the grimmest or the most brutal?

the Radisson Blu Hotel on Amager Boulevard manages to loom over Christianshavn. Lurking at the end of the street, this could have a bit part in a spy film about an ominous state watching every move of its citizens

walking along the canal from the back or south side of the Opera House, it is there, at the end of the view from nearly 2 kilometres away

 
 

walking down towards Højbro Plads you get your first view of Christiansborg and there is the hotel, well over a kilometre away but filling the gap. Maybe not looming but there and once you see it there then you can’t unsee it

 

There are very obvious problems with the design of the new office building at Østerport - its unrelenting horizontality, odd raspberry ice cream colour and insensitivity to the good historic buildings nearby and the important green space of the Citadel opposite for a start - but, for me, by far the ugliest building in the city is still the Radisson Blu Hotel on Amager Boulevard by Ejner Graae and Bent Severin that was completed in 1973.

It is a stark and brutal tower that dominates it's location overlooking the trees and the water of Stadsgraven - the historic outer defences across the south side of the old city - but, worse, it is a thug of a building that can be seen from all over this part of Copenhagen. It is like a ridiculously tall and scruffy waiter at a wedding celebration and when guests look back at their photographs they find that somehow he manages to be there, looming in the background, of most of them.

About the only time it looks anywhere near presentable - the hotel not the waiter - is when there is mist and frost hanging over the water or at night when, looking down Frederiksholms Canal, the distant block and the lights of the rooms form a bit of a book end to the view.

…. not a ringing endorsement and what really is astounding is that for a time last year there was an application going through the system for planning permission to add another ten floors to the tower … permission that had been granted in the original consent for building the hotel but for some reason the tower was truncated as the hotel went up… as if even the builders ran out of energy or malice.

Fortunately, the recent application was withdrawn.

On the canal through Christianshavn, look down one side and perhaps the only criticism you could make is that it is too nice to the point of being bland - I wouldn’t agree but you could argue that a bit of spice improves a dish but look down the other side and there is the Radisson breaking the roof line even when you get lower on the quay and try to cut it out

 

On Frederiksholm Canal you are over a kilometre from the hotel. Look north and the tallest building - a marker on the skyline to get your sense of place and orientation - is Vor Fruhe Church in a view barely changed since the Thorvaldsens Museum opened further along the canal in the 19th century. Look south and there, dead centre, is the Radisson. Only at night does it seem to contribute something to the view but it is hardly good architecture if it is best seen in the dark.

 
 

3daysofdesign

 

The annual design event - 3daysofdesign - is just a week away.

With so many places to go and people to see it is worth trying to plan your route but, as they say, the best laid plans of mice and men …..

If this sounds like hype then I’d just point out that, looking at the list of events, there are over 70 companies, studios, designers and design stores taking part this year and some of the larger companies have lectures or discussions or receptions on each of the three days and with events at two more venues.

3daysofdesign

 

Danish Design Awards 2019

This week the winners of the Danish Design Awards for 2019 were announced.

There were 14 separate categories including a prize for a "people's choice".

Christian Bason, director of the Danish Design Center, emphasised that the awards "celebrate both the difference that good design can do and makes visible the value Danish design creates at home and in the world."


The categories and winners were:

 

  • BETTER LEARNING – Nordic Rebels 2018

  • BETTER WORK – Sitecover

  • FEEL GOOD – Flindt Wall

  • GAME CHANGER – The Orb

  • HEALTHY LIFE – Rehaler

  • LIVEABLE CITIES – Xiamen Bicycle Skyway

  • MESSAGE UNDERSTOOD – Kofoeds Skole

  • OUTSTANDING SERVICE – My Digital Care Guide

  • SAVE RESOURCES – Upcycle Studios

  • ICON AWARD – The Velux Window

  • NEW JOBS – Lakrids by Bülow

  • YOUNG TALENT – Maria Viftrup

  • VISIONARY CONCEPTS – EnergyLab Nordhavn

  • PEOPLE’S CHOICE – Subreader

 

Short descriptions and photographs of the award-winning designs and the designs of the other finalists in each category are now on the Danish Design Award site.

