Week Two of our trip was much busier than our first week in Stockholm. Our ride from Stockholm to Copenhagen was pretty uneventful and most of us read Jan Gehl’s “Life Between Buildings” book on the ride in order to prepare for meeting at his firm in Copenhagen.
The hostel in Copenhagen was much different from our quiet home at Zinkensdam. We happened to be traveling at the same time as many high school summer break trips and the lobby and entire hostel was swarming with 13-16 year old kids from Germany and Denmark. We threw our stuff in our rooms and headed out into the city right away in order to avoid all the chaos.
The first thing that really stands out about Copenhagen is all the bicycling. Not only are there designated cycling lanes on almost every street, but each of those lanes is crammed with people cycling around the city. It really is impressive and at first we stared in a daze at the street and watched cyclists riding by for a good 15 minutes. The number of people riding rather than driving is fantastic. We spent our first afternoon in Copenhagen exploring the downtown and many of the larger parks in the city.
Day two in Copenhagen had us visiting a local architectural firm in the area and having a presentation and video on the projects they’ve been working on and some of the larger competitions they’ve done. The presentation and video were really well done and gave us a good idea of how they approach large scale projects. We were fortunate enough to receive a tour of their office space and meet a few of the people who worked there before leaving. After the presentation we were free to explore the city before meeting as a group for dinner later that evening. I have to be honest, I have no idea what other people did that afternoon. I chose to rent a bike and cycle south towards the bridge that connects Denmark and Sweden and then ride back up along the waterfront. The reason I went so far south was to see the wind turbines along the waterfront and also try to get as close to them as I could. It was a pretty successful trip. I spent 6 hours biking and getting to know the area better while also seeing turbines.
(wind turbines along the waterfront in Copenhagen)
Cycling around for 6 hours was wonderful and I really appreciate the priority given to cyclists in the city. The lights are timed for pedestrians and cyclists over cars and I went the entire afternoon and only had 2 streets without separated bike lanes. It was really safe and really well designed.
Our group had dinner at a favorite spot of Orri’s in downtown where the decor is really what draws people to the restaurant rather than the food. We ate dinner as a group and then watched a few street performances and caught a beautiful sunset before ending the day.
On our third day we ended up need to pack up and leave the hostel and head to Malmo, Sweden for the day and night. We took the 10 a.m. train over to Malmo and dropped gear off at our hostel, then left right away for a meeting with the City Planner for Malmo. Frank was a really friendly guy who gave us a great presentation on the large waterfront project the City of Malmo has been working on over the last 15 years. Similar to Hammarby in Sweden, Malmo has a old industrial space they’ve transformed into a new neighborhood called Vastra Hamnen (aka The Western Harbor). Vastra Hamnen is also home to the Turning Torso, the 623 foot skyscraper designed by Santiago Calatrava that opened in 2005. After the presentation from Frank, we decided to walk around Vastra Hamnen for the next 2 hours and get to know the area better. Each of us had a different opinion on what buildings we liked and which spaces felt like they were designed well.
(Public Space in Vastra Hamnen with the Turning Torso in the background)
From there we walked to the train station and boarded a train towards Lund. On the way there we stopped for a bit in a strange looking city called Jakriborg which is a new urban development built in the middle of nowhere by two brothers who liked southern baltic architecture and decided to develop an entire city to look a lot like Lubeck. I personally wasn’t a fan, but there are people who live there and love it. We spent about 20 minutes walking around and checking out the small city before moving on.
Lund is one of the oldest cities in all of Sweden and is home to Lund University and a pretty amazing Cathedral. We spent the rest of our day traveling around Lund and walking the entire city. It was a very charming place with cute little stone streets and maze-like roads. I think everyone in our group really liked it there and we spent the rest of the afternoon and evening checking it out.
On our fourth day we traveled back from Malmo to to Copenhagen and went directly to meet with a representative from Jan Gehl’s architecture firm. We were given a brief tour of their office and a presentation on the firms approach to planning and design. I really enjoyed the presentation and the way that the firm defines sustainability and works on framework rather than masterplans.
We had a second appointment that afternoon and went to pick up bikes from a bike rental shop so we could take a bike tour with a retired engineer/city planner from the City of Copenhagen. He gave us a brief presentation and took us to an upstairs room with tons of models of the city and excellent aerial shots of the area. We then got on our bikes and headed out on a bike tour of the new Nordhavn development just north of downtown Copenhagen.
(Our group by the waterfront in Nordhavn)
(Riding on the empty streets in Nordhavn)
The tour lasted the rest of the afternoon and afterwards we stopped at a book signing of Jan Gehl’s at the Danish Architecture Center.
Our group split up for a few hours afterwards. Some people took a water boat tour, others went back to the hostel, some went to the park to have a picnic, and I went to run in an Architecture 6K taking place north of Kasellet Park. We all met up later that evening at the hostel.
Day five in Copenhagen found us at the Urban Planning Museum in the morning checking out the cool bicycle exhibit and learning about the history of Copenhagen planning. From there we had an entire day of cycling around the city on a route that Orri made up in order to show us as much of the city as possible. It was quite the ride and we saw a great deal of the city- Vesterbro, Osterbro, Norrebro, Frederiksberg, and northern Valby.
On our final full day in Copenhagen we went to Orestad, a new development south of Copenhagen with large housing units and over sized spaces. Some of the architecture was pretty cool, but overall the space was too big and underutilized by the people who live there. Having a mall nearby doesn’t help either. We took the train from Orestad to the University and from there to Christiania. Christiania was fascinating - a really unique place with their own rules and way of life. We spent most of our afternoon there and took a tour with a local woman who has been living there for close to 35 years.
We ended our time in Copenhagen on the day of the Copenhagen Marathon and with each of us doing last minute errands or visiting more museums and sights around the city.
(Park in Copenhagen)
(Dinner in Copenhagen)