Bagsider / Flip Sides

 

For the Golden Days Festival this year the theme was The B-sides of History so, for this exhibition, the curators at Statens Museum for Kunst took that literally and present the backs of paintings and drawings in their collection.

And it is fascinating.

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the exhibition continues at Statens Museum for Kunst until 10 March 2019

 

Practice Futures

 

A major exhibition, Practice Futures, has opened at KADK - the Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts Schools of Architecture, Design and Conservation.

The full title of the exhibition is Technology in Architecture, Practice Future, Building Design for a New Material Age, and this is an import examination of that area, if you see it in terms of a Venn Diagram, where the disciplines or professional expertise of architecture, engineering, techniques of construction and the development and the technology of materials meet and overlap.

Fifteen research projects are presented here from international PhD students working in six major European research departments and working with fourteen established partners including major architectural practices, engineering companies and construction companies.

These ongoing studies are reassessing well-established materials such as timber and concrete and rediscovering or reassessing or developing techniques to shape, bend, finish and join materials to achieve new forms of construction such as large scale, computer-controlled extrusion or printing and the development of new materials for large-scale building projects. 

This is about new tools and new approaches for reassessing traditional materials and established craft techniques but also about using computers to assess complex information; to solve unconventional design problems and to control systems for constructing new forms and new types of building. 

Projects presented here are prototypes to demonstrate customised solutions to realise challenging new construction projects that not only have to take into account the need for high energy conservation but also have to tackle rapidly-developing problems or social pressures from population growth, and, as a direct consequence, find new solutions to the demands of cities that are growing at an unprecedented speed. This is construction design trying to deal with political and economic constraints and with the added and pressing demands of global climate change.

KADK Udstillingen og Festsalen
Danneskiold-Samsøes Allé 51-53
1435 København K

the exhibition continues until 7 December 2018

 

restoration II - the forecourt of the design museum

 

Work continues at Designmuseum Danmark where the entrance gates, railings and stone piers along the street are being rebuilt and the setts of the forecourt relaid to form a new ramp to replace the steps up to the front entrance door and to install lighting and so on for new outdoor exhibition cases. 

The project - designed by the architectural practice COBE - includes a new ticket area, book shop and new cafe in the lower part of the old pharmacy … that’s the pavilion to the right of the forecourt.

 

As new blocks of stone have been brought to the site and set up, the work is an opportunity to see some of the details of 18th-century stone masons’ techniques that have been replicated … so it is possible to see the way bold mouldings are cut across large blocks to form plinths and caps to the piers.

The large ashlar blocks of the stone piers and the blocks that form the moulded bases and caps are dressed back with strong vertical tooling which contributes a distinct surface texture and gives a darker tone to the architectural details. Note how at each end of the ironwork screen the outer piers are not butted against the brickwork of the pavilions but are set into them which would suggest that the brickwork and stonework were built up at the same time … not one built against the other.

top left - the door into the former pharmacy of the hospital which will be the access to a new arrival space with ticket desk, book shop and new cafe. Note the silhouette in the brickwork of the ball finial and moulded cap of the stone pier that has been dismantled.

top centre - an iron pintel, set into the stonework of the pier, that will hold the strap of the lower hinge of the gate

 

Heavy spiked or barbed railings and the ornate iron gates are held in sockets cut into the blocks.

At this stage the gates are back on site but are on pallets so it is possible to see the robust quality of the iron work and to see how the straps of the gate hinges form a loop that will be dropped over hefty iron ‘pintels’ set into the stonework. 

This major project has also been an opportunity to repair some of the stonework on the entrance front of the main building and it is interesting to see around the doorway that although the stone frame or architrave of the door looks hefty or robust, it is, in fact, made up with relatively thin slips of stone with pieces forming the moulded front and separate pieces forming the reveal or jamb running back to the door frame and the brickwork behind is surprisingly crude.

 
 

restoration I

Work is progressing on a major project to restore the famous Nyboder houses in Copenhagen. These long terraced rows, with cobbled streets and narrow yards between the rows, cover a large block in the north-east part of the historic centre of the city within the old city defences  … so south and west of Kastellet - the fortress or citadel - and close to Østerport railway station that is on the site of the old east gate.

The first of the rows were built in the 1630s and 1640s at the instigation of Christian IV for naval personnel and were single storey but with attic rooms. More rows - the two-storey terraces - were constructed in the middle of the 18th century and the last houses, in grey brick, date from the very end of the 19th century.

The houses from the 17th and 18th centuries were built in pale-yellow brick but given an external wash of lime with deep ochre pigment but this wash has just been removed so the brickwork can be repaired and, where necessary, repointed.

