21 September 2017

A car-free canvas

Sunday Copenhagen hosted the annual half-marathon, one of the few occasions where cars are banned, and the streets returned to the people. Last year during the same event, an environmental NGO measured the ultra fine (ultra lethal) particles on average ten times lower than a typical rush hour. This kind of pollution kills 540 Copenhageners every year. It is absurd really, how we insist on clinging to such toxic behavior.

Seizing the opportunity, the local council of Nørrebro prolonged the ban on cars, and had Nørrebrogade opened up to the public after the marathon (and crappy weather) had passed. Turning the otherwise hectic street people friendly with a soapbox race for kids on the bridge, small soccer goals, plants, pavilions and tables with boxes of free chalk for all.

Car Free Day Nørrebrogade, Copenhagen September 17th 2017

Queen Louises Bridge, with the rescued bunker trees on the corners. Imagine this picture without them? Shudder.

Car Free Day Nørrebrogade, Copenhagen September 17th 2017

Fat lane vs. fast lane.

Car Free Day Nørrebrogade, Copenhagen September 17th 2017

Car Free Day Nørrebrogade, Copenhagen September 17th 2017

Car Free Day Nørrebrogade, Copenhagen September 17th 2017

Copenhagen by day. Clever supermarket tote bag. 

Car Free Day Nørrebrogade, Copenhagen September 17th 2017

Your money my ass. A Nørrebro classic, even mirrored on the poster.


I started at the bridge and just raised my camera every once in a while, pointing up and down the street. Unable to take it all in at once. The mood was so calm and happy, especially when I reached the yellow part, by Assistens Cemetery. Nature does something to people, the presence of big trees just calms us. Even if we are not aware of it.

Car Free Day Nørrebrogade, Copenhagen September 17th 2017 
Freeeeeeedooooooom.
 Car Free Day Nørrebrogade, Copenhagen September 17th 2017

I love how it is blurry, but you can still tell that everyone in the picture are happy and relaxed.

At this point cars usually race by, sidewalks are narrow along the cemetery and you don’t let your kids play freely here. Seeing it returned to the people was kind of mind blowing. Look at what we could do with this place, if cars were banned more often (or gasp: entirely)?

Car Free Day Nørrebrogade, Copenhagen September 17th 2017

Slow down! And that goes for cyclists too.

Still, watching the kids was the best part of it all, racing up and down the street, exhilarated like small prisoners set free. A perfect time in life to learn about how public space is allocated and question the status quo. 

Car Free Day Nørrebrogade, Copenhagen September 17th 2017

We all need a reminder that the street is our canvas.

Car Free Day Nørrebrogade, Copenhagen September 17th 2017 
 We can put it to better use.

 

05 August 2017

On the fence

Copenhagen is still one big construction zone. In addition to the building boom, making room for new (wealthy) Copenhageners, there is the new metro line. Worming its way through our city, devouring everything in its path (our precious trees, ugh). The new metro line is not just a mess, but a major investment, financed by selling off land and even some of the harbour to developers. Needless to say, I am not the biggest fan. But if it will make drivers leave the car outside the city, and switch to public transport, it may prove worth it.

The metro construction sites are all wrapped in tall, dark green plywood fences. They call it Byens Hegn, the City’s Fence, and have appointed a curator to decorate it with street art. It was just what I called for (back in 2011), a creative way to hide the mess, and yet it has somehow rubbed me the wrong way, so I have been dragging my feet reporting on it.

The concept is that street artists apply for permission, going through a screening process. Then, a spot and a time slot is appointed, the art applied and left there for a designated period. With a few exceptions, the art has mostly been stuffed in off places, while advertising has had the best exposure. Worst of all on Town Hall Square, with its flickering screens and wall-to-wall banners. It just turns me off. That, and the neutering process of asking for permission.

But, were it not for the metro fences, there would hardly be any street art left to look at in Copenhagen at all. So I have finally decided to suck it up and look at the bright side. The big splatter-painted, warped mirror wall on Kongens Nytorv won me over. The Mirror Wave by Frederik Hesseldahl:

Mirrorwave, Kongens Nytorv

By some kind of magic, the mirror turns the mundane interesting.

