17 October 2014

European Green Cap... ah, who are we kidding?

Recently I was floored by the sight of another eight road trees cut down by the lakes. We can't afford to lose anymore, here. Why does this keep happening? A journalist cleared it up for us. The trees had been suffering for a while, from insufficient space to grow, salt damages and from being hit by cars. So why not protect them from these things, and provide proper living conditions, we asked? Well, the limited budget is spent on watering and protecting young trees the first years, there are simply no funds to protect the rest.

Copenhagen, winner 2014 European Green Capital


Never mind the fact that trees clean the air, absorb particles and provide a shield from traffic. In a language they should be able to understand, trees represent a huge investment that is flushed out the toilet by lack of maintenance. Not because the good park people don't know how to take care of trees, but because they are limited by political priorities. 

The tree group Red Byens Træer (save the city's trees) is growing steadily, awareness is raised and we are becoming more vocal in our concern. It is a relief to know that you are not alone.

Dead tree

Leafless tree on Nørrebro. Street artists are picking up on this too. Good!

Below a similar scenario as the recent lake tree felling, in a different part of town, Nørre Voldgade.


"F" marks the kiss of death, note the non-existing plant hole.

In the back Ørstedsparken, in safe distance (apart from chunk taken out for the new concrete square, ugh!)

Cars cause damage to people in so many ways, but in Copenhagen it is the trees that are cut down, to prevent damage to cars.  


As I was kneeling to take this picture, a woman got out of her car. "Look at this," I said with sadness and pointed to the stub below her heavy metal. "Yes," she replied, "I always wondered what these trees are doing here, it is not like you use them for anything." I decided to let her live. It only took everything I had.

 

12 October 2014

02 October 2014

Return of the Test Tubes

I experienced something yesterday that can best be described as joy of recognition, attending the opening of Reprogramming The City, an exhibition in the Danish Centre of Architecture. It is curated by urban strategist Scott Burnham, with whom I apparently share my view of the urban space, and its endless possibilities. A quote from the catalogue boils it all down:

"We have the ability to solve some of the most pressing urban problems by using what we already have in new ways" 

Longtime readers will know where I am going with this...

IMG_2775

From a decade of running my own accessories business with limited resources, I had this down to a fine art: Work to the greatest extent with what you already have, and adapt it to fit the market. Moving from fashion accessories to urban solutions was not a big leap. My cup stacking Test Tubes were just that: accessories for the urban space.

The problem:

Cup litter

The solution:

Pictogram Test Tube

The Test Tube, offering people an opportunity to prove to the city that cup litter is not a case of laziness or ill will, but a last resort. (How I miss the poster free trash can, ugh!)

It all began with a humble set of painted cardboard postal tubes, mounted on a couple of trash cans on Queen Louises Bridge. Ignored by the city, but embraced by the internet to the extent that the city was forced to give them a try (thank you, internet). Enter the aluminum prototype.

After a trial period, the cleaning department shut down the tubes, by reason of denial: Copen-we-don’t-have-a-cup-litter-problem-hagen. But as we all know denying a problem is there, doesn't make it go away. Nor will the solution: two years after the first cardboard edition hit the bridge, the aluminum prototype have made it to the Danish Centre of Architecture, where it will be on display for the next three months. Ha!


 
Once the dust settles, I will return to the exhibition, and give you a full report. There are so many great ideas for the urban space out there, and so many untapped resources. I can't get over what a privilege it is to be included in this show, and had to ask the curator, how he came across the Test Tubes, all the way from Boston? Oh, said my newfound urban hero: I follow your blog.



Links:
Reprogramming The City on DAC  Oct 1 2014 - Jan 4 2015

26 September 2014

Home sweet home

I spotted them from across the street immediately: the rainbow colored benchwarmers, in the middle of Queen Louises Bridge. Street art have become so scarce in Copenhagen, that I almost sing with joy when I come across it. So much love and effort goes into decorating the public space, and pieces like these brighten people’s day. These are signed This Is The Knit.

Bench warmers
 
Hastværk er lastværk / Haste makes waste

Hastværk er lastværk / Haste makes waste.

Hjem kære hjem / Home sweet home

Hjem kære hjem / Home sweet home.

Yarnbombing in Copenhagen

Ugly posters on a beautiful if slightly small and outdated garbage can. Ignore them if you can.

Not the best light that day, but living in a city that considers these gems vandalism, there was no guarantee it would survive the night, so I took my best shot. Good thing I did too because next day they were gone.

They had better not been removed by the city administration, that’s all I’m saying. People have a right to brighten the public space temporarily, in a non-invasive way, if that is not stated by law, it should be. Besides, it is counter productive to rob people of the ownership of public space. If you want the citizens to feel included, don’t be a bullying parent, it will only leave you with disobedient children. As somewhat of a consolation, the pop-up living room is back on the lake corner.

Pop-up living room

Complete with comfy chair, small table, picture frame and a cup of tea.

Sunset chair

Perfect spot to catch the sunset.

Home sweet home. 



17 September 2014

The skinny

Despite Copenhagen’s overall bicycle friendliness, we still have a few psycho-streets, in which cyclists are left to fight it out with buses, speeding cars and opening car doors. One of these is the charismatic Istedgade, on the westside Vesterbro. It used to be all gritty, with drug users, porn shops and prostitution, but they are now confined to the lower end of the street. It took the city planners a while to get around to redesign it, and they wisely invited the inhabitants and shop owners to contribute with ideas to the layout.

The result is not clear yet (stay tuned), except there won’t be designated bike lanes, but the sidewalks are supersized and it is looking good so far. It is a big construction mess, and being a busy street leading to the central train station, it affects a lot of commuters. Enter Copenhagen’s skinniest bike lane.