 

Is This Colour? … an exhibition by Kontempo at The Round Tower

 

Kontempo, an association of textile designers in the Nordic region, was founded in 2015. With a board of eight textile and furniture designers who meet once a month, they are "working to raise awareness about contemporary textile work and practices."  

Is This ….? …. is a series of exhibitions by Kontempo with Is This Colour? being the third following Is This Textile? in 2016 and Is This Knit? in 2017.

Here, twenty four works are shown that, using many different materials and styles, explore aspects of colour. The Gallery is in the Trinitas Church, the parish church for students, in an upper level that housed the university library, and access is via the brick spiral ramp in the tower. With windows on both sides - with views over the city - there is amazing natural light through the space and that is exploited in the exhibition so that what is clear, immediately, is that surface, texture and shadow all have a crucial role in how we perceive colours.

KONTEMPO
the exhibitions continues at Rundetaarn / The Round Tower until 23 June 2019

the framework
ide Blichfeld

NCS S 1080 Y20R
Kitt Dusnia

compleat
Charlotte Østergaard

colour lab
Louise Sass

duotone
Eva Fly

translucent faces
Henning Larsen

photographs from the exhibition by Kontempo - Is This colour?

 

A selection of images to give an impression of the extent of the exhibition Is This Colour? and the range of works and some of the ideas explored. There are twenty-four different works or projects in all that use very different materials and techniques to look at and investigate different aspects of colour in design.

 

the exhibition continues at Rundetaarn - The Round Tower - in Copenhagen until 23 June 2019

An Adopted Sense of Time and Space

An exhibition of works by the furniture and spatial designer Clinton Stewart that “is an exploration, and observation of the way that we embrace and create associations images and objects that we interact with.”

Clinton Stewart

the exhibition continues at OFFICINET, the gallery of
Danske Kunsthåndvækere og Designere / The Association of Crafts and Design
Bredgade 66 until 18 May 2019

Kunst i Byudvikling / Art in Urban Development

Kunst Realdania cover.jpeg

Realdania have just published a report on sculpture and art in public space that is aimed at municipalities, development companies and other professionals to inspire them "to consider art as a value-creating asset in their own projects."

“Culture and temporary activities are often included in urban development to open up new urban areas and give them identity, involve local citizens, or attract investors and outsiders.”

Christine Buhl Andersen, director of the Glyptotek in Copenhagen, has written an introduction or overview and she emphasises the importance of art in public space …  "art is increasingly used strategically to make urban areas, urban spaces and buildings vibrant and attractive."

The report points out that art in public spaces has a clear role in helping to create a good urban environment but requires a partnership between politicians, architects, planners, developers, builders and artists.

Works of art can be used to decorate or to improve urban spaces and buildings but can do so much more … "art can give the individual building identity, create experiences and contribute to the well-being of the building's users."

established art in public space

 

sculpture of the Glyptotek in Copenhagen

 
 

Sculpture can be part of an outdoor exhibition space … the Glyptotek itself is a good and long-established example with sculpture on and around the building providing open access to art, with decorative portrait busts in niches across the entrance front, decorative panels and the heads of exotic animals, on the building itself; figures, many of workers, on the lawns on either side of the building, and across the back of the art gallery, on the opposite side to the entrance, there is a quiet, pleasant public garden that is also an outdoor gallery for a broad selection of statues.

Much of the sculpture in Copenhagen commemorates major figures - either from the city or national figures including, of course, monarchs, statesmen and major academics, scientists and literary figures.

These are busts or full length figures but there are also more complex representations of the lives of people … an interesting sculpture by Elisabeth Toubro has been added to the line of more traditional busts on plinths across the front of the old university buildings on Frue Plads that commemorates the life and work of the mathematician and seismologist Inge Lehmann.

