Friday, August 5, 2011

Scandinavian Odyssey, part 1

Yes, I've been away from my computer for over a month, but that's not because I didn't have anything Future Architect-worthy going on.  On the contrary, I was out gathering inspiration and experience.  For months, my mom and I had been planning what we were calling a "design tour" of Scandinavia.
            As you know, I am interested in architecture, yes, but if you've spent any time reading my other blog, you also know that I am interested in crafts, sewing, etc., all of which can be inspired by things we would see over there.  I get all that craftiness from my mother.  In the past, she has done lots of projects like needlepoint (some of which she bought over in Scandinavia, when she and my father lived there for a year back in the '70's) as well as weaving a Rya Rug, which we will revisit when I get to talking about the Finnish part of the trip.  Her main interest these days is weaving.  She has a full-sized loom in her home and I have been the happy recipient of many scarves, dish towels, etc. that she has made over the past few years.

            On July 9, my mother and I flew out of Boston over to Copenhagen, making a stop-over in Reykjavik.  Over the 3 weeks following, we toured the city of Copenhagen, some small towns in southern Sweden, Stockholm, a few towns in Finland, and finally ended up in Helsinki.  I got back to Chicago about a week ago and have been very busy with preparations for my architecture program (which starts in 3 days!) but it looks like I'm finally getting around to showing off a bit of what we were up to, out there in the Nordic countries.

just one of many spires we looked up to
Our first major design theme in Copenhagen was the spires on all of the churches and public buildings around the city.  We walked around a lot, especially on the first day, when we couldn't yet get in to our hotel room, and just photographed buildings.  Everywhere we looked, there was a spire worth photographing, and by the end of the visit we got to climb one, at Our Savior's Church, about 400 steps to the top.
Our Savior's Church tower
            It was a cold and rainy day, and the last 100 or so stairs were outside, on metal steps, but we braved it anyway, and the view over the city was well worth it.  I'm not showing it to you here for 2 reasons: 1) no single picture I took satisfied me as being representative of the huge view, and 2) climb the tower your damn self!
Nyhavn, early Sunday morning, without any
of the usual hustle and bustle.
            Another thing I liked a lot about Copenhagen was the Nyhavn area.  It has flourished in spite of its sordid past (yes, it was the red light district once upon a time), and the very clean, simple, bright colors on the buildings are visually interesting, yet calming, even in an area flooded with tourists and people drinking outdoors.  We found ourselves back on this street a number of times: for a wonderful 3 course prix fixe dinner the first night, to enjoy a beer with a friend of a friend who lives in Copenhagen on the second night, then to catch a boat for a tour of the city from the water on our last day there.  Each time we were there, I took many pictures, but the one I put here is my first view of it, when nobody was around and it felt like ours alone.
Future Architect Wicky, with matching elephant.
            On display through the end of August, there is an "elephant parade" in Copenhagen.  At the end of the "parade" all of the elephants will be auctioned off for charity.  Now, I've always thought that displays like these in many different cities were a little kitschy, but I must admit that being a tourist and getting to see these guys all over the city is a lot of fun.  There was also a small store set up inside Illums Bolighus (my new favorite department store) where you could buy models of the elephants.  I really don't know how I made it home without one.
At the Design Museum: chairs designed by Hans J. Wegner,
the siblings of the dining chairs I grew up with.
            We saw a few really good museums while we were in Copenhagen.  The first one was the Dansk Design Center, which we enjoyed, but didn't get to see all of it because the whole city was semi-shut down due to water damage from some incredible rains they had had a few weeks before we arrived.  We also went to the Design Museum, which had rooms full of Danish design chairs, in particular.
a surprisingly topographical building model, at the
Danish Architecture Center.
            We also visited the Danish Architecture Center (each of the cities we toured on our trip had a museum of Architecture: amazing, but not surprising).  The two main exhibits going on at the time were about using design to improve life in Copenhagen and throughout Denmark (really, that's what the point of design is, right?).  The first room had many models of buildings that have recently been built, or are about to be built, and explanations of what they are, how they will be used, what's new/different about them, etc.  The second room had a -mostly video- exhibit about improvements in nearby areas, interviewing residents about what they like about an area, or what needs to be improved.  The whole exhibit was called "what makes a livable city."
            And with all of the bikes and primarily pedestrian streets in Copenhagen, I would definitely say that it is, indeed, a livable city.  Mom and I had a great time there, and it was a very good starting point for our Scandinavian Tour.

If you would like to see more pictures from my trip, brace yourself!  Click here to see pictures from the first half or so of our time in Copenhagen, and then click here to see the rest of Copenhagen, and some of Sweden, which will be discussed in my next post!

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