okay, back to the norwegian adventure…at the suggestion of friends, kari and i decided to squeeze a fjord tour into our itinerary. this was probably the best thing we did the whole trip, and i would highly recommend it for anyone who finds themselves in the great scandinavian north. it involved a breathtakingly scenic train route from bergen to myrdal, the most beautiful i’ve experienced