Friday, August 31, 2012
My last trip to Copenhagen was nine years ago. My Danish aunt and cousins took me all over the city, showing me classic sights like the Little Mermaid. Last weekend I returned to the city mostly to eat, but also to explore some of the off-the-beaten path sights that I didn’t manage to see on my first trip. My wanderings mainly focused on Copenhagen’s contemporary architecture.
At the beginning of my trip, I attended the opening of Copenhagen Cooking, a food festival dedicated to the city’s famous Nordic cuisine. The event took place at the famous Royal Library in Copenhagen, nicknamed the Black Diamond because of its shiny Zimbabwean granite exterior.
The building, which was completed in 1999, had light, airy, interiors with high ceilings and lots of natural light filtering through the windows. The auditorium had a quirky numbering system on the seats, with no chronological order being followed. Despite being confused by it, I liked it a lot.
After the event I had a chance to meet up with a colleague of my cousin’s. My cousin works in the New York office of a famous Danish architecture firm called Bjarke Ingels Group (BIG), which is headquartered in Copenhagen.
Her coworker met me at one of BIG’s newest Copenhagen architectural feats: Superkilen. Part park, part public art space, Superkilen was completed earlier this year.
It featured a red space called the Red Square, a black space called the Black Market, and a green space called the Green Park. Like the High Line in Manhattan, Superkilen stretched in a narrow band through the city.
It was located in Norrebro in one of the city’s most multiethnic neighborhoods, and part of the goal of Superkilen was to incorporate iconic structures from the home country of as many of the area’s residents as possible. With 57 nationalities represented, it was a big task.
From a Moroccan mosaic fountain to an American doughnut shop sign, from a Japanese octopus slide to an iconic Spanish bull sculpture, more than 100 objects were used in the creation of Superkilen. The result, including the design of each of the three spaces, was stunning. I loved it.
Along the same lines of eclecticism in Copenhagen, one of Denmark’s most controversial neighborhoods, Christiania, is a self-proclaimed autonomous commune in the Christianshavn area. On my last morning in the city I took the metro over to Christiania to see what the area looked like.
Far from the planned creativity of Superkilen, Christiania’s colorful buildings and spaces seemed more a product of spontaneity than design. Graffiti murals covered many of the area’s walls, and picnic tables in the middle of the commune were painted in primary colors.
Music played from a sound system somewhere in the heart of Christiania, and residents and visitors mingled to exchange cash for cannabis.
While Christiania was an interesting place to visit, I think my preference for Copenhagen architecture lies more with the modernity of the Black Diamond and the contemporary collectivity of Superkilen.
Perhaps if I travel to Denmark again in nine more years, I will have a whole new set of contemporary architectural highlights to discover in Copenhagen. I hope they will live up to what is already there.