Monday, November 10, 2008

Harvest Time

culture night

architecture office on a boat

So, the last point on my journey was a bit of a culture shock – despite the fact that I’d been in Scandinavia for most of my travels, experiencing a new place through the eyes of an architectural tourist was in sharp contrast to the dig in and make myself useful approach of my previous stays. Although it was a pleasure to see the many dynamic aspects of Copenhagen and the creativity of contemporary Danish architects, I found myself wanting more evidence of the life of the city. The buildings were lovely, but who were the communities that they housed? Complex to put your finger on, but certainly a kind of eye opener in contrast – I’ve been looking at the building environment predominantly through the eyes of the people working to form and maintain a community, so seeing the buildings as objects, even as background, left me with an empty shell feeling.

So, architecturally, I leave the experiences I’ve had with the realization that the social element of forming the built environment actually makes the process of architecture immensely more rich and compelling. After all, it is in reaction to the life and activities of groups of people and individuals that a building has its true function and any semblance of meaning.

Luckily, there were several experiences in Copenhagen that gave me a view into some of the social life of the city. The first was that I arrived on the city’s ‘Culture Night’ which was a series of events held city wide allowing people to check out the buildings, music, food and general culture of Copenhagen. I toured the ruins of the old foundations under the city Palace, hung out at the Copenhagen Center for Architecture where they were conducting a kind of music/ poetry experiment involving separating musicians in different rooms of the buildings during the exhibition, then mixing their music to poetry at a final performance. I went to an artists collaborative and did some life drawing, and finally just walked about looking at some light sculpture and lines of people moving through the various squares and buildings in the city.

the black box

new concert hall

youth boat house - PLOT

The next night I stayed with a group of very friendly fellows who had formed a co-op, sharing food expenses and spending a good amount of their social time together. They were having a Halloween dinner, which was great fun. Although I may have overdone it a bit with the libations, it was nice to have a blow out at the end of my trip.

Was able to tour Christiania with a young lady who had lived there for some time and knew the scene quite well. It was a very interesting place, and perhaps had the most exciting atmosphere in the city, although the buildings were lacking the high design touch, the streets and public buildings felt somehow like a medieval town might have felt. People were just out in the streets, actually talking to each other and enjoying the city life, instead of this sort of isolated, event and scene based movement through entertainment, shopping and work venues. I was somewhat disappointed to learn that the place had a rather complicated and perhaps overly political social structure, favoring the power of older residents – although it makes sense in a way. I imagine if you’ve spent a great deal of sweat and emotion continually fighting for the existence of your home you’d feel a high level of ownership. Overall though, it was very impressive that the place exists and has managed to hang on for all these years. It’s so centrally located and idyllic – it’s really a great inspiration of collectivism and counter-mass culture. I hope they can continue to maintain its existence and find ways to generate a more securely established position over time.

one of the houses at christiania

interesting protest project related to waterfront development proposals

So now it’s back to Boston with my head overfull of ideas, impressions, feelings and thoughts. I’m not at all clear on what’s next or where these various experiences will take me, but I’m eager to find out and so very grateful for the chance to take them in and the freedom to explore their potentials.

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