Danish Delight

As I looked outside the cabin window to my right, I saw a huge sign in Arial font that read "Kobenhavn" and then to its right "Copenhagen". Immediately the captain announced "Welcome to Copenhagen".

A friend once told me that I should go to Denmark because the lifestyle there centers around good design. As I walked out of the gate from Terminal 3 of the Copenhagen airport, I noticed similarities of signage/wayfinding, objects, and machines with those of another favorite place, Holland. I followed the signs that led to the Metro that would take me to downtown Copenhagen. I approached a machine that looked like a vendor for tickets. Great, this is all too easy, I told myself. Except for one thing, when I started reading the text, they were in Danish! I couldn't figure out how much to buy nor which to buy let alone remember the names of the places that looked like words with only consonants and no vowels. After figuring out how the ticket was dispensed out of the foreign machine, I rode the first train I saw that headed in the direction of downtown. I slumped my tired body on the cushy seats of the train and parked my luggage right next to my seat. Again, I looked out the window admiring the new experience of the scenery and the place.

In the middle of my eye-candy and eye-opening experience with all the buildings that flashed before my eyes as I gazed out the window, a Danish man in uniform approached me "Tickets please". I showed him my ticket. "Where are you heading?" he asked. "To downtown Copenhagen" I replied. "Well, this train is on its way to Sweden." Immediately I had to scramble for my Iphone to find my global position via Mapquest. I turned on my phone and wham! I had no signal. The ticket master graciously gave me instructions on how to go back and find my way to downtown.

I'm amazed that it didn't bother me at all to be lost in another country, without a map on hand, and nothing but a friendly smile to give the Danes and hoped that in return, they will point me in the right direction heading to downtown. I took this opportunity to discover areas in Denmark that I would not have otherwise trailed upon. The first structure I took a photo of was this all-glass train ticket station that functioned as a waiting shed too. Again another well designed structure in design-sensitive Denmark.

Out of all the well-designed environments and ubiquitous modern objects, including well-dressed Danes that I encountered, there are three that made a deep impression on my right-brained psyche. One was a new art bar in the trendy meat-packing district of Vesterbro. The second are the contributions in the built environment by architect Arne Jacobsen, and lastly the Zaha Hadid museum. 

Art Bar

One of the things striking about Copenhagen, or Denmark in general is its strong celebration of good design. I went to an interesting art bar called Karriere in the district of Vesterbro to meet my friend for breakfast. Vesterbro was Denmark's answer to New York's Soho or even Chelsea. The area is zoned as a meat packing district much like Chelsea, the only difference is that in Vesterbro, parts of it are still functioning that way.  In between butcher halls, Karriere emerged, as conceptualized by its owners who are artists. As I entered the restaurant, a unique graphic abstraction of the world map rendered on a black wall caught my attention from across the room. I looked at the image from up close and the composition of the whole was made up of white lines that were translucent allowing the dynamic contrast of its black field color. My friend explained to me that the map is illuminated from behind and as the light moves from side to side, its movement is synchronized with the tempo of the movement of light across the earth as the sun hits it. In short, the areas shown in light from the map, represent parts of the globe that were experiencing day time.  Parts of the map that were not illuminated were experiencing night at that point in time. I chose a table next to this engaging map and when I finally settled on a seat, I noticed that the table itself was an art-object. It was oddly shaped, not your regular square, but rather resembled a skewed square made out of sheet metal. Next, it was time to place an order. I quickly learned that Danish cuisine is a bread-based culture, mostly topped with some sort of cold cuts. They are known for their open-faced sandwiches, which can be an art form in itself given the mixture of textures and colors of whatever topping one fancies. However, I still believe that the Japanese by way of their sushi and sashimi have perfected the art of food presentation. Still nothing compares. However, everything about this place is evoking modern design. As I darted my eyes from the north wall to the south wall to the east wall to the west wall, I saw that each object in the place was an art object, disguised as elements for a restaurant/bar. Of course I was describing the place during breakfast time. Come dinner time, the place is transformed into a bustling club scene. Tables with their edgy cuts are nowhere to be seen, instead the whole place has become a dance floor. "Check out the restrooms", my friend nudged me. I went to see what the fuss was about. The material finishes were not extravagant, in fact, the wall treatment was just paint...with a twist. The paint roller was used to create an artsy pattern on the wall almost resembling a scenario where a kid was given a paint roller and allowed to break loose to paint on the wall. The finished product made it even more unique. It is these small artistic gestures that led me to conclude that good design can be had even with the simplest of materials or tools. Creativity goes beyond medium, if you let your imagination run wild. Design can be celebrated everyday, and lived as a lifestyle.

Arne Jacobsen

He was Denmark's leading architect who went beyond the borders of stereotypical architecture, and explored furniture, ceramics, interior, and textile designs. In a way he reminded me of Frank Lloyd Wright because he too designed various things, not just buildings. We visited a lot of Arne Jacobsen's buildings during the trip that included the SAS Hotel, The Danish Bank, and his personal residence. The most interesting for me though was the visit to the Republic of Fritz Hansen where we witnessed the production of the Series 7 chair, one of my favorites. It is only but natural for me to own one. This ubiquitous chair is an everyday element at most cafes and restaurants. Its production starts with good quality paper thin sheets of wood that are glued in layers. Then it goes through a moulding process where it is bent to form its sexy contours. Then it goes through a trimming process to cut off excess edges and give it a smooth finish. The metal legs are then attached and the finished product goes through a polishing process as a final touch. I've had this chair for five years now and I can say it was a wise investment on my part. It has survived three serious moves that included a coast-to-coast relocation. This is truly a quality furniture that could probably last a lifetime.

Art Museum Extension

The third experience of Denmark that is of interest to me is the Ordrupgaard Museum Extension by Zaha Hadid. Although I would say how we got to the museum is even more amusing. After touring around Arne Jacobsen's residence, apparently we were supposed to walk over to the Zaha Hadid-designed museum which is within walking distance. Ordrupgaard was an insurance magnate who owned a vast collection of art that he had to build a museum for it within the confines of his residential estate. Imagine that. That is why when our tour guide told us we will be walking from Arne Jacobsen's residence to the museum, I thought why would one place a museum in a residential-zoned area? That explains why. So we walk through a path that literally looks like a forest in the middle of nowhere. Even our guide was puzzled where it was. As we meandered along unknown an unfamiliar dirtroad, we had to stop a couple of times to ask for directions to get there. The walk was worth it. I was not too impressed with the collection though, but was more impressed with the curvilinear forms at the cafe section of the museum. Hadid's use of materials which was mostly concrete and glass reminded me of the work of architect Antoine Predock, only in terms of materiality and not necessarily in terms of the forms because they both are obviously at the extremes of expression in this regard. Hers is softer and curvier, his is more angled and sharper. Overall her design of this space is organic---coming out of the elements of the landscape. The building could easily pass for being "peeled out" of the contours of the landscape.


From the airport, to the bar, to the buildings, to the museum, Denmark celebrates design culture at its very core. This is architecture meeting life. This is design applied as a lifestyle.


See the photographs I took of Denmark trip:



Popular Posts


Creative Commons License
Architecture Meets Life by Atelier Lira Luis, LLC (ALLL) is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported License.
Based on a work at http://www.liraluis.com.

Copyright © Architecture Meets Life Design by Free CSS Templates | Blogger Theme by BTDesigner | Powered by Blogger