where do all the tourists go?

Over the last year or so, I have detected a change of attitude about tourism in the city. 

Tourists and visitors to the city, coming for business or for conferences and events, are still an important source of revenue - many in the city are employed in holiday industries, in the hotels, in restaurants and of course shops rely, to some extent, on tourists shopping - but there have been articles in newspapers recently that have stared to question the benefits of tourism and look at the benefits weighed against the cost. 

Pressures from the numbers of tourists visiting Copenhagen are not yet as marked as the more obvious and better publicised problems in cities like Amsterdam, Barcelona or Venice but certainly people have started to question the impact from Airbnb - particularly where complete apartments are now let through much of the year so this has begun to distort the long-term rental market - and some journalists have asked questions about the number of large cruise ships that stop here and about the impact they have through pollution. But the main criticism is that disproportionate numbers of visitors in the city focus their time on remarkably few sites so crowds of tourists are concentrated in areas like Strøget - the Walking Street - Nyhavn, parts of Christianshavn and along the harbour around the Little Mermaid and these parts of the city can be unpleasantly crowded, not just for local people but actually for visitors as well.

There is also a problem with tour buses that want to drop passengers close to main sites but then park waiting for their passengers to return either blocking the bus stops for public transport or by blocking the front of buildings the visitors actually want to see. Recently, I wanted to take a photograph of the front of the Royal Theatre on Kongens Nytorv for a post here but over three days there were at least two tourist buses parked across the front each time I went past.

 

By coincidence, thinking about this post, I came across a fascinating article on line by Colin Marshall on the Open Culture site from June of this year. He wrote there about 136 maps of major cities across the world produced for a project called Locals and Tourists and published in a larger project The Geotaggers’ World Atlas, by Eric Fisher who has used MapBox, Twitter and data from Gnip to plot photographs taken of cities that have been uploaded to the internet. 

The central area of the Copenhagen map is reproduced here with red indicating photographs that appear to have been taken by tourists while blue are images that are probably by local people - determined primarily because they are Tweeting from the same location for at least a month - and yellow could be either.

When data is presented in this way, it is easy to see the densely-packed areas where most photographs were taken with Nyhavn - the long rectangle at the centre of the map that extends up to large blob that marks Kongens Nytorv - the large public square at the city end of the New Harbour - and just above that there is the distinct shape of the royal palace with the circle of the main square and long narrow strips running out to the right to the harbour in one direction and to the Marble Church in the other. The large public square in front of city hall and, nearby, Tivoli are the densely-packed but slightly more scattered areas of red on the left side of the city centre.

Roads can be picked out clearly and give a framework for location and one interesting feature of the complete map, right, that shows the wider area around the city, is the long narrow line of yellow that is the railway bridge across to Malmö with good and photogenic views of the sound.

The data was collected in 2013 but more recent published data from 2017 corroborates the general conclusions. In that year, there were around 7 million visitors to the city and more than 60% included Nyhavn in their trip so, by rough calculation, that suggests that the number of visitors walking up and down Nyhavn in a year was equal, approximately, to the total population of the country.

With the opening of a new bridge from the end of Nyhavn for cyclists and pedestrians to cross the harbour to Christianshavn, Nyhavn has become not just a destination but also a major route. Shops close to the harbour on the west side of Nyhavn have seen a marked and welcome increase in business and for several shops it has meant the difference between declining trade and the possibility of a failing business before the bridge opened and surviving now.

But an article in Politiken by Søren Astrup in September 2017 pointed out that, even at that early stage, not long after the bridge opened, there was an obvious problem with the possibility for accidents as tourists, looking at maps or at the view or busy chatting came into contact with fast moving bike traffic. Planners are responsible for road markings and barriers and some changes have been made, particularly at the bottom of the bridge on the city side, but tourists also have a responsibility and have to learn to be more aware.

This is particularly true of the green man system at traffic lights that in too many cities seem to be treated as respect-it-or-ingnore-it advice rather than as an instruction but, because biking is taken seriously here, many cyclists are heading to or from work, can be in a hurry, and many cycle long distances so when you get up momentum (speed) you do not appreciate a tourist sauntering into the bike lane to take a better photo or stepping out onto a crossing because it sounds clear …. ie they can’t hear a car so step out without looking.

