Danish architect Bjarke Ingels is noted for striking designs that mimic features of the natural landscape such as mountains or forests, as seen here in the VM Houses in Orestad.
Copenhagen - Been There

Should Danes thank the weather for Danish design?

Photo by Nico Stengert

Copenhagen - Been There Should Danes thank the weather for Danish design?

Denmark is famous for its design, but where does that distinctive Danish note come from?

Christopher Beanland
Christopher Beanland Travel Writer

Christian Dalgas is a music promoter who runs the Copenhagen Jazz Festival every summer. He tells me amazing stories over a beer as we sit on fold-up chairs outside the festival offices in Norrebro, a trendy working class area.

We talk about Denmark’s social democratic spirit, about how black American musicians came to Copenhagen in the 1930s and how the city’s jazz scene is one of the most vibrant on earth.

“Design is very important to the Danes,” he says. “The interest comes from a long tradition of designers like Wegner, Arne Jacobsen, Poul Henningsen, Kjaerholm and maybe especially Borge Mogensen. It is about accessibility too. Just as Ikea brought design to the Swedes over the water, a supermarket chain here called FDB/Brugsen made good design accessible for everyday people.

"We spend a lot of time in our homes due to the weather. We don’t go to the pub at night. Our houses are built to last and are well protected against the cold from outside, so we want something nice to look at.”

Dalgas lives in Amager, which is sandwiched between the Airport, the Oresund bridge and the east of the city. It has old beaches and new buildings. “It’s a 15-minute bike ride from the city center and used to be unattractive. Now this has changed,” says Dalgas.

“At Amager there is a great beach park, we have clean water in the harbor where you can swim, the Metro system is expanding. All this means that the city is getting a bit more metropolitan, with more and more people are moving here, and most important there is a clearly defined agenda on sustainability and green energy. The future looks better than ever for Copenhagen.”

In Amager, green development takes precedence in this eco-minded country and the 8 House is one of the most tantalizing tastes of this. Unlike so many ecological buildings that take themselves too seriously, it is amusing.

You can cycle up the slope of Bjarke Ingels’ building to your penthouse, and there are green roofs to preserve energy and provide habitats for wildlife.

The 8 House is part of the new town development of Orestad and everywhere you walk there are crazy modern buildings: jagged lines, jutting balconies, chrome, steel, wood and stucco.

It is a feast for the eyes. The juxtaposition between this exuberance and the boring sprawl of the suburbs so common in countries such as Britain and the U.S. is stark.

These are high flats I want to live in; places I can see myself raising children in.

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