is design all in the concept …..



For any design - a design for a building, a chair or a teapot - the starting point has to be the idea, the concept. It is that first attempt to imagine the what and then think about the how. 

If you are cynical or pedantic or just being realistic - in this tough world - you could argue that a commercial design actually starts with the commission and the contract but for me what is fascinating about looking at a great design is to try and understand that initial concept and to see how it was realised.

My apartment is about 200 metres from Cirkelbroen - The Circle Bridge - that was designed by Olafur Eliasson and completed in 2015. So whenever I walk into the city I either see the bridge at the end of the canal or I actually cross over the bridge to get to Islands Brygge or get to the west part of the city centre. 

When it first opened I thought it was stunning … and to be honest also rather useful as it made it possible for the first time to walk from Christianshavn on south along the harbour … but mainly I thought that it was stunning. 

Unique as well. Elegant and curiously delicate, almost ephemeral, when seen in sunlight but particularly if it is misty or the light is failing at the end of the day - but at night stronger and much more dramatic.

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Last Saturday there was an official opening for the most recent bridge to be completed in Copenhagen … the Cirkelbroen that crosses the south end of Christianshavns Kanal where it re-enters the harbour opposite the Royal Library.

Cirkelbroen is part of a much wider plan to link together routes for cyclists to cross the harbour and for pedestrians to walk through Christianshavn and Holmen. Two new bike and pedestrian bridges opened on Holmen this summer. Another major bridge over the harbour for cyclists and pedestrians near the Skuespilhuset, the Royal Danish Theatre, is close to being finished and the construction of another bike bridge further south down the harbour has just been announced.

Last night, walking back from supper out, I cut around Christianshavn to see the finished bridge and to take photographs. Cirkelbroen was designed by the Olafur Eliasson Studio in Berlin and has a very unusual construction with a series of interlocking circles forming the bridge deck. These are supported by what look like a series of ships' masts and the circles will pivot apart to allow taller boats to leave or enter the canal from the main harbour.

Olafur Eliasson, the Icelandic/Danish artist, explained the form of the bridge in an interview published on the archdaily site and there are diagrams and videos showing how the bridge opens on the artists own site.

“While working on the bridge, I remembered the fishing boats I saw as a child in Iceland. In the harbour, the boats were often moored right next to each other, and it sometimes seemed that you could even cross the harbour just by walking from boat to boat.”
“As many as 5,000 people will cross this bridge each day. I hope that these people will use Cirkelbroen as a meeting place, and that the zigzag design of the bridge will make them reduce their speed and take a break. To hesitate on our way is to engage in bodily thought. I see such introspection as an essential part of a vibrant city.”

When I visited Your Rainbow Panorama by Eliasson at ARoS in Aarhus I had expected children to be running around the circuit - the art gallery was packed out with school parties who were all really well behaved but even so … Then when I got up to the roof-top walkway I was amazed that people slowed right down, walking slowly, talking quietly, looking out over the city. It can’t always be like that but the calm and peace were impressive.

Equally, at Louisiana last summer with his Riverbed installation, I have rarely seen so many people quietly lost in thought as they walked slowly through the galleries. Amazing.

Last night I expected a tangle of cyclists and walkers - cyclists in Copenhagen rarely slow down for anything - but again people were standing around in small groups admiring the engineering, talking quietly, or leaning against the railing of the bridge to admire this new place to stop to look out over the harbour. Cyclists slowed down. Great. Long may it last.