The real problem in Nyhavn is people taking photographs and particularly selfies. Most tourists would say well that is pretty harmless and surely it doesn’t hurt locals to wait just a few seconds while they get that perfect shot. 

But I’m much less tolerant of selfies now I have actually moved to an apartment on Nyhavn.

I have deliberately changed my behaviour to walk down the shady side when possible, although I live on the sunny side, simply because there are slightly less people taking photos. It may be your once in a life time shot but for me, heading to the metro, it may well be the ninth or tenth time I’ve had to walk out into the road in just over 100 metres to get around a selfish-selfie taker. 

Do people taking selfies realise just how much space they take up on a narrow or crowded path with or without a selfie stick? 

 

A few weeks back I was heading up towards Kongens Nytorv on the Charlottenborg side and walking along the pavement against the water. I noticed a woman standing a short distance ahead with her back against the buildings and only noticed her because of the odd pose - even for someone taking a photo with a phone. The phone was held in both hands at arms length with her arms straight out in front so I guess she was long sighted. As I got nearer and, presumably, as she focused on the phone screen or composed the view, she set off straight across the bike lane - cutting between bikes heading out of the city without looking - and walked straight across the road between the moving cars and straight across the bike lane on the water side with bikes heading fast into the city but without taking her eyes off the screen and ended up, with arms still straight out, rigid, taking up the full width of the pavement immediately in front of me. And I mean immediately in front. Inches away rather than feet away. I was walking quite quickly but she moved at a surprising speed so if I had been wearing rubber-sole shoes there would have been black burn marks on the pavement because I had to stop that quickly to stop from walking straight into her. She gave me a withering look - presumably for standing too close and for distracting her - before turning her head back to the outstretched phone and to the perfect photo she wanted to take. I had to step out into the bike lane - after checking - to get round her. 

When I’m trying to get somewhere it’s bloody annoying although looking out of my apartment it’s more entertaining and a mind-boggling view of weird human behaviour. In the last couple of weeks alone I watched someone who looked like a Japanese tourist who set up his camera on the top of his case with wheels and then made endless trips between the edge of the harbour and his case to take shot after shot after shot until he got just the right angle of his face against the buildings opposite and there was a curious girl who did the splits along the raised timber that marks the edge of the quay for her photo although now, I appreciate, that the timber is, remarkably, like the bar in women’s gymnastics although balancing three metres above the water seemed a little precarious even if, admittedly, it made for an unusual photo. There was also a young couple I took to be Chinese with him in a smart suit and her in an elaborate wedding dress …. Cinderella before midnight meets Marie Antoinette … although they were not strictly taking selfies as they had a photographer with them and she insisted in setting up her camera on a tripod in the middle of the road - again to get what they thought was the perfect photo. 

Another trend I’ve spotted is the fake selfie … the girl (usually a girl and usually mid teens) with a striking outfit and a mate or sometimes someone who is obviously the doting mum there to take the perfect shot. The common pose seems to start by dropping the head forward and then doing a great swinging arc to take all the hair in a great circular sweep so it ends up artfully draped down one side of the face but clear of the eyes and the favourite stance seems to be with body angled to face one side or the other, so across the view line from the camera, but looking slightly over the shoulder towards the camera. Again I’m amazed just how many takes and how much discussion it takes to get that perfect spontaneous shot.

 

Oh and while I’m being grumpy …. the other thing I really really don’t understand is this fad for fixing padlocks to bridges. The first person to do it was being original and presumably romantic if that first lock on that first bridge marked somewhere special where something significant happened … like proposing or promising eternal love and devotion. Now it’s locks on locks on locks.

I’m curious …. do people arrive with pockets full of locks or do they buy them here and exactly how much does it cost the city or the port authority to cut them off at increasingly regular intervals? And what do people do with all those keys?

 

Servitudes - Jesper Just at Kunsthal Charlottenborg

Servitudes, a video installation by the Danish artist Jesper Just, has opened at Kunsthal Charlottenborg in Copenhagen.

