The Null Device
Posts matching tags 'copenhagen'
A chance conversation with a fellow passenger on an overnight train to Copenhagen brought this to my attention: When Copenhagen's central railway station was being renovated a few years ago, the station authorities discovered that two street artists had built a complete apartment in some unused space beneath platform 12. The apartment had apparently survived for four years before being discovered and demolished; the artists, going by the names of ADAMS and ITSO, claim to have built others elsewhere in Copenhagen, and inscribed the story of the house (in neat, professional-looking typography) on the sides of trains.
There were photos of the original house on the web, but they seem to have disappeared beyond the reach of archive.org; however, some can be seen in this video from Danish TV, in which the official who discovered the room is invited to a talk show by a host who seems to know a lot more about the artists in question. The host talks about the room, and then it gets even more interesting; he shows the artists some books, made of cardboard, documenting other such spaces (a shed in the centre of Stockholm, and a room in Berlin beneath Ostbahnhof), and other contrivances (hollowed-out books in the Stockholm Library containing keys to secret spaces; a universal manhole-opening kit in a backpack; a canoe made of recycled advertising billboards, used to explore the sewers beneath Paris). One remarkable thing is the tolerance shown by the official ; he is seen praising the imagination and attention to detail of the artists in a way that, were he in an Anglo-Saxon country, would probably cost him his job. Could this be the legendary Scandinavian pragmatism?
The Independent has an article about what Copenhagen can teach the world about sustainable urban planning, in particular the promotion of cycling:
Forty years ago, London and Copenhagen had similar ratios of car to bicycle use, and both faced an exodus of workers moving out of the centre and into the suburbs. But after ' the energy crises of the 1970s, the two cities diverged. Danes were restricted in how much they could use their cars and commuters began to campaign for a better infrastructure for cyclists. Today, there are almost 200 miles of bicycle lanes in the city, and 40 per cent of its 5.5 million inhabitants cycle to work. The city has evolved cyclist-friendly policies, such as the Green Wave – a sequence of favourable traffic signals for cyclists at rush hour.
Melbourne is one of Gehl's most significant successes. From 1994 to 2004, he studied the city and, working with Professor Rob Adams at the city government, introduced major changes to the city's public spaces. Gehl recommended promoting the city's café culture, improving the waterfront area, opening up the historic laneways to pedestrians and adding more urban plazas. After a decade of work, there were 275 per cent more cafés and 71 per cent more people-oriented spaces. Wider, lighter walkways, lined with 3,000 more trees, enticed 39 per cent more daytime pedestrian traffic and 98 per cent more at night. Of course, the city expanded during this time, but more people also returned to live in the inner city (to almost 10 times more apartments). Once a classic doughnut-shaped modern city, in which the centre empties at night as workers return to the suburbs, Melbourne is now regularly rated one of the most liveable cities in the world.One point that comes up is that, while in the Anglosphere, cycling is a purer-than-thou subculture with its own uniforms and ideological machismo, in Denmark, it is completely mainstream and without pretention:
In Britain we have been conditioned to believe that cycling is something that can be done only in special places while wearing specialist safety equipment and clothing. Yet here were men, women and children cycling to work or school, looking stylish and feeling safe. It was cycling as transport, not sport.
He's no fan of the culture of hardcore cyclists that has evolved in the UK. "Once you get past the cycle subculture and make it mainstream, when you have grandmothers picking up their grandchildren from school on bikes, the aggressive riders become less noticeable. You still get people running red lights here but you just don't notice them." And he believes Critical Mass-style activism is counter-productive: "Is this selling cycling to drivers? No."
Getting around Copenhagen has been simplified over the past 30 years, from insurance (stolen bikes are registered by the police and cheques are sent out within a week) to gear. "There are a lot of companies selling 'cycling clothes' in the UK. Is it overcomplicating it, as the sports industry has for 40 years? I think it might be. Open your closet, it's full of cycling clothes. Anything you can walk in, you can cycle in. Let's move on."Of course, the "your closet is full of cycling clothes" line only works when you have Copenhagen-style cycle paths separated from motor traffic. In Britain, where cyclists have to contend with cars, especially in the winter when it gets dark early, high-visibility clothing is a must.