 

commemorating and remembering through public art …
a statue of Hans Christian Andersen by Augustus Saabye in the King’s Garden: Gottlieb Bindesbøll by Kai Nielsen in the courtyard of Designmuseum Danmark: Steen Eiler Rasmussen by Knud Neilemose at the Royal Academy buildings on Holmen:
a traditional bust of the physicist Niels Bohr at the front of the university buildings on Frue Plads and the less-traditional monument close by to Inge Lehmann by Elisabeth Toubro

traditional art in public spaces

 

Litauens Plads - art, sculpture or street furniture?

 
L1260629.JPG

to mark the site of the important engineering works of Bumeister Wain there is a timeline set in the grass behind the sculpture

Now, many sculptures are designed to be sat on or climbed over and many have an important role in public spaces by encouraging people to sit in or use the space. Are the lines of low cylinders along the edge of the square at Litauens Plads street furniture? The red bird nesting boxes in the trees above suggest a complicated, diverse and subtle use of art works here.

Some artists can be reticent if they feel that their art is there simply to make the area more attractive or, worse, if it is there to increase the value of a development and politically it can be difficult if local people cannot relate to works; find them irrelevant or see the obvious cost as a waste of funds that might better be spent on supporting social projects.

The report looks at several major projects that have included public art in public spaces from the design stage with the examples of new sculpture incorporated into the new developments of Køge Kyst, south of Copenhagen, and Kanalbyen in Fredericia where there has been collaboration to integrate art from the start. 

An ambitious new scheme for public art is evolving at Arken, the major art gallery to the south of Copenhagen. There has been extensive re-landscaping immediately around the art gallery but, because many visitors and tourists come out from Copenhagen by train, Arkenwalk will link the railway station at Ishøj to the art gallery down on the beach - a walk of 2.2 kilometres - with the final design selected after a completion that was entered by 27 teams of artists and architects. The new "art axis" will be marked by very distinct red lamp posts.

new street art

 

The Wave - an interactive light installation by Frederik Svanholm, Mikkel Meyer and Jonas Fehr

the bike and foot bridge by Olafur Eliasson - public art or engineered city planning?

hoardings around the engineering works for the new metro station at Trianglen painted by Benjamin Noir

 

Superkilen in Nørrebro in Copenhagen

Public art is not restricted to sculpture - or at least not what would traditionally be seen as sculpture. Superkilen in Nørrebro has lines of stools and tables marked out with board games and the Circle Bridge by Olafur Eliasson, opposite the national library, with its lighting, blurs the boundary between engineering and public art. Paintings on the high fencing around the sites of the engineering works during the construction of a new Metro line has provided an opportunity for a major project in public art.

Many of these more recent projects, including newer forms of public art in light or with projected video art or sound, are about social engagement but public art can have an important role in attracting people through an area to make it feel used and safe rather than empty and abandoned or underused and under appreciated.

The report identifies a general change in the response to art in the streetscape. It suggests that there is a growing reaction against public art that is temporary or experience orientated or projects that are designed to attract tourists and a move towards "liveability", so art enhancing everyday life for local users of the space … a move towards appreciating art that brings joy, beauty, curiosity, a specific sense of a specific place so context and consideration - in the sense of thoughtfulness - back to enhance how we see and use and occupy public space.

It also includes more mundane but important and practical summaries about realising projects; about determining frameworks and about practical matters of planning for operation and maintenance and even a reminder about seeking information about rules covering Tax and VAT.

Above all the illustrations show just how diverse and just how imaginative public art in public space can be. 

Kunst i Byudvikling
Arkenwalk
Realdania

private art in public space?
a rack for bikes outside the bike shop on Strandgade in Copenhagen
pedals of the stand from a failed experiment to ride side saddle?

 
 

Christian IV

 

location map from the notice of consent granted by the city of Copenhagen

A new statue of the Danish king Christian IV has been unveiled by Queen Margrethe.

It stands at the corner of the forecourt and the ramp up to the main entrance of Børsen - the Royal Exchange - a building that was commissioned by Christian IV.

The statue of the king is in bronze and by the Faroese sculptor Hans Pauli Olsen. It is close in the pose and for the costume to a portrait of the king painted by Abraham Wuchters in 1638 or 1639 where Christian is wearing high riding boots that are loosely fitted with the tops folded down, has his left hand resting on his hip with the right hand outstretched and has a neat beard, heavy head of hair and the famous long, thin, plaited pigtail.

The statue is set on a high stone plinth from where Christian looks across the front of the palace of Christiansborg.

That plinth represents major buildings commissioned in the city by Christian IV with The Round Tower and the distinctive twisted spire of the Exchange and the spire of the tower of Christian's palace of Rosenborg but curiously the stone tower flanked by the spires in bronze are all upside-down … said by the sculptor to be the city that Christian built reflected in water.

The tower is set on a shallow mound in the cobbles that is slightly rustic and also slightly odd as if the whole thing is erupting from the ground.

The cost of the statue has been controversial as has the rather traditional style of the work. A new statue to Christian was first suggested in 2009 but in 2014 the design was rejected by Rådet for Visuel Kunst i Københavns Kommune - the Council of Visual Arts in the City of Copenhagen - on the grounds that "the sculpture does not reflect a contemporary art expression, and therefore lacks sufficient justification and relevance in the present."

The city finally gave consent for the statue by Olsen in January 2018.


background:

Christian was born in 1577 and he was only 11 when his father died. Initially the country was  governed by a regency council but Christian was deemed to have come of age when he was 19 and ruled Denmark from 1596 until his death in 1648.

Through his major building works Christian, more than any monarch, influenced both the plan and the appearance of the city. He remodelled the castle and made Copenhagen the centre of his administration and he commissioned major buildings that are still prominent features of the city including the Brewhouse and Arsenal to the south of the castle; Holmens Kirke - the church of the Royal Navy on the other side of the canal from Børsen - consecrated in 1619; Rosenborg - a private royal residence away from the castle - that was set in formal renaissance gardens on the edge of the city and completed around 1624; Børsen - The Royal Exchange - begun in 1624 and completed in 1640 and The Round Tower and its observatory and Trinitatis Church begun in 1637.

In 1626, Christian initiated work on the north defences of the city that was to become the Kastellet - completed after his death - and he began major engineering works to claim land from the sea - just off the shore and wharves of the old city - and where first Christianshavn was laid out, a planned new town, with defences around the south side and a new south gate to the city and then those defences were extended out to the north to enclose a vast area of sheltered and protected moorings for the naval fleet … an area of water that was subsequently filled with a number of large islands and canals that became the naval warehouses and dockyards of Holmen.

 

There I Belong at Statens Museum for Kunst

 

There I Belong is the first in a new series of exhibitions under the title SMK Plus where contemporary artists will explore the collections of the National Gallery.

For this exhibiion - Inspired by the works of the Danish painter Vilhelm Hammershøi who lived and worked in Copenhagen around 1900 - the artists Michael Elmgreen and Ingar Dragset have collaborated with Marianne Torp and Tone Bonnén, the museum's curators of contemporary art.

Spartan interiors by Hammershøi are restrained and calm but they are enigmatic - paintings that tread a fine line between being self contained or depictions of a life of painful isolation. The paintings resonate with a contemporary audience, reflecting aspects of modern taste and restrained Scandinavian interiors.

There may be windows in these rooms but the view out to a world beyond is usually obscured by thin, translucent curtains … the natural light entering the room is crucial but a sense of place not so because these are studies in light but never put people, objects or place under a harsh spot light. Figures in the paintings are detached, generally absorbed in what they are doing, inward looking, often with their back to the viewer and in many of the paintings we do not even know if they are reading or writing or simply sitting with head bowed in quiet contemplation. Open doors indicate that there are rooms beyond but barely hint at a lived life.

Interior with the Artist's Easel, takes this to an extreme because, when painting the picture, the artist himself should be at the easel. The only conclusion has to be that there is a second easel at the point where the viewer is standing so are we the artist? Perhaps we have been co-opted into this quiet and private world but this is the ultimate antidote to that modern scourge - the selfie - where the photographer shows themselves at the centre of the scene, always the subject of the view, inevitably relegating an event or scene beyond to a secondary role.

The second gallery - a large space - shows the work Powerless Structures (8 doors) by Elmgreen & Dragset from 2000-2002. These are the most simple, basic, standard white doors imaginable, with plain white door frames but each is a variation in a theme of a detachment from the real or the functional … one door has handles and hinges on both the left and the right side so it would be impossible to open - another has a handle that is not on the door but on the wall alongside so it might or might not open - one door is slightly open to reveal a locked door immediately behind - one door is folded and wrapped around the corner of the gallery - a pair of doors on adjoining walls at another corner are separate but linked by a security chain as if someone might be able to squeeze through from a room on one side to another room without being able to get into the gallery.

This work, or a version of this work, was shown at Statens Museum for Kunst in 2015 in Biography - an ambitious set of major installations by Elmgreen & Dragset. Then, the doors were part of a corridor and a series of rooms that were in what appeared to be a government or public office building. If not obviously dystopian then the corridor was completely anonymous and designed to smother any sense of self. On entering you had a choice to go one way or the other but with no signs or notices to say where you were or why you were there although you could get a ticket from a machine to wait for your number to be called but it never would be, of course, and if you proceeded past these doors you could only return to where you started.

By now placing these doors on the four walls of a large gallery, the work takes yet another step back and pays homage to Hammershøi but expands his space until it is monumental in scale.

The exhibition includes photographs, paintings, sculptures and video by other artists - all taking the theme of doorways and spartan anonymity - with works by Njideka Akunyili Crosby, Lilianna Maresca, Francesca Woodman, Robert Gober, Annika von Hausswolff, Ugo Rondinone and Thomas Ruff. Only the work by von Hausswolff is from the museum collection with the other works either courtesy of the artist or on loan from galleries and private owners.

 

the exhibition at Statens Museum for Kunst / The National Gallery in Copenhagen
continues until 1 September 2019

Interior with a young woman sweeping, 1899

Interior, No 30 Strandgade, 1906-1908

Interior with the Artist’s Easel, 1910

KADK graduates and UN Sustainable Development Goals

 

Shown in this outdoor exhibition are seventeen innovative study programmes or research projects by graduate students from the Royal Academy Schools of Architecture, Design and Conservation and each represent one of the 17 UN Sustainable Development Goals.

Rigsdagsgården - the courtyard immediately in front of the parliament building in Copenhagen - is an amazing public space that is easily accessible for everyone and has a regular series of open-air exhibitions but, more important, given the subject of this exhibition, it brings these problems - and the urgent need to find potential solutions - right to the doorstep of national politicians.

These are innovative and imaginative projects that show architectural, design-led or conservation solutions to major global problems but all are based on established design principles and the use of existing technology or of technology being developed now.

This is the best of Danish architecture and design that can and should be harnessed to tackle serious problems that have to be resolved now.

