Monday, September 20, 2010

CPH in spraypaint

I'm pretty behind with this blog - spent most of my time in architecture world while I was in Berlin. My apologies for the delay.

Copenhagen's street art scene is very prolific. Most of the city is tagged - these aren't very interesting in and of themselves (unless you're really into tags... I am not).

The most interesting work can be found on the number of permission walls scattered throughout the city. There's one section of land by the port that is best described as an open-air grafitti art gallery.

The plot is about 150m x 300m (500 x 1000 ft) - all enclosed by walls; all covered by pieces. The centerpiece could be called "evolution" - a huuuuge mural stretching across the long wall. It starts on one side with the big bang and chronicles the history of the planet through the ice age.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Copenhagen Architecture

Just a brief rundown of some buildings that I checked out during my time in Copenhagen. There isn't a "general" age for the buildings - many are from the 1700s or earlier, but cycles of building booms, including the recent surge in the early 2000's, give the cityscape an interesting heterogenity.

The (almost) ubiquitous 6-storey building height makes for a rather underwhelming skyline for someone used to the tall buildings of Chicago. After a week, though, I much prefer the shorter building height; It seems to keep the city on a more human. The skyscrapers in downtown Chicago can seem monolithic, almost Orwellian.

Copenhagen's short stature makes some for some spectacular views from the corkscrew spire on top of the Church of Our Savior. Getting up there was an adventure in itself - the old carrilon bells and timber beams were tricky to navigate, and the stairs were definitely not designed for two-way traffic. The view from the top is definitely worth it, though

Copenhagen has a fair share of buildings by architecture "names," and in recent times has attracted international attention. Pritzker winners like Zaha Hadid and Norman Foster have buildings in Copenhagen, and Jean-Nouvel contributed to the recently completed Danish Radio Concert Hall (a joint project designed with Vilhelm Lauritzen, Dissing+Weitling, Gottlieb & Palludan and Nobel Arkitekter).

The hall, on approach, is very unassuming. The design is very rectilinear, almost like a large cube. As you get closer to the semi-transparent exterior, you begin to see the expressionistic, geometric concert hall; it appears as though a giant meteor is resting in the enclosure. The effect is even more striking when you enter: the main performance hall is a seperate structure, suspended above the reception area.

I was lucky enough to see a concert in the hall - Brahms 2nd Piano Concerto and Strauss Ein Heldenleben. The acoustics of the hall were somewhat finicky. The brass and low strings projected very well, but the piano sounded a little washed-out and I could hardly hear the concert master's solo in the Strauss. The all-around seating of the audience made the hall seem empty somehow, but the interior design, with its undulating, wood-grained walls and fragmented balconies, more than compesates for the off-putting audience dispersion.

Denmark, named Monocle's Best Design City in 2008, has its share of world-class architects. B.I.G. is one of my local favorites. I snuck into their office - it was like peeking in on Santa's workshop, filled with models of all shapes, colors and sizes, busy little elves (interns) clicking away on computers and cutting with exactos...

If only I had brought my portfolio. Ah well - someday...

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Copenhagen - All Fun and Games

I mentioned Limbo a few weeks earlier. The game was released recently to (surprise, surprise) widespread critical acclaim.

I checked out Playdead's website - apparently, they are just a km away from where I'm staying with my cousin. I dropped them a line, and hopefully they will be okay with a visitor.

Further internet investigation (thank you, Indiegames Blog) turned me onto the Copenhagen Games Collective. The group is a consortium of designers and academics who are all pushing the envelope in terms of accessible, avant garde, and intelligent video game experiences.

Work includes such gems as B.U.T.T.O.N. (Brutally Unfair Tactics Totally Okay Now), which requires an XBox, four people and a large, open room with a table, and the extremely awkward Dark Room Sex Game - a combination social experiment/party game which forces players to look at each other (NOT at the TV screen) and play off of.... um.... "audio cues" in order to find a "mutual rhythm."

I want in on that - where's my Wii?

In addition, the group comes up with non-video games, including the aptly titled debate game Fuck You, It's Art, and publishes scholarly work and research.

Keep it coming, Copenhagen.

Monday, September 6, 2010

Danes and bikes

Copenhagen is quite an amazing city. I'm one step away from moving here permanently.

One of the most striking differences from American cities, besides the old buildings and funny-sounding street names, are the ubiquitous bicycle lanes. I have never seen so many cyclist-commuters in my life. Every day is like a Critical Mass demo; of course, a Mass ride would be completely unnecessary in a city which has had bicycle lanes for 100 years.

It all started back in 1910 when the first leisure cycle paths were created. Cycling became a mode of transport starting in WWII, when gasoline was rationed. My cousin told me a story of an assassination that occured in a local bar during that era.

The getaway vehicle of choice? Bicycle. Apparently, even hitmen couldn't get around the petrol ration.

Today, it's likely the most bicycle friendly city in the world - something like 40% of the population cycles to work/school regularly. The bike lanes are smooth, wide, and isolated from both cars and pedestrians. The city works continuously to improve and expand on the lanes; part of this effort includes a current "Spread Good Cycling Karma" campaign. "Karma Cyclists" will station themselves at intersections during rush hour and provide some advice and humor for commuters.

I ran into one such group during rushhour - a team of helmet wearing, Pinnochio-nosed Cykarmalists led a consort of 40-odd cyclists in a rendition of J. Strauss's "Blue Danube Waltz," with the bikers using their bells to chime in on high notes.

Good Karma indeed. Mayor Daley, take notes.

Friday, September 3, 2010

Jet Lagging

Just arrived in Copenhagen after a long day of travelling. I'll be posting some European-flavored stuff on this blog over the next couple of weeks.