murals and something modernist.  This is interesting to me as ‘traditional’ public art normally manifests in an object as opposed to an environment.  To experience and interact with these objects and environments engages the everyday commuter – instead of requiring them to travel to a park or specific site to engage with the art.

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Norway

Fourth Stop – Holmenkollen Ski Jump (Oslo) – The Ski Jump is located high above the city in what I consider a mountain.  During the 1952 winter Olympic Games it was central to communicating the long proud tradition of Norwegian skiing.  The view from the structure is amazing & the placement of the structure to the landscape clearly communicates the value of the Ski Jump to Norway.  The structure can be seen from far away and in multiple directions from the city itself.  The monumental glass and metal structure pierces through the green landscape around it and into the sky.

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Fifth Stop – Norske Opera & Ballet (Oslo) – This modern Opera House is situated in the Olso harbor.  The structure is amazing in what it accomplishes internally & externally.  During our private tour we went back stage where there are massive moving platform floors used during shows, an in house garment design factory (no photo’s allowed), metal & wood fabrication workshops to create and construct enormous sets, storage for all of these things and additional items, and multiple rehearsal rooms for orchestra & stage talent.  On the outside the building has multiple sloping surfaces (basically the entire roof) that you can walk on.  Yes, you can literally walk on the roof of the Opera House for free and sunbathe, run around, walk down and dip your feet in the chilly water, or take pictures of the city from the roof… you can even see the Ski Jump in the distance, lol.  This site creates accessibility for everyone to the Opera House in contrast to traditional interaction of such an environment feeling uninviting or intimidating to those outside a certain mental perception to ‘fine culture’.

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Sixth Stop – Hedmarkmuseet (Hamar) – This museum houses history in a manner that most museums do not.  Traditionally architects design buildings to house these national treasures of past – but more often the building itself is what becomes the focus rather than the treasures within.  Architect Sverre Fehn had a design philosophy that resonates with me.  Instead of tearing down nature and history to make way for what is new – integrate it with minimal impact.  The museum foundation is what is left of the 13th Century Bishop’s fortress (post reformation).  On top of that rests a large barn from the Hamar region; which reflects the transition into agriculture during the 17-18th Centuries.  Fehn combined modern materials like glass to cover openings in the structure but in a very minimal way to ensure the touch of modernity is just enough to protect the past.  Fehn also constructed a floating concrete path that takes you through the museum exhibits.  The construction is done so that these different layers of time do not touch directly. the barn appears to float off of the fortress wall, the glass panels float before openings, and archeological excavations are viewable – all because of Fehn’s use of modern intervention.  The relation between the old and new of this site is well designed beyond any traditional museum; thus giving the experience that you are walking through history in context rather than being presented with it.

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Seventh Stop – Mathhallen (Oslo) – This site now houses a European styled food hall.  The building originally functioned to generate industrial iron casting for bridges in the early 20th Century.  Today the structure houses specialty groceries (similar to a farmers market), cafes, restaurants, a place to host cooking classes and similar events dedicated to food & drinks.  Oh yeah, there are also urban rooftop beehives (fresh honey).  Real estate and property developer Aspelin Ramm thinks that buildings should provide a valuable element to their landscape.  This market is a prime example of how urban design can have a positive impact on a surrounding community when the inhabitants are considered in the process as opposed to only serving a select few.

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I hope you enjoyed this post – it was definitely a lot to take in in a short amount of time but I am excited to implement what I have learned and observed.  More to come from Copenhagen next week!