Hiroshi Sambuichi at the Cistern



In the park of Søndermarken, close to the zoo and just south of the the palace of Frederiksberg is The Cistern - a vast underground reservoir - that was constructed in the middle of the 19th century to hold fresh drinking water for the city. It’s function, as a reservoir, ceased in 1933 but it was not until 1982 that the space was drained of water and in 1996 it was converted to an exhibition space that is now run as part of the Frederiksberg museum service.

The current installation, designed by the Japanese architect Hiroshi Sambuichi, has brought water back into the subterranean space and natural light from above, controlled and directed by giant mirrors, has been used to create a wonderful and disorientating experience with the space explored in deep gloom on broad walkways that have been constructed just above the water by Japanese craftsmen using timber brought from Japan. 

To be discovered on the route through the dramatic space are a traditional Japanese wood bath tub; a giant clear-glass cube; a timber Japanese-style bridge that is crossed with the help of the light from paper lanterns and a mound of almost luminous, violent green, moss lit by light flooding down from the park above.

The opening times for the installation are controlled by the hours for sun rise and sun set and will change through the Summer and Autumn. 


the installation The Cisterns X Sambuichi continues at Cisterne until 2 Feb 2018

Design X Change


A market held in the courtyard of Designmuseum Danmark on Saturday and Sunday 20th and 21st May. 

The focus is on design and sustainability with talks and demonstrations on reusing materials and encouraging people to repair rather than discard things that have broken. There are displays and demonstrations to encourage new strategies for sustainability through design … so that includes how we, as a society have to tackle the rapidly increasing demand for materials by reconsidering our priorities or coming up with solutions that do not in themselves accelerate the depletion of limited resources … so there is a display for a student project that explores the possibilities for a service where students arriving in the city to study can lease reasonable furniture which they can take with them from one rented apartment to the next and then upgrade or return as an alternative to buying cheap furniture that is then discarded and there is a project by students from Aalborg University Copenhagen who for a project looked at the problem of how to deal with needles discarded into drains by drug users in some areas of the city.

Although there is a growing awareness of the need for us to behave more responsibly as consumers, designers have a new task … not only do they have to come up with the design solutions but they have to educate and explain to consumers why sustainability is important and how and why these problems should and can be tackled. 

Alongside the displays and stalls there will be demonstrations on quilting, a talk on recycling cookware and workshops on repairing toys.

Norwegian Constitution Day

Today was a Norwegian flag day - Constitution Day - and Norwegians in Copenhagen gathered to march to the church of King Haarkon … the Norwegian church just outside the city defences around Christianshavn.

It was a good excuse to take photographs but not much to do with either Copenhagen or with design … but then of course Denmark and Norway are what, in England, would probably be called first cousins once removed - and like all cousins they fight and argue but fiercely defend each other if anyone from outside the family dares to say exactly the same things - and what are national costumes if not very very carefully thought-through design where colours and styles can be different but those have to be agreed variations or it is just clothing … it is design used for bonding and branding in the sense of being able to identify others in the same group and being proud of that bond.

One Norwegian bar in Copenhagen has announced the launch of a new cocktail to mark the day called Bersærker for “praising our viking roots with loads of snaps” which is a slightly different form of bonding.

Moving Materials at the Danish Architecture Centre


An exhibition that explores the work of the Japanese architect Hiroshi Sambuichi

... an architecture that attempts to be in balance with nature and with the landscape in which the buildings are set. It requires extensive study, sometimes over a number of years, of the passage of the sun and an awareness of how natural light across the site changes through the day but there is also a deep empathy for the climate of a specific location so the effect of wind, rain and mist across the land at different points of time or season. It is those elements of climate that are the Moving Materials.

continues at the Danish Architecture Centre in Copenhagen until 25 June




longer review



Det Byggede Danmark - The Built Denmark - Part of Our Lives

This exhibition, created in collaboration with the Home Economics Research Center, looks at the built environment in terms of quantities and statistics rather than architecture and engineering and aesthetics. So, this is the real information about the cost of what we do and how we live and this is the information that should inform how we plan for the future … what we can do but also what we should do and what we have to do to mitigate for how we have lived up to this point.

This is the hard and unforgiving but fascinating and crucial data about the built environment and about the infrastructure of everyday life - information that a country needs to make major planning decisions for the coming decades - but that data is presented clearly and well because there has to be a general level of understanding about what and why so that there can be broad consent about how and when.