The architecture of the gallery space plays a strong part in framing or containing a series of eight videos, including one projected onto the floor, and all are synchronised and seen on a proscribed route along a raised metal walkway with a series of ramps that are reminiscent of temporary access ramps for wheelchairs. These take the visitor through the series of large but dimly-lit spaces and rise high enough to mean that at one point it is necessary to duck down to get under a doorway that normally forms a high and wide link between gallery spaces.

Each film is on a continuous loop and dominate your view point so distort any real sense of scale or time and most visitors seemed to watch each film through so another and strong element of the exhibition is the groups of people seen as silhouettes leaning against the rails of the walkways or, in one gallery, sitting on a bank of platforms.

The videos too have a strong architectural theme and were filmed at One World Trade Center. One has a series of lift doors in a large lobby that are opening and closing to no discernible pattern but with no one entering or leaving and one film has a young woman in a barely-furnished space looking out through high plate-glass windows at a landscape of the city skyscrapers. In another, the camera pans slowly across a finely-detailed glass and steel façade broken by rhythmic tapping that eventually resolves into a young girl, back to the camera. striking a panel at street level with a stone.

The catalogue rightly describes the exhibition as mesmerising.

Servitudes, Kunsthal Charlottenborg, Copenhagen
the exhibition continues until 11 August 2019

Bag on Året, København 2018 /  Behind the Year, Copenhagen 2018

Blankt Papir Press was founded in 2017 by the art photographer Julia Mejnertsen and is  described as a nano-publishing house.

Through 2018 they collaborated with 80 Copenhagen-based photographers to produce images of the city and it's citizens that were published as 12 books - one for each month - with a limited run of 100 for each.

The premise was that "Copenhagen has been named as 'the most liveable city in the world' several times and we have seen many beautiful vistas of the Danish capital, but reality is always far more complex."

The photographs were shown at the Machine Hall through the Copenhagen Photo Festival as a series of booklets … each the work of one photograph and with the works arranged by the month to which they contributed.

Blankt Papir Press

Copenhagen Photo Festival - Festival Center Refshaleøen

 

For the Copenhagen Photo Festival, the centre is over on Reshaleøen at the north end of the harbour - out beyond Christianshavn and Holmen - on the site of former shipyards.

Many of the workshops, office buildings and dry docks of the yards survive in various states but the area has seen a rapid transformation over the last couple of years with new restaurants, the food market of Reffen - now here for its second summer - a bakery and flea market along with a major new gallery of modern art - Copenhagen Contemporary - now also in it's second season.

The photo festival is spread over three main venues and each with a very different character as exhibition space.

At the north end is a group of stacked shipping containers with open ends where the works of Franziska Gill and Marco Marzocchi are shown and outside, on scrub land with the footings of demolished buildings, are the photographs of White Rage by Espen Rasmussen and the large images for Living Room by Jana Sophia Nolle.

All these works are essentially photo journalism and all gain from the temporary and therefore immediate feel of the spaces where a more traditional and polite modern gallery could make the images appear detached from the subjects. In particular, the images of White Rage seem even more of a challenge when seen outside against trees and rough grass as if they are in a post-conflict site of destruction.

To the south, close to the food market, the Machine Workshop is a huge space that provides the venue for Censored - the main open show for fine art photography - the exhibition Hail by Garrett O Hansen; a video installation - KOMA RETREAT - by Mathias Løvgreen and the installation Behind the Year by the independent publisher Blankt Papir Press.

The space above Copenhagen Contemporary with photographs by Mary Frey could not be more of a contrast. It's a vast and light space with an amazing roof and all recently restored. These enormous halls will be used by Copenhagen Contemporary for work with schools and for additional exhibitions beyond or rather above the space of the vast galleries below. For the Photo Festival access was by a relatively narrow metal staircase with a straight single flight that seemed to go on and on climbing for ever - almost surreal.

Copenhagen Photo Festival continues until 16 June 2019

 

Refshaleøen as a venue for the Copenhagen Photo Festival

Although there are exhibitions all over the city, Refshaleøen is the centre for the Copenhagen Photo Festival.

The area - with huge but abandoned buildings from the shipyards here until the 1990s - has an incredible atmosphere - part dereliction and decay and part alive with energy as the area is being transformed.