Copenhagen's skinniest bike lane

Catching cyclists at the entry point of construction hell, guiding them through an alternate route. 


Just follow the thin, blue line. It will lead you to and from the central station.


I love good communication!

And I miss summer already.

Help me.


14 September 2014

Rye on wheels

Today I came across hit-the-brakes-goodness (about time too, I don't know what is up with the long breaks here, ugh). It was an elaborately decorated Volkswagen bus, or as we call it here: folkevognsrugbrød, which translates into Volkswagen Rye Bread. The sweetest bus ever made, if you ask me. A girl passed it with her mother, asking in awe "what is this?" Oh, it's just a car, said the adult. "No, it isn't. It's a circus wagon!". Children are superior to adults most of the time, have you noticed?

VW bus

VW bus
 
VW bus


VW bus


VW bus

Ass, gas or grass... nobody rides for free.

VW bus

This is not an abandoned vehicle.

It's a circus wagon.

VW bus



31 August 2014

Baffled and proud

The seasonal transition is taking its toll. For a week straight it has been raining (last night we even had flooding), and days are getting measurably shorter. I am running around like a headless chicken, trying to catch a little bit of everything.

Wednesday I attended an embarrassingly small demonstration against fracking. The Government have allowed French frackers Total to drill for fossil fuels in Denmark. Fracking is banned in France, so they need to look elsewhere for uninformed or careless countries. Fracking is extracting shale gas from the ground, fracturing rock with water, chemicals and sand. An invasive and experimental procedure, tampering with our groundwater. It baffles me that people are not in the streets by the thousands to protest this.

A green transition without fracking

Oddly people seemed uncomfortable being photographed at this demo, I don’t see why. They should be so proud to stand up for the environment. Below the logo from the movement Skifergas nej tak, (Fracking no thanks). A throwback to the cherished Nuclear power, no thanks.

Fracking, no thanks

For now they are left with the problem in Frederikshavn in Jutland, but soon they plan to start test drilling uncomfortably close to Copenhagen. Not so green, huh?

(Moving on to a lighter subject)

For the past few days the city have been celebrating Copenhagen Pride, in support of gays and transgenders. This includes rainbow flags on buses and on the Stock Exchange, Børsen:

Proud

Copenhagen is proud, and I am proud of Copenhagen.

Gay pride in Copenhagen

Equal rights for everyone, please. I used to think this flag was purely ornamental, but it turns out there are still people out there who don't believe in these rights. Hello? Welcome to 2014.

Flying pig  

28 August 2014

Notes from Paris

As part of my new Paris ritual, I check up on the vertical garden by BHV. It seems only yesterday it was all seeds and aspirations (second checkup here, third here) and look at it now:



A beautiful vertical wilderness!


I want to climb up there and kiss it, stroke the leaves gently. Nothing strange about that, right?

We still need this in Copenhagen.

On the Seine, the bridge Pont des Arts is under attack. First time I crossed it years ago, a few locks were scattered along the railing as a demonstration of love. Over time this love has become destructive, the railings so burdened with "romantic" trash that parts of it falls into the Seine.


The city is pleading with tourists to stop, fencing off the crippled railing. And still they keep at it. I even witnessed someone mounting a lock, proudly documenting it. Utter morons!




I want to fix this problem so bad.

Later I spotted these in a side street to the Seine.


Perhaps a couple realised that their love was strong enough to survive, without destroying part of Paris. 

On the sunny side, for one month of the year, the Seine highway is closed for cars and transformed into a beach. A madly popular initiative.




It should be returned to the people permanently. Imagine making this an ice skating rink in the winter? Imagine markets lining the Seine? Fleas, flowers, food. Such a beautiful space.

By a busy square, the city of Paris set up a free and manned tap water bar, offering a choice of still or sparkling. The "Ouvrez un grand cru" campaign is running on its second year, educating citizens on the qualities of the water. A public service initiative as opposed to a short-lived PR stunt, designed for the media. PR stunts are so insincere, they creep me out.

So cool. Although not as tasty as Eau de Copenhague.

Select streets are still closed for cars on Sundays, between the hours of 10-19.30. Enforced, mind you: police officers guarding all entrances. Taking the safety of pedestrians and cyclists seriously.



With the bike parking problems we face in Copenhagen (insufficient/non existing parking), it was interesting to see the difference in Paris. There were plenty of parked bikes, but none blocking the sidewalks.


Well: duh! Copenhagen really need to get its priorities straight when it comes to parking space. It's a no-brainer, really: cars have to give. It just takes balls to implement.

Another example of what a street can look like, if you (gasp!) remove a few car parking spots. 


Tell me again, why are we clinging to the concept of metal taking up the majority of our public space?

And there is a politeness in Paris. No drunken yelling in the streets, bar owners put up signs in the window, asking smokers to use the ashtrays. In the buses signs are politely asking that you show consideration for your fellow passengers, and keep your phone conversations in a low voice. Little things like that, but everywhere.


I noticed this old woman stopping in front of a tree, and pushing back displaced rubble, before moving on. She clearly considered it a shared responsibility to keep the city nice. I agree, of course.

The city of Paris returns the favor by not spamming its citizens with advertising, on every single surface. In Copenhagen a scaffolding is seen as an opportunity to visually pollute with spam, in Paris it is used to pay tribute to street art.

Scaffold cover street art

By Nemo, Jérôme Mesnager (l'Homme en blanc) and Mosko & Associes.

Scaffold cover

Oh, Paris.