Tuesday, August 12, 2008
Copenhagen is either one of the most perfect cities I have ever been to or I was not long there long enough to find things to dislike. The combination of the beautiful old city, harbor areas and exciting new architecture, it's relationship to water, sun filled terraces filled with people of all ages, great food, and the most exquisite double windows which filled my mind with images of warm knitted jumpers, couches, books, hearty meals and falling snow created a wonderful balance. Either the sun was shining and I was in a ridiculously good mood and the topics of the exhibitions that I saw at the Architecture Center and Design Museum, the relationship of housing and climate change globally and the ability of good design to effect positive change, was encouraging or the air really was filled with a positive atmosphere of producing good design, finding solutions to contemporary problems and a feeling that Denmark was really trying to be a model of contemporary society. Either way it was a pleasant feeling. The Danes are supposedly the happiest people on earth according to some survey, but whether that is quantifiable is debatable, maybe it is because they ride bicycles everywhere.
The bus arrived at 6.00am and after a very long and delicious breakfast of fresh fruit, yoghurt and bread with the best latte I have had for months wandered around the old part of the city. From the Central Station past the SAS Royal Hotel designed by Arne Jacobsen and is all grace and style, around Stroget, wandered down to Christianshavn and visited the Architecture centre and then back up past the Christiansborg Palace to the Danish Design Centre opposite the Tivoli Gardens. The Design Center was filled with beautifully crafted, designed and carefully finished objects that the creators of which seemed to have taken great pride in achieving a high level of craftsmanship and intimate understanding of materials and I pondered what kind of relationship the designers must have with the objects they make and materials they produce and would have liked to ask them about this, at least the ones who are still alive.
Later that night I discovered a great bar at the far end of Istegade that was in a wide shallow space which used to be a pharmacy on the ground floor of an old building with wooden floor boards, high ceilings and tall windows. It had a relaxed atmosphere and I continued to fall for this city over a couple of Brooklyn Brown Ales in Dave's honour.
Returning to the hotel through the red-light district, which is located at the end of Istedgade nearest the station. The short walk made my mind wander and think about the red light district in Amsterdam, the Reeperbahn which has such an appropriate name, and Grey st in St Kilda whose name is also appropriate, and the ocean which was close and can also be dark and cruel but is beautiful no matter how dark and cruel, and how the visibility of the seedier, often disturbing, side of society makes a city feel more real and richer and wondering how to resolve some dubious thoughts about urbanism, the need to create safe urban environments, provide services for those that need them and the need for such urban areas to exist. Somehow, but I don't understand how.
The next day I headed out of the city to the Louisiana Art Gallery which is one of the most beautiful and peaceful places I have ever seen. The architecture, gardens, and ocean beyond are all fused into a wonderfully harmonious relationship which is heightened by the modesty of the architecture and materials. The progression through the series of gallery spaces which reveal and hide a series of views into the surrounding gardens and ends in the cafe with an open fire and full height glass walls looking out over the sea increases your separation from the outside world until you are completely relaxed and present in the landscape by the time you step out into the garden from the cafe and stare across the ocean. It was awesome and the art was good, the Giacometti room was beautiful and somehow I never get bored of his work, only more intrigued, and I thought of Basel and heavy rains. And an amazing Thomas Demand photograph titled 'Clearing' of sunlight coming through a canopy of trees which are entirely made out of paper and shot in a studio and was perfect in the space. I wanted to stay there and hold on to how peaceful the world felt at Louisiana and be close to the water for weeks but it is a gallery not a house, and if it was a house I wouldn't have been there in the first place. Somehow everything came together and the Louisiana Art Gallery has left a deep impression on me and images of it keep recurring in my head.