Mirrorwave, Kongens Nytorv

I may have been seduced by this thing.

Also: I got a new, fancy camera. We are not quite as one yet.

Mirrorwave, Kongens Nytorv

Reflection of the French embassy, classy and ad free any way you look at it. None of that Danish treating people like consumers or cattle. When they had construction done, the scaffolding was covered up in a custom designed lace print, to beautify rather than scar the city. 

Mirrorwave, Kongens Nytorv

Freaky and fabulous. 

I returned with my old camera a few days later to get the shot I missed the first time around.

Mirrorwave, Kongens Nytorv 
Classic Copenhagen summer version 2017.

And I got my beloved macro shot.

Mirrorwave, Kongens Nytorv

Because the good stuff is always in the cracks. Everyone knows that.




22 July 2017

Chopped liver

The Danish parliament is situated in Christiansborg, a castle facing the canal in central Copenhagen. It is known to most Danes, as this is where we gather to fight for democracy and let our voices be heard, when those in the castle forget who they work for. As they tend to do.

While the castle itself may be off limits to mortals, the square in front belongs to the people. It is shaped like a half-circle, in an intricately laid pattern of sett stones in granite, flanked by two elevated islands of trees. One with a beloved statue of a resting pig. How could I not have told you about the resting pig? Oh.

First, it pains me that I have to use an image from Wikipedia, but I have not been able to catch the bigger picture at this altitude (spoiler: and now it is too late).


Perfection to the left. The safety rocks were added at a later point.


Island with the resting pig.

Christiansborg Slotsplads, endangered trees

A perfect bench for weary tourist legs, and for taking in the scenery. During demonstrations the small island turns into a playground for children, and the trees provide much needed shade.

Resting pig on Christiansborg Slotsplads

Hey pig. ♥

When terror entered the vocabulary, large rocks were placed in the outer perimeter of the half-circle to prevent vehicles from accessing the square. The rocks along with the elevated islands of trees have been doing the job perfectly, but someone in the castle had the bright idea to pretty it all up. And here is where it all goes wrong.

Never mind the sum involved to fix something that already works (50 mill. crowns of public hard earned money). What they have come up with is nothing short of a disgrace: The historical sett stones laid out in intricate patterns and colors, will be replaced by pale grey granite. Ten big trees are to be cut down, in the name of the new floor. The islands flattened, and the rocks replaced with pale grey balls. It is beyond bland. A vanity project initiated by a small but powerful elite of mediocre taste, with zero understanding of- or respect for Copenhagen history.

Look at this magnificent floor? My heart.



With an evil fence in the way, so I had to include the crappy piece of paper. Unsee that, if you can.


 The stories this floor could tell.


I shot this on the day I was aiming at the trees, of which several had already been chopped down (this disaster has so many levels of pain). Sett stones in granite dated between 1895 and 1922. Half of the square was in shade at the time, so I planned to return another day. Little did I know...


This week they proceeded to disassemble the most beautiful square in Copenhagen. 


Strategically timed, as those with the power to question and possibly put a stop to this insanity, like media and professionals, are off on vacation. Their return will be brutal, as I expect so will their verdict, but they will of course be too late to make a difference. 

I bet you are eager to see what this will all be replaced with? I give you:


Chopped liver by GHB Landskabsarkitekter. Note the pedestrian island to the left? This is the one:


For no good reason at all, these big trees, providing shade and traffic safety, were not incorporated into the design and will be cut down. Along with the two on the far right corner. 

Expect follow-up posts on this atrocity, including color samples of the light floor, freckled with gum, food, stickers, wear, dirt, paint and pollution. Because there is no way this will stay clean for a minute longer than opening day. Where have we heard this song before?

11 March 2017

Wising up

When we talked about this back in 2012, I failed to see the point of feminism. I simply didn’t grasp the urgency at the time, thinking “surely gender equality goes without saying?”. I was wrong (it happens).