It's definitely photogenic with amazing materials, colours and texture and with strong contrasts between areas of decay hard against buildings and areas being given a new life.

But there is an odd disjunction ….

The area has become a playground for the city. Of course that's not in itself a bad thing because Copenhagen needs somewhere where people can make a noise - the heavy metal festival Copenhell is out here at the end of the month - or make a mess and it's somewhere artists and makers and young start-up companies can find work space with low or relatively low rents for now in this interim period before developers and money men move in and they are driven out. The area feels consciously edgy but maybe slightly hyper because everyone knows the clock is ticking.

There are actually expensive places here to eat and drink alongside a huge variety of foods from the food market … and I'm not knocking any of that … I'm as middle class as you can get and come out here to Lille Bakery to buy some of the best bread in the city … but ……

And this is where my inner puritan kicks in …Refshaleøen was a huge and, for the post-war Danish economy, a crucial industrial site where thousands of men worked and worked hard and the memory of that is fading and disappearing. Machinery, hoists, cranes have all gone with little remaining to tell you what was done and where.

I'm not romanticising work that must, for many, have been hard and grim. It's just that it is now 30 years since ships were made here so there must be fewer and fewer people alive who actually worked in the yards. Should people now still try to understand all that and remember? Do we need to understand how we got here to make sense of where we are going?

If you stopped any of the foreign students arriving in droves on their bikes or any of the tourists off the ferry and asked them then very few would even know that this part of the city had been a shipyard. Does that matter?

My first trips to Copenhagen were after the ship yards closed, so I have no first-hand idea of what this area was like through the 1950s and 1960s, except from looking at old photos and maps  and maybe that is the other odd thing that few visitors will understand … this land was claimed from the sea, became a major industrial area and failed and dismantled and abandoned in just three decades. In an age when we are more and more concerned about our impact on our planet, is Refshaleøen a stark example of man moving in, transforming a landscape and moving on leaving the mess … so a monument to hubris … or a lesson in pragmatism … our ability to salvage and make something new once the old is no longer of use?

And if I missed the shipyards, I do remember the area before gentrification began … exploring and taking odd photographs of scrap yards and wire fences and vicious guard dogs and feeling uneasy, knowing I was intruding, and waiting to be challenged or seen off at any moment.

Again I'm not romanticising that in any way but maybe cities need scruffy land on the edge of regulations and outside planning and controls although, I guess, that is not on the agenda of the politicians and developers.

Status:19 - Dansk Journalistforbund - Exhibition Bus Højbroplads

Part of the Copenhagen Photo Festival, this is an exhibition of 100 photographs by professional photographers shown as digital images on a mobile exhibition venue - the PIXLBOX or exhibition bus from PIXLART.

More than 2500 images were submitted by photographers who are members of DJ: Fotograferne … a section of Dansk Journalistforbund or the Danish Union of Journalists … and reflect a broad range of photographic work from commercial photography through portrait work, art photography and photo journalism.

The photographs were selected within an overall framework of five themes …

  • portrait

  • commercial

  • communication

  • art

  • journalism

 In the exhibition bus the images are digital, shown on a number of screens of different sizes and set portrait and landscape, and several images were shown cropped on more than one screen so there was an interesting opportunity to see how the message or story from an image changes with editing.

Shown on large, high-resolution screens the images have an intensity and depth that is rarely there on the printed page … just compare the images in the exhibition with those in the printed catalogue. That is not a criticism but simply the reality of keeping down the cost of printing the catalogue but then it becomes simply an aide memoir.

The large digital images showed strong vibrant colour where appropriate; the smallest detail in high resolution images and the nuances of soft light in the portrait by Søren Bidstrup of Lars Von Trier in a misty autumn landscape in a river valley.

The images scrolled through so there were often fascinating juxtapositions of images that established a momentary dialogue from the contrast. At one point an informal but still formal portrait by Niels Hougaard of HKH Prince Joachim, second son of the Danish monarch, in military uniform, was set, for a few seconds, next to an image by Rasmus Flindt Pedersen of a street in Mosul as people dealt with the bloody and grim reality of war.