Solutions shown here are a response to huge range of serious questions including questions about:

  • how we can reclaim methane gas from melting permafrost as a source of green energy

  • how to use sustainable materials to design textiles and make them a preferred choice

  • how we create healthcare solutions for elderly citizens that involve people and maintain their dignity

  • that developing traditional handicrafts can be a starting point for women to start a local business

  • how novel solutions can ensure that people everywhere have access to clean water

  • design solutions can tackle the problem of over production of food or food waste and encourage people to share food resources to combat hunger

  • the design of lighting in the class room can be used to reduce noise levels and encourage calm and concentration in schools

  • research can find a way to use the waste from fish farms to fuel biogas energy

  • major architectural projects - changing the use of large but now redundant buildings - can reduce inequalities by enabling everyone in a community to participate

  • hemp can be an alternative to cotton because cultivation requires less water and less fertilisers

Each project is shown across two large panels for maximum impact but are repeated - two or more projects to a panel - on the side of the exhibition towards the pavement - where the text is in English.

There are important statements here from Jakob Brandtberg Knudsen, Director of the School of Architecture; Mathilde Aggebo, Director of the Design School; Rikke Bjarnhof, Director of the School of Conservation and Lene Dammand Lund, Rector of KADK. 

 

Det Kongelige Danske Kunstakademis Skoler for Arkitektur, Design og Konservering
The Royal Danish Academy Schools of Architecture, Design and Conservation

the exhibition of graduate projects from KADK in Rigsdagsgården
the courtyard in front of the parliament building in Copenhagen
continues until 30 June 2019

 

select any image to open in a slide show

 

Sustainable Chairs at Designmuseum Danmark

At the end of last year, the Nordic Council of Ministers held an open competition for the design of sustainable chairs with one winner chosen from each of the Nordic countries.

Judges considered the sourcing of materials; the energy required in production and distribution; consideration of disposal at the end of the life of the chair and general compliance with the United Nations 17 goals for sustainability.

At the beginning of December, winning designs were shown in the Nordic Pavilion at COP 24 - the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Katowice in Poland.

The overall winner was the Danish entry - The Coastal Chair by Nikolaj Thrane Carlsen.

This competition was organised in partnership with the Nordic national design associations - Danish Design Center, Svensk Form, DOGA in Norway, Ornamo in Finland and The Icelandic Design Centre.

the chairs will be shown in the entrance area of
the design museum in Copenhagen
until 26 May 2019

Designmuseum Danmark


 

Petite
David Ericsson
Sweden

beech
components reduced to use less materials and light - just 2.5 kilo

 

 

Tangform
Nikolaj Thrane Carlsen
Denmark

shell eelgrass and carrageenan extracted from red algae
frame recycled from bamboo floorboards

 

 
 

Håg Capisco
Peter Opsvik
Norway

recycled plastic from household waste
no glue or harmful chemicals
durable, easy to disassemble and repairable
manufactured by HÅG/Flokk


 

Kollhrif
Sölvi Kristjánsson
Iceland

cork and aluminium recycled from 14,400 tea lights
manufactured by Málmsteypan Hella and Portland

 

 
 

Clash 331
Samuli Naamanka
Finland

aspen and birch
thicker at the part of the seat where the legs are glued so subframe not necessary
durable
manufactured by naamanka

The Danish Design Center has posted photographs and information about the ten designs in the finals in each country:
Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway, Sweden

DESIGN X CHANGE at Designmuseum Danmark

Over the two days of the weekend for Design X Change 2019 at Designmuseum Danmark, there were lectures and demonstrations and a number of companies exhibited their products including the bicycle design company BIOMEGA with a display in the entrance court and, in Grønnegården - the great central courtyard of the museum - were, among many others, the new furniture company TAKT showing the first three chairs they have produced that were launched just a month ago; MATER; THE ORGANIC COMPANY; Signe Wenneberg with BIOTANISK KIOSK; sustainable bins from DROPBUCKET; planters from SQUARELY; jewellers from KEA - the Copenhagen Business Academy and COPENHAGEN SEEDS

 

 

DESIGN X CHANGE at Designmuseum Danmark
Saturday and Sunday 4 and 5 May 2019

DESIGN X CHANGE at Designmuseum Danmark

DESIGN X CHANGE, at Designmuseum Danmark today, is a major and popular annual event that is part of the Danish Design Festival.

There were demonstrations and displays in Grønnegården - the great courtyard at the centre of the museum - and lectures in the upper hall and all around the theme of sustainability in design.

DESIGN X CHANGE continue at Designmuseum Danmark tomorrow - Sunday 5 May 10.00-17.00

for information about companies and organisations taking part and for details about lectures see DESIGN X CHANGE

 

BLOX celebrates

 

There was open house and events through this afternoon - in the square at the front of the building and inside - to mark the year since BLOX opened last May.

BLOX

 

the Biennale - no straw shortener

uden stråforkter / no straw shortener - are two works by the designer and visual artist Christina Christensen. One work is with rye from fields near Odder, and the other with reeds from Kysing Beach, and both with cotton, linen and brass.

 
 

connections:

Through their work, many of the artists who exhibited at the biennale communicate complex ideas or raise important issues about our lives … both in our immediate communities but also, more generally, about how we respond to and how we do or how we should appreciate and respect our broader natural environment.

These woven panels raise interesting issues about both how we see and use natural materials and about the impact on nature of human intervention.

Over recent decades research by plant breeders has lead to the development short-stemmed grain crops - to reduce damage from wind or rain, and to increases yields - but, as a consequence, secondary uses for the product from taller varieties are lost.

Until the second half of the 20th century, corn was not simply harvested for the nutritional value of the seed but the long stalks were a sustainable raw material.

Straw (and in many areas reed) was used for thatch where stone slates or fired clay tiles were not available locally or were too expensive for ordinary buildings.

Now, we worry about air miles or about the cost and effect of shipping food, fashion clothing and goods round the globe but I'm curious to know how many people think about where the materials for the construction of their home come from and the environmental impact of those materials at the source, at the factory, and from the transport of the materials.

Generally, in the past - so before the twentieth century - transport of building materials was difficult and expensive. If you were wealthy then you could buy a fashionable fireplace or elaborate panelling from the nearest city or import an exotic wood like mahogany for a staircase to be made by a local craftsman, but for ordinary people, building an ordinary house, materials, generally, came from the local area - often from no more than five miles away - unless you were by the coast or on a river, or, from the 19th century, by a canal or then a railway, when transport costs were less prohibitive.

So, it is fantastic to see the architect Dorte Mandrup using thatch for not only the roof but also for the external cladding of the walls for the new Wadden Sea interpretation centre at Ribe on the west coast of Jutland.

But straw and reed were not just used for building but were also used to make mats or to make furniture - in areas, where good timber was not available - and for making household goods and toys - but how many people now have things in their homes made from straw or reed?

I had a set of table mats that lasted for nearly 20 years before they finally disintegrated and I have a few traditional Dutch Christmas decorations - small birds and stars - that are woven in straw, and every year, for more than 30 years, they come out of the cupboard to be hung on the tree … good and sustainable examples of rural crafts that have much more meaning than tinsel and baubles.

For more than 20 years I measured and recorded and assessed historic buildings of all periods and a good number were thatched. My job was to measure, record and date the timber-work of the roof structure but I have to admit that I rarely thought about the thatch … more than just to note the material and any pattern on the ridge or eaves that reflected the traditions of that area.

Looking at the work by Christina Christensen, reminded me when I first thought about long straw. I had been asked by BBC radio to collaborate on a programme about a thatched building in Oxfordshire and was there to talk about the date of the roof timbers - the form and techniques of construction suggested it dated from the 14th century and that had been confirmed by dendrochronology - but the main contribution to the programme was from a plant archaeologist.

What was so important about that particular roof was that it had never been stripped back for the thatch to be replaced completely. For over 600 years it had simply been patched and repaired with new layers over the old core of straw thatch. Not just exposed roof timbers but also the underside of the thatch itself were blackened with soot from the original open hearth that had been at the centre of the house until the 16th century when a new fireplace with a closed-in chimney was built.

From within the roof space, huddled in cramped space above modern ceilings, with me and the radio interviewer, the archaeologist drew out straws that were not far off 2 metres long and some still had their seed heads. From these he was able to identify the specific types of corn grown in the area in the middle ages - types of corn that were often specific to a relatively small area and certainly no longer grown - and identifying them was important for understanding medieval farming but also important for studies on bio diversity.

the Biennale - to play and learn together

 

This work by Kristine Mandsberg has prominent labels that read "please touch".

Play and, through play, early learning is one of the first stages where a child not only begins to explore and understand the physical world but also begins to build bonds with parents, siblings and a growing circle of friends.

Copenhagen has remarkable playgrounds with a huge range of equipment to test agility, to stimulate the imagination of children and to encourage play and the production of toys and furniture for children has been important in the works of many designers.

Kristine Mandsberg trained as a textile designer in Kolding and once you know that then the structural form of Three of a Kind, with warp and weft, becomes intriguing.

She also describes herself as an illustrator and the bold simple shapes here and her use of strong, bold colours has to come from a graphic sensibility.

But it was not just children who spent time twisting and turning and resetting these pieces. It was interesting to watch adults set and re set the pieces … perhaps not to find the inner child but seemed to reflect, at least, the way humans are curious about complex and adaptable structures.

These works have an element of mechanics about them … reminiscent of old wood football rattles that are never seen at matches now.

Biennalen for Kunsthåndværk & Design

kristinemandsberg.com

 

Biennalen for Kunsthåndværk & Design / The Biennale for Craft & Design 2019

 

This evening, the prestigious Biennaleprisen from Danske Kunsthåndværkere & Designere - the Biennale Prize from the Danish Association of Craft and Design - was awarded to Katrine Borup, Pernille Mouritzen and Bess Kristoffersen for their work Revl og Krat / Wheat and Chaff … an installation that is a curated collection of natural objects - including soil, branches, bark moss and grass - with crafted objects, photographs and notes.

It is a collaborative project by artists who work in the woodland around Dyrehavehuset / Deer Park House - a historic timber-framed lodge that is close to Tystrup Lake - 70 kilometers south west of Copenhagen - and was part of the extensive estates of the historic house at Gunderslevholm.

In the catalogue, the artists acknowledge the influence on their work of the American academic, author and teacher Donna Haraway and cite her recent book Staying with the Trouble.

This is about connections and stories; about art, science and political activism and about trying to understand our environment and about showing respect for nature.

Dyrehavehuset, Rejnstrupvej 5, Fuglebjerg - has been restored and is now the studio of Bess Kristoffersen.

The web site for Deer Park House has a specific page to illustrate some of the workshop sessions and the works produced at the studio for Revl og Krat.  

bessktistoffersen.dk
pernillemouritzen.dk
katrineborup.dk
dyrehavehuset.dk

 
 

  

Naturen Vinder Biennaleprisen 2019

Prize Committee

Pernille Stockmarr, curator, Designmuseum Danmark
Peder Rasmussen, ceramicist
Christina Zetterlund, lecturer and curator Linnéuniversitet 

the exhibition with all eighteen works selected continues until 5 May 2019 at
Nordatlantens Brygge, Strandgade 91, København K

note:

I am curious about the translation of the title of the work.
In dictionaries revl is generally translated into English as batten or possibly lath (plausible as this is a woodland lodge) and krat as a thicket so presumably the saying implies something useful coming from something that might be dismissed or might be seen to be useless … in terms of potential materials, the tangled branches of a thicket are less useful than a carefully nurtured tree from managed woodland.  

This has been translated in the catalogue as Wheat and Chaff … where wheat is the grain or seed that you keep and use for food or for planting for the next crop while the chaff is the husks that are discarded after the crop is winnowed.

Is the implication therefore that if you appreciate the chaff then you can use teverything?