Because of the many voices speaking up about it, I am now beginning to recognize how ingrained sexism and inequality is in our society. It is everywhere from the daily dose of sexist and patronizing media, to our current government run almost entirely by men. It is unhealthy, and we are all obligated to question status quo and demand change. Women, men, children and even Nile Gods must pitch in.

  Young boys and grown men can be feminists too. 
Young boys and grown men can be feminists too.
  Untitled  The Pussyhat Project  Untitled

Oh, I missed the Nile action!

And blogging.


 

21 January 2017

Womens March Copenhagen

So, yesterday was worse than expected (I mean: Trump?!). The world has taken a bad turn, and it is not just in the US. Not speaking up about it or standing up for basic human rights, is inexcusable. If you are turning a blind eye, you are complicit, simple as that. Today women, men and children marched all over the world. This is what it looked like in Copenhagen:

Womens March Copenhagen January 21st 2017

Gathering on the square in front of the Parliament on a magical foggy day.

There are scary things in the cabinet

There are scary things in the cabinet.

Ovaries trumps hate 
Ovaries trumps hate.

#whyImarch  
I am no longer accepting the things I cannot change, I am changing the things I cannot accept. #WHYIMARCH

Everyday sexism project DK  
Everyday Sexism Project DK

Say yes to love, say no to sexism.

Make America nice again 
Make America nice again.

Reproductive rights are human rights

Reproductive rights are human rights.

Rainbows
 
Did you march today?



27 December 2016

The big kiss

On top of the list Things I Forgot To Share 2016, is the big kiss. Remember the troubled bike and pedestrian bridge that kept getting delayed? Inderhavnsbroen, or The Kissing Bridge, as it was nicknamed for its sliding function, just didn’t seem to catch a break. It was close, but no cigar for years, until one summer day.

On July 7th the internet starting buzzing: it is opening today! The City first denied such an event, but eventually caved and announced the good news: the bridge is ready for traffic. The grand and official opening was scheduled for a month later, but what was the sense in postponing such a blessing, for thousands of daily commuters? 

The bridge is a crucial link between central Copenhagen, Christianshavn and Amager, without which cyclists and pedestrians have been forced to take a senseless detour alongside heavy traffic. Needless to say, we had been aching for this kiss. So bad.

This new connection forms a straight line from the lakes, a popular bike-route which has prompted the city to widen the bike lanes. During construction we share the available infrastructure, and on this happy day that coincided with a red carpet EU event. Crossing a red carpet on bike, on the sidewalk with smiling police officers standing by. Surreal.

Red carpet

Oh, Copenhagen

Widening of bike lane

Compared to the space the cars next to it takes up (wastes), this widening is not much, but to cyclists it makes a huge difference. It reduces tension and creates safe passage for riders at all paces and of all sizes.

A few shots of the almost-there-hold-it-hold-it bridge.

The Kissing Bridge, opening day

Pedestrian side of the Kissing Bridge

Pedestrian side of the bridge. A bridge that really feels more like a road, with a wide, bidirectional lane for bikes and separate space for pedestrians. What it may lack in grace, it makes up for in functionality.

The Kissing Bridge, opening day

Beautiful underbelly, tickle, tickle.

Copenhagernes picking up on the rumors, flocked to witness the first kiss.

Ready, steady...

First two to cross the bridge: Mayor of trees and bikes Morten Kabell and Klaus Bondam, of the Danish Cyclists Federation:

First two to cross the Kissing Bridge

Second two to cross the bridge: the girls!

Second two to cross the Kissing Bridge

A fine moment in Copenhagen history.

The wise delay of this post, gives me the opportunity to follow up with the effect of our much anticipated piece of infrastructure. Six months in, it is deemed a resounding success. Numbers of daily users have by far exceeded all expectations. In November the city announced a count of 14.150 cyclists on the Kissing Bridge, in just one day! It has been attributed a crucial part of the reason bikes outnumbers cars in Copenhagen, for the first time since the 1970s.

No one cares how it long it took to get here, or at what cost. A kiss this good is totally worth it.


Kissing links: