It’s the first blog post for the Dulux Study Tour 2019 and my remit is to capture the events and observations of the first day “on tour”. We had the pleasure of an eight hour guided cycle tour through various neighbourhoods of Copenhagen by Alice Lempel Søndergaard. Alice’s knowledge and commentary on the psyche of Danish life and how it is interwoven through generations of the built fabric of the city was truly insightful.
From the outset I would describe the day as full immersion and complete disorientation – I mean riding on the right – I mean wrong, no, I mean right (not left) – side of the road and coming to terms with the fact that cyclists generally have right of way is triggering a general sense of anxiety. Officially we had 18 buildings and places on the tour but Alice’s in depth knowledge of the city included many diversions so we could get a true sense of this approach to design.
So the convoy departed and as we fumbled and jittered along the cobblestone streets we arrived at what I thought was the security entrance to the Danish National Bank by Arne Jacobsen. Years of referencing and studying this masterpiece from afar didn’t prepare me for the modest scale of the entry into the building. As we passed the low threshold, the building’s monastic granite foyer was revealed. Shortly after entering, we were hurried out to the next destination, leaving little time to pour over every subtle detail. This was a precursor to the pace of the day – listen, observe quickly and don’t miss the lights or you’ll be left behind!
Throughout the day Denmark was described as modest, Protestant, subtle but the delivery of places throughout the city reveals its inner risk embracing, opportunistic heart. It feels like in all the modesty the design industry has adopted an approach similar to improv comedians to respond – ‘yes, and…’
Client: Can you design a new waste to energy power plant?
BIG: Yes, and lets turn the whole roof into a park and ski slope because there are no mountains in Denmark!
Client: Can you design a sports facility in a low socio-economic area with no budget?
Dorte Mandrup: Yes, and lets seek funding to have translucent sheet typically used for backyard sheds and test it for compliance to use in a public building!
In the context of Australian urban design and project management, Copenhagen feels like it is so far down the rabbit hole that it will give anything a go. If something doesn’t quite work out a solution is found to remedy the issue. Alice took us on a few detours to see examples of notable projects that have been altered to improve safety issues. How many times have we all presented a design and the first comment is ‘What if someone [insert unlikely catastrophe]?’
Entering into a full Day 2 of practice visits I’m interested to learn if my perception of ‘yes, and….’ and ‘why, not…’ actually transcends into daily practice.
– Phillip Nielsen.