It is a good exhibition space that is restricted but that actually means you focus on the image directly in front of you and the space is designed to have some seating to watch all the images on each screen scroll through and, above all, it is designed to bring art to streets and public spaces anywhere where people do not have easy or direct access to art. 

Many - on fact most - of the images are about context and back story - about why or what might or what probably happened next. Many capture just how weird life can be.

 

this exhibition was shown first through May in Viborg.
Status 19 in the exhibition bus is on Højbroplads from 6 June to 11 June 11-19

 

COPENHAGEN PHOTO FESTIVAL
DJ: Photographers - Status 19
PIXLART
PIXLBOX

 

Fang din by - forandring / Capture your city - change 2019

 

Fang din by - catch or capture your city - is an annual photographic competition at Dansk Arkitektur Centre - the Danish Architecture Centre or DAC - that demonstrates “that our cities are full of quirky details, historical corners, new urban spaces and fantastic architecture.”

This year the theme of the exhibition is transition in the city because our cities are changing every day and that change is fast. "We adapt to climate change, building height, the old is torn down creating new urban spaces." Information about the competition posed two questions ….

How does it look when old meets new? 
Is the transformation of our cities always good? 

Along with information about submission of images for the competition were also the recommendations that photographs should not only reflect the theme for this year but should also be an "exciting composition" and show the "interaction between urban space and people.

The competition was open to professional and amateur photographers and this year 3,000 people submitted images.

A final selection was made by a jury with Maja Dyrehauge Gregersen, Director of Copenhagen Photo Festival; the photo journalist Janus Engel Rasmussen, and Christian Juul Wendell, Head of Communications at the Institut for (X) and project manager at Bureau Detours.

The overall winner was announced at the opening with the second and third prize and there was a second and separate competition for schools and again the winner and second and third prizes were announced.

Fang din by was organised in collaboration with the Copenhagen Photo Festival and the opening coincided with the opening of the Festival.

the exhibition can be seen outside on Bryghuspladsen in Copenhagen
- the public square in front of BLOX -
from 7 June through to 30 August

for the first time this year there will also be a separate but closely-related exhibition - showing a different selection of images - that will be moved between a number of venues around the city.

That exhibition can be seen at:

  • Nytorv - 7 June to 20 June

  • Israels Plads - 21 June to 4 July

  • Rådhuspladsen - 5 July to 18 July

  • Kultorvet - 19 July to 1 August

  • Den Røde Plads - 2 August to 15 August

  • Højbro Plads - 16 August to 30 August

  

Dansk Arkitektur Centre - Fang din by
Copenhagen Photo Festival
Bureau Detours
Institut for (X)

Fang din by - Bryghuspladsen

 

Fang din by - Nytorv

Bauhaus #itsalldesign

Designmuseum Danmark, Bredgade 68, Copenhagen

A major exhibition has opened at Designmuseum Danmark on the history, the staff and their teaching and the work of the Bauhaus school of architecture and design.

This reassessment was conceived by Vitra Design Museum and Bundeskunsthalle, Bonn to mark 100 years since the opening of the Bauhaus.

review to follow

the exhibition continues until 1 December 2019
Designmuseum Danmark

 

Patterns Shimmer Scenes - photographs by Joachim Koester at Statens Museum for Kunst

 

I was at the opening for the exhibition of work by Joachim Koester but decided, on balance, that the subjects shown in his series of images are not close enough to the city or to architecture and design in Denmark to be relevant for a review here but going back recently, to spend more time in the exhibition on a quieter day, I realise I was wrong.

It is not the subject of the photographs, although those are interesting, but it is about ways of seeing - about having a viewpoint - and it's about the selection of that view point, the artist editing the scene, to create or, at least, to hint at or imply a narrative, that is an important lesson.

Koester was born in Copenhagen in 1962 and studied at the Schools of Visual Arts at The Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts and he works now with photography, sound and video.

The images shown in Patterns Shimmer Scenes are presented in clear groups and come from very specific projects including with others:

  • Some Boarded Up Houses that is a series of photographs taken in the United States after the financial crash of 2007-2009

  • The American artist Ed Ruscha documented a number of empty plots in 1970 and collected them in a book Real Estate Opportunities. Koester recorded some of the same plots in his work Occupied Plots, Abandoned Futures Twelve (Former) Real Estate Opportunities 2007.

  • photographs taken in Kaliningrad follow the route of a daily walk taken by the philosopher Immanuel Kant when he lived in the city that was then called Königsberg

  • a series of photographs of amazing buildings in Calcutta traces marked changes from an Imperial past - where affluence was based in part on money from the British East India Company trading opium that was grown in Afghanistan and shipped on by the Company to China. *

These are “enigmatic images of abandoned places with stories that reveal incredible pasts” and generally record desolation and waste. Apart from the photographs from Calcutta, there are rarely people in the images. Particularly in the American photographs, Koester takes his photographs straight on to the façade, and with parallax removed, and sharp detail across the image, he removes or flattens the sense of perspective or distance so the buildings become specimens to be examined closely and, with boarded up windows and empty yards, the photographs expose decline and abandonment that has taken place over years or over decades.

Some of the photographs are selenium toned silver gelatine prints that have deep rich tones of warm greys and that also creates a curious sense of detachment in a world where now it seems anyone and everyone takes so many colour photos.

Many of the buildings are boarded up - most look unoccupied - so, above all, the photographs record waste … how humans construct buildings that are extravagant, are expressions of wealth or of optimism or both but they are abandoned and history or events leave them stranded.

 

 

note:

* a recent article in The Guardian included the astounding statistic that the British shipping company P&O transported 632,000 tons of opium from Bengal to China.

 

the exhibition continues at Statens Museum for Kunst in Copenhagen until 3 February 2019 

 

snow in the city

 

We had fairly heavy snow today that settled and, on days like this, people tend to stay in so there is less traffic, certainly fewer bikes, and sounds are muffled.

It's a good time to take photographs of the city and not just because it makes a pretty picture.

If the cloud lifts, and the sun comes out in a clear sky, it's different because then the colours seem more intense and deeper with light reflected up off the snow but when snow is falling, colours are muted to greys and soft mauves and then what you see is a simplification of the solid blocks with strong lines and edges emerging and it is the underlying geometry of the streetscape that survives … the blocks and the mass of the city.

 
 

MONO - exhibition catalogue

 

The catalogue for the Cabinetmakers’ Autumn Exhibition in 2018 at Thorvaldsens Museum in Copenhagen has a general introduction to the exhibition by the selection board and then for each work there is a double-page layout with a full page black and white photograph for each of the works.

These monochrome images are dramatic and chime with the theme of the exhibition but also give a strong emphasis to the form of each work.

Some pieces have a descriptive or evocative name - so Calm or Look don’t touch and a cabinet for the display of special possessions has the title Ego - while other titles are more straightforward, with works described as Chair or Table and Chair.

Of course the catalogue sets out the name of the designer and the name of the cabinetmaker or the company who realised the work and each entry includes the materials and the dimensions of the piece.

There is also a short paragraph on each work to set out any thoughts that inspired the design or to talk about technical details - many of the pieces use material in an innovative way or the construction is much more complicated than is immediately apparent - and there is a translation in English.

Graphic design is by Studio Claus Due and the black and white photographs were taken by Torben Petersen.

Snedkernes Efterårsudstilling / The Cabinetmakers’ Autumn Exhibition 2018

Thorvaldsens Museum

Studio Claus Due

 

Fortællinger om et sted / Stories of a place

Arkitektens fotokonkurrence 2018 / The Architect's Photo Contest 2018

Following a competition by the association of architects, this exhibition shows the five winning portfolios, each with five photographs of a building or a single architectural project.

In a World that seems to be dominated by superficial Instagram images this is an important exhibition because instead of a quick glance and a swipe right the photographs are presented for careful consideration.

It is difficult to capture, for the record, the qualities and the character of a building in a few images and one function of these photographs is to slow down the process of looking. These photographs are about trying to record what is essential about the style and the form and the materials and the setting of a building.

read more


the exhibition was open as part of the Day of Architecture on 1 October but continues through to the 26 October

Arkitektforeningen
Åbenrå 34
1124 Copenhagen K

Fang din by 2018 / Catch your City 2018

 

 

Today - 8th June - an exhibition of photographs of Copenhagen opened on the square in front of the new Danish Architecture Centre.

This is the annual show of photographs of the city that were taken for an open competition that this year had 2,600 entries. 

Run in coordination with Copenhagen Photo Festival, the theme for this year was ‘my home in the city’ so it complements the first major exhibition from DAC in their new building about housing in Denmark under the title ‘Welcome Home.

 

winning entries can be seen on the DAC site for Fang din by

the exhibition is on Bryghuspladsen in Copenhagen through until 31 August 2018

 

Then & Now

Then & Now.jpeg
 

 

As part of the Copenhagen Photo Festival, there is a pop-up exhibition in a shop in Købmagergade. It must be between tenants but this is an appropriate location for the show as there are several photographs of this main city-centre shopping street in the exhibition.

The idea is simple but interesting: a series of street views, taken in Copenhagen by Jens Nielsen in 1968, are shown alongside photographs of exactly the same views taken by Isabel and Peter Aagaard fifty years later.

All the photographs - both those taken in 1968 and the recent photographs - are in black and white and shows that colour in photographs can be a distraction. Of course, through the 20th century, black-and-white photography was the stock choice for photo journalism and was used by photographers wanting to examine aspects of society … frequently recording aspects of day-to-day life that reflected wealth or lack of wealth in a society.

Most of the photographs shown were taken within the central historic core of the city and it is actually heartening to see just how little has changed over fifty years. A few of the buildings have had inappropriate frontages added for new shop windows or for corporate logos and signage but many many more have been improved because cheap and crude shop fronts dating from the mid 20th century have been removed and more appropriate shop fronts and signs put up. It shows a broad and growing respect for the quality of the architectural details of the old buildings although some would argue that this is creeping gentrification or conservation pandering to the middle classes and the tourists who want pretty pretty rather than anything that is rationally commercial.

Of course that period around 1968 was one of significant political protests and contention across Europe but that is not reflected in the earlier views here. 

It is the small and odd details recorded in the photos that is interesting.

Some streets were already being pedestrianised but most had narrow pavements with people restricted to walking along hard against the shop fronts and there was relatively heavy traffic that was dealing with narrow streets and cars parked on either side. There are even photographs that show tram tracks surviving in some of the streets. 

Just how close did the city get to planners sweeping all this away for bright new shopping malls and multi-storey car parks? 

In fact only one pair of photographs - taken looking along Landenmærket and looking towards the Round Tower - show that a complete block of historic, timber-framed buildings here was demolished sometime after 1968.

This is an important exhibition that shows how much more prosperous Copenhagen is now, fifty years on, and how pleasant the main streets are without vehicles but also without the major city-centre redevelopment that afflicted so many historic towns and cities. Developers would argue that conservation stifles prosperity (by which they mean generally profit) and inhibits or restricts giving people the modern services and facilities they ‘want’ but looking at these photographs, that would be a difficult argument to win in Copenhagen.

the exhibition is at Købmagergade 7 and is open every day until 14th June

RAMT AF BYEN / CITY STRUCK

 

 

This will be the last major exhibition from the Danish Architecture Centre in their present space in the large, historic, brick warehouse on the Amager side of the harbour because early next year they will move across to the other side of the harbour to BLOX … to new buildings designed by Rem Koolhaas and OMA and now close to completion

The exhibition has been curated by Marie Stender and is a selection of striking images by different photographers who explore the city as a place for people that is moulded and adapted by people for the way they really live day by day.

Divided into three areas - Boundaries, Meetings and Flows - this is the antidote to all those perfect images that are seen in so many architectural journals and glossy coffee-table books were perfect buildings are shown in the best light, from the most flattering angle and invariably devoid of people ... stripped of their reason and, metaphorically and literally, stripped of their humanity. 

When you watch people en masse in complex urban spaces you see quickly if the planning has failed -  so anything from a curiously empty and unused and unloved space to exactly the opposite where a street or a square or a building seems to be overwhelmed by the people passing through or trying to use the space. In these photographs, you see how people colonise public space and use it in ways no architect or planner had envisioned.

continues at the Danish Architecture Centre on Strandgade until 28 February 2018