The research has been published by Boligøkonomisk Videncenter and can be ordered or downloaded in pdf format from their site set out in three books that look at

  • extent structure and value
  • quality of life residential and workplace
  • environment energy and water 


continues at Danish Architecture Centre in Copenhagen until 2 July



as text, or even as a table of numbers, the amount of water used by each person - 115 litres every day - is difficult to appreciate but set out in ranks of plastic bottles it is easier to understand and the message is clear .....

  • 8 litres incidentally
  • 10 litres cooking and drinking water
  • 14 litres laundry
  • 16 litres dishwashing and cleaning
  • 28 litres flushing toilet
  • 39 litres bath and personal hygiene

Fang din by - Capture your city



From the 11 May for a month until 11 June there is an outdoor exhibition of photographs of the city set up on the quay at the front of the Danish Architecture Centre in Copenhagen. 

Part of the Copenhagen Photo Festival, the images were submitted either to an open competition asking photographers to interpret city spaces to show their own relationship to the city or to a separate competition for school students looking at the theme of urban identity. 

Squares, parks, bridges and 'personal sanctuaries' are the subject here rather than buildings and structures.

images on Instagram

#fangdinby #fangdinby_mellemrum #fangdinby_forbindelser

Copenhagen photo festival 2017

Designmuseum Danmark on line

Recently, major changes have been made to the on-line site for Designmuseum Danmark. Not only have pages and routes through the site been rethought but this is part of a much more extensive reassessment of the visual or brand image of the museum itself that has been undertaken by the Urgent Agency and Stupid Studio.

There is clear information on the site about opening times, exhibitions and news - as you would expect - but this is also the portal to the online catalogue for the museum collection so it is also a major research tool.


The extensive long-term exhibition of current Danish design from 2000 to 2015, under the title Dansk Design Nu, has a section on Danish typography, graphic design and book production. Type and graphic design has always been an important aspect of design in the country - for instance for corporate image for the Copenhagen Metro or for the newspaper Politiken and, of course, the national newspaper Berlingske has it’s own typeface. 

And manufacturers of classic products and furniture, obviously associated with Denmark, do actually spend considerable time and thought on corporate logos, advertising, packaging and catalogues of the highest standard … even if customers discard the box with hardly a second thought, a study of the process of purchasing would surely find that exactly the same product presented in a shoddy or badly-designed box would not sell as well.

Denmark has a well established and, hopefully, a thriving book industry and not just for books on design.

For it’s own packaging, publications and products, Designmuseum Danmark has digitised the font ‘Flexibility’ that was developed in the 1960s by the architect and graphic designer Naur Klint (1920-1978).

On so many levels this is an inspired choice. Klint was the son of the architect and designer Kaare Klint and the grandson of Peder Vilhelm Jensen-Klint so he was, importantly, a member of one of the great families of Danish design but of course Kaare Klint was, as its main architect and designer, the creator of the Design Museum that the visitor sees now, as he was responsible for the work to convert the 18th-century hospital into a museum. He also taught design in the building when it was the home of the department of Interior and Furniture Design of the Academy of Fine Arts.

More important, perhaps, the typeface, with it’s relatively broad letters and generous spacing, is good over a broad range of sizes and line weights for digital on-screen use.

lettering on Gammel Strand



A good choice of typeface and imaginative graphics, even in prominent use for signs or logos, is often taken for granted - so many people often only register a font if it is clearly wrong or jars in some way - but a good use of an appropriate font not only makes our lives easier - when you are looking for a particular shop in a street or a particular brand in a store - but can enrich our lives enormously.

The sunlight on Gammel Strand in Copenhagen was good this weekend so it was an opportunity to take photographs to show how very different styles of lettering have been used on just a dozen or so buildings over a street frontage of little more than 150 metres ….. so from the name of the street on the pilaster of a corner building to the various fonts used imaginatively by a fish restaurant to plaques that identify interesting residents of the street in the past.  And the signs vary not just in style but in form ... from lettering painted directly onto the stone or on the plaster of the building or painted directly onto the glass of windows to carved lettering, lettering cut from metal and applied and, of course, lettering on the ubiquitous Copenhagen hanging signs.


street lettering in Copenhagen

shop signs in Copenhagen


a Dursley-Pedersen cykel - a new acquisition for Designmuseum Danmark


Designmuseum Danmark has acquired an original Dursley-Pedersen cykel for their collection.

Mikael Pedersen, the Danish engineer and inventor, moved to the English town of Dursley in 1893 to work for a company who made agricultural machinery - Pedersen had invented a new and successful design of milk separator - but while he was there, in 1896, his design for a bicycle went into production and over the following years more than 30,000 were made. 