Stripped of this ochre wash, the facades reveal important archaeological evidence to show clearly how window and door openings were constructed. There were no obvious lintels but lines of headers above the windows so, almost certainly, the timber frame of the floor structure would have been set out to take the weight and outward thrust of the roof to prevent the outer walls bowing out or the ground-floor openings failing under the weight of the brickwork and roof above. 

In contrast, more precise coursing in historic brickwork can be seen in a house on Wilders  Plads in Christianshavn with alternate rows of different colours of brick so that brickwork was clearly built to be exposed and left without render. The Nyboder brickwork is not of the same quality so the houses must have been covered and protected with was of lime and pigment from the start.

It is also clear that by using lime wash - rather than a thicker and smooth coat of render - the final surface is not just more resilient - as each thin layer is applied, the lime oxidises and bonds to the stone or brick it covers - but the visible and slightly irregular brickwork gives a texture to the surface that seems to make the colour deeper … modern brickwork, in contrast, seems mechanical and flat or, if anything, dull.

more images and historic map of Nyboder

the buildings out on Refshaleøen through a rose-tinted lens?

select any image to open the photos as a slide show

 

 

It's difficult. 

How do you preserve somewhere like this? Or at least keep some of the buildings and some of the features that make the place so interesting.

How can you keep the colours and textures of somewhere that only looks like this because it was abandoned and for twenty years has - for the most part - been left or had a series of people working out here without the money or the security of tenure to do much beyond patching and repairing. 

Of course there have been exceptions … a yacht yard has extensive workshops and the restaurant Amass is well established in a workshop building that was reconfigured by the architect Dorte Mandrup.

But even the land itself - the island - is hardly a long-term feature of the harbour with a long history. This land was all claimed from the sea in the late 19th century and until the mid 1990s this was the shipyard of Burmeister & Wain with a huge area of workshops and dry docks with buildings that had been added or adapted as necessary and as and when there was new work to be completed. The massive dry dock out the east - such a prominent feature of the works - was only constructed around 1960 so it only had a working life of around 30 years.

Maybe there is also something wrong about romanticising or fetishising the decay of industrial buildings when actually they are all that is left to mark the tough and dangerous working lives of thousands and thousands of men ..... it's sobering to read that the workshops where Amass have their restaurant and garden now was workshops where some of the men who were too old or had been injured at work could find less dangerous jobs in servicing and repairing machinery.

Small boat yards and engineering works colonised the space after the ship yard closed and that large hall has been used for events and for rock and pop concerts but Refshaleøen is now entering its next phase with the opening of new gallery space for Copenhagen Contemporary in workshops across the front of the music venue and in an area towards the harbour there is a new food market and there will be craft workshops and studios in some of the other buildings.

Even this next phase is short term - or relatively short term in the broader context of planning and future 'investment' in long-term development. This is valuable land just across the harbour from the city and much will depend on whether or not there is the motivation to build a new road tunnel to link Nordhavn and Refshaløen. 

If that happens then the whole character of the island will change.

Even now this is hardly what you would describe as marginal land but with or even without the tunnel this will not survive like this for much longer. The gallery has been told that they can stay for 10 years and some of the industrial buildings might survive to be given new uses but what merit will rusty steps and broken windows have then? What is the value of patina? What is the best rate of return on rust?

 

previous posts

Refshaleøen

Industrial buildings on Refshaleøen and Prøvestenen

Reffen / The Reef

 

Dinesen

 

 

Dinesen, the Danish floorboard company, did not have a major exhibition in their showrooms in Copenhagen this year for 3daysofdesgn but I called in there on the way to look at the new showrooms for by Lassen that are on the third floor of the same building Søtorvet.

They have an amazing display that runs down the centre of the showroom with the base of a Douglas fir with the bark still attached but sawn through into enormous planks. A visitor had counted the tree rings and the fir, from a forest in South Germany, is thought to have been 117 years old when it was felled.

 

 

 

In from the base, more bark has been removed and the sawn planks are more obvious and then from there, running on down the showroom, is a table made from planks from the tree that are 50 metres long. FIFTY METRES.

It's truly astounding and it shows, in perhaps the most tangible way possible, that the Danish love of wood for furniture is not just about style or taste but about a deep understanding of timber and an appreciation of it's importance and a deep knowledge that comes from experience and decades … no not decades but actually centuries of working with wood in this country.

Dinesen

Just a few days earlier I had taken family, who were visiting, to the Viking Museum in Roskilde. The ships there - dating from the 11th century and excavated from the fiord in the 1960s - are stunningly beautiful and amazing for their size; for their striking design and for their engineering and above all because they show that shipbuilders in Roskilde a thousand years ago were masters of the skills needed to work with the timber and understood how to realise designs that were strong and did service for decades.

Outside, in the area between the museum building and the water of the fiord, there was a demonstration of various shipbuilding skills, using traditional techniques, and one craftsman was dressing the surface of a split timber plank with an axe. A tree trunk had been split with wedges then than being sawn … aa ancient technique that meant thin planks could be formed that took into account the twists and natural faults in the wood. With a few swings with the axe, the surface of the plank was taken back from rough fibres and splinters to a surface that was smooth and almost unblemished.

If anyone wants to know just why Danish furniture in wood is so good then the answer is simple … all it takes is a 1,000 years of experience.

Vikingeskibs Museet, Roskild

Swiss Design Zurich Made … Designmuseum Danmark for 3daysofdesign

 

 

This was an event to show the work of the Department of Design from Zurich University of the Arts with an exhibition in the Festhallen of the museum - the big assembly room over the entrance of the museum - and there was a packed series of talks and discussions through the Friday and Saturday.

It was very much about new and emerging talent - the next generation of designers - and covered well-established disciplines such as typography but had a strong focus on design for the computer - virtual models, virtual reality, computer games and apps using GPS to explore a city and its culture - along with political or social aspects of design - so work on how gender is expressed either consciously or unconsciously in the design of products.

Established Swiss design was represented here by the Ulm Stool by Max Bill from 1954; the Stella Chair and the messenger bag from Freitag that reuse truck tarpaulin. With the bags, Freitag had worked with students to explore new concepts and new forms for the bag and for the event, down in the courtyard, there was a stall where you could design your own bag by moving a Perspex template over a tarpaulin to form the design you liked best.

Action! Teaching and Learning for Sustainability has online sites for their symposiums in 2016, 2017 and 2018. These show how design as a training and as a profession has now spread out to involve a much much broader social, environmental and political area.

Forty or fifty years ago to call a store a design shop somehow implied that it was special and, by implication, ordinary furniture was somehow not designed and to have 'designer' anything - from jeans to a vase by a named designer - somehow implied, in terms of marketing at least, that this was special - to justify the price tag - but again, insidiously, as if it marked the buyer out for their taste and discernment. Equally typography was the work of a graphic artist or typographer rather than someone calling themselves generally a designer and people declared themselves to be interior designers before they realised that dropping the word interior gave them more freedom to work over a broader range of products.

Now the word design seems to be too broad. I'm not suggesting that it has been claimed by too many for too many products … just that it has become too vague. Everything, even badly thought out and badly made furniture or household accessories are actually designed … bad products are not organic or spontaneous and don't appear as if by magic in a container at a port. But the Swiss exhibition here shows that really good design, for all aspects of life, can be enhancing and invigorating and crucial to everyone's by making appropriate and sustainable design for the coming decades.

Swiss design Zurich made

Freitag

 

Design X Change - Designmuseum Danmark

 

 

For 3daysofdesign, Designmuseum Denmark hosted the annual Design X Change in the courtyard. The over-riding theme of the event is sustainability and reuse for design products with many companies and designers represented. There were good food stalls … including a major stall by the team from Klint … the museum's own restaurant. Many of the displays were hands-on including being able to pan for gold and several stalls seemed well set to orchestrate discussions.

designmuseum danmark

all in the detail

 

 

The best design is not necessarily about award winning architecture or beautifully made furniture but is always about sorting out the details. 

Here it’s a drain in the cobbles of the quay in Christianshavn close to the new bridge by Olafur Eliasson. 

How many people, admiring the bridge or sauntering along the harbour, look down at what they are walking over or standing on?

But one way to judge and appreciate well thought-through design and the use of good, well-made fittings is to think about what it might have been like if someone had not thought through those details.

 

Circular Economy

 

A major exhibition at the Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts Schools of Architecture, Design and Conservation to show fourteen projects that offer new solutions and strategies for the development of new sustainable materials along with the development of new technologies, the exploration of new approaches to building and construction and the recycling or re-circulation of materials.

“The conversion means that we need to work innovatively and experimentally on the development of new materials and the recycling of old ones, while also using our knowledge to create solutions that people actually want to use. That is the way we work at KADK, so our research and the skills of our graduates can play a major role in terms of giving people a better life without putting pressure on our planet.” 

Lene Dammand Lund.

 

Through the Autumn there will be a series of open seminars to “draw on knowledge and experience from some of the world’s leading architects and designers in the field of circularity, who will be invited to talk about their work.”

 

the exhibition Circular Economy continues at KADK at Philip de Langes Allé 10 in Copenhagen until 3 December 2017