The seat, made from netting covered with leather and held by straps and wires and springs, was lighter than what was then the conventional form of heavy leather saddle but it was also meant to make the ride more comfortable … the bike was nicknamed the hammock. 

There was also a lightweight racing version of the cycle and a tandem and a folding design that all used the same form of triangular frame that had been inspired by bridge engineering.

A modern version of the design has been produced in Denmark by Jesper Sølling since 1978.

at the moment in small exhibition area before the cafe at Designmuseum Danmark

a recent window display at Illums Bolighus


I guess that only in Copenhagen would a high end furniture store come up with a window display that put a cargo bike - be it a high-tech cargo bike - with plates of marshmallows and champagne glasses. 

Not following fashion fashion … is this sort of flesh colour what everyone should be buying this Spring? Even for a bike?


UNFOLDS at Designmuseum Danmark

This amazing exhibition of work by the Danish Cabinetmakers' Association at Designmuseum Danmark in Copenhagen - to mark their 25th anniversary - closes this weekend with the final day on 14th May. So this is the last chance to be perplexed or get lost in a world of craftsmanship and sorry if that sounds a bit like the blurb of an ad man but it's simply because this is an exhibition of intriguing works that demonstrate the very best of the skill and the imagination of Danish håndverkere - craftsmen - and superlatives are more than justified.

UNFOLDS at Designmuseum Danmark




An interesting side light produced for PLEASE WAIT to be SEATED, by the young Danish designer Mette Schelde who has established her studio in Aarhus. On her own web site she has published a manifesto to explain the ethos or approach underlying her work.

The form of the lamp is very deliberately simple and rounded … just three parts with a plain but heavy base that is shaped like an inverted cup to support a round, front-facing, shallow bowl-shaped light reflector and, eccentric at the bottom of the reflector, a plain disc that controls the light including dimming.

The shapes are soft and stripped down - so without any ridges or lips or incised rings or cut back lines to form a plinth and certainly no pattern. That might sound like minimalism but actually, if minimalism still implies something slightly harder and more industrial and possibly more metallic, then this is a very Danish and very current form of soft simplification or soft sculpture. Think the Bottle Grinder for pepper and salt by Norm Architects for Menu or, in upholstered furniture, the Connect Sofa designed by Anderssen & Voll for Muuto.

The Blooper light is reminiscent of the camera flash guns that newspaper reporters used in the 1950s but of course the whole idea of Blooper could not be more different … so certainly not a flash of bright blinding light because the disc of the dimmer hides the LED bulb and the controlled light is thrown softly forward by the reflector. 

Actually this is what makes the light interesting and curious. 

Nearly everyone has pendant down lighters for general lighting of spaces and most have table lamps or desk lamps, that direct light down onto a bed-side table or work surface or shelf, and some even have individual spots for pictures or might have up lighters if they want a bit of drama and some people turn a spot or table lamp to face away to bounce light off a wall but a forward-facing and much more subtle use of a soft beam of ambient light is much more unusual. 

Mette Schelde


a new bus designed for an extended route and with a new number

A new design of bus has been introduced on one of the most heavily used bus routes in the city that runs from Husum Torv to Sundbyvester.

The new 5C is five metres longer than the old 5A buses they replace but holds far more passengers - in fact 65 more so up to 147 people - and there are more doors with five entry / exit points and these can be opened by passengers - with large push buttons on the doors - rather than just being controlled by the driver - so more like the systems passengers are familiar with on suburban trains.  

There will be significant environmental gains as the buses are CO2 neutral - fuelled by Biogas, they will emit 72% less NOx and 33% fewer particles and there is also a noise reduction when compared with the old buses.

Statistics for this route are astounding - 20 million journeys a year - and, with the new larger buses and new stretches of dedicated bus lane relieving congestion on the route, the numbers are predicted to increase by around 5% to an average of 2,200 people an hour. To put that into context Copenhagen airport had just under 29 million passengers last year.

This is an important example of co-ordinated planning as the buses have been funded by the municipalities of Herlev, Copenhagen and Tårnby and upgrading the route has included some new dedicated bus lanes to reduce delays and work on bus stops with new wind breaks and digital traffic information. 

more information on the movia and the State of Green sites

Nytt Rom 57


The edition for April and May. 

The usual good mix of reviews of new products and new design publications and exhibitions including the exhibition on the work of Hiroshi Sambuichi at the Danish Architecture Centre.

There are interesting photo articles on the homes of staff from the team at Menu - the Brand and Design Director Joachim Kornbek and the PR Manager Line Borella who both have homes in Nørrebro - along with the homes of the architect Jonas Bjerre-Poulsen and the apartment of the designer Søren Rose in New York … all classic interiors in the Danish style that make the most of open and uncluttered space with well-placed mix of furniture … both classic modern pieces but also the best of current products.

Also a profile of the work of the photographer Lina Kayser.

industrial buildings in and around Refshaleøen and Prøvestenen


view of Refshaleøen from the south - presumably from the 1950s before more land was claimed and the huge sheds were constructed to the east


Looking at maps of Copenhagen from the 18th century or the 19th century, and comparing them with modern maps, you can see just how much of the city is built on land claimed from the sea. These extensive engineering works started in the late 16th and the early 17th century as naval dockyards were constructed on either side of Borgen - the royal castle that is now the parliament building but was then an imposing fortified building on an island just off shore from the wharves of the town along Gammel Strand. 

Then, in the 1620s, Christianshavn was built up in the water between the castle and the island of Amager to the south - closing in almost 2 kilometres of the sea between the old city and the island - and the naval yards were moved to that side of the harbour … to the sea-ward side of Christianshavn. 

At first these naval facilities were little more than sheltered moorings enclosed and protected by defences and then islands were formed and permanent buildings were constructed … many of which survive.

Commercial wharves and large buildings for industry and utilities - the first power stations, railway yards, gas works, pumping stations and sewage works of the city - were nearly all built on land claimed from the sea. The south harbour below Langebro is still a wide and impressive channel of water but nowhere near as wide as the original bay.

And this movement outwards from the shore includes all of what is now Refshaleøen at the top north end of Amager.

Then, over years or decades, an industry or the economy changes and even large companies fail or move on and away - so, in the case of the great concrete sheds for the Burmeister and Wain shipyards at Refshaleøen, they were in full use for only around 30 years - and then the buildings fall into disuse or are demolished and the landscape becomes marginal … or what is now described as 'post industrial.'

So Refshaleøen is post industrial. But surely there are good reasons that any city needs this sort of open space … the place for paint balling or go karts and boat yards and scrap yards?

Refshaleøen is only two or three kilometres from the centre of the city so it’s too valuable to be left marginal for long but, in terms of future use, the remaining buildings - the vestiges of the industry that was here - are pretty amazing and with a lot of imagination - and a fair bit of investment - they can be given new roles.

Just as long as it is not too sanitised. Scruffy and lively can be good. Surely the worthy citizens of Copenhagen need scruffy sometimes?


Kløvermarken - The Clover Field


on the left edge of the view is the spire of Christians Kirke and on the right is just a glint of gold from the dome of the Marble Church - so the full width of the centre of the city


Kløvermarken - The Clover Field - might be just a kilometre or so from the centre of Copenhagen but it feels a world away from a big city. It’s a flat open area of grass just outside the old defences of the old city so its just outside the waterways and embankments and bastions built around Christianshavn and the south side of the harbour of Copenhagen in the 17th and the 18th centuries.

On some early maps the area is marked as Christianshavns Fælled and presumably this was grass or pasture that was at the top end of the island of Amager at that point where the city meets the countryside and the sea.


Now less than a kilometre wide and maybe 700 metres from north to south, it is a crucial green area for the city and mainly because the landscape is not over managed. Parks in Copenhagen are amazing but this is a really important area of what is just grass so people can play football on the many pitches marked out here or can run or whatever. It’s just grass so people don’t have to worry about damaging anything or avoiding anything …. it’s interesting that this space was in fact the location of the first air field for the city before Kastrup.

The open space is important for another reason because from here there is an unbroken view of the city sky line. What skyline? Well that’s the point. It's not a dramatic modern city skyline because from here you can see just about the same view that Christian IV would have seen in the 1630s. Some of the church spires are a bit more ornate than they were then and higher and there are a lot more trees … because the approaches to the city then were kept clear of buildings and trees so Christian’s soldiers could see you coming.

It’s a crucial area in terms of modern planning - not just as somewhere to kick a football but as crucial marginal land … and marginal meant as a compliment. Around the fringes are amazing groups of self-build housing in well-kept gardens and there are allotments, tennis clubs, tree lined country lanes, an abandoned rail line and open water … plenty of water. Never let an accountant tell you this is a wasted development opportunity just a kilometre from the royal palace … it’s actually one of the many reasons why Copenhagen comes towards the top or at the top of lists of cities where its people vote it to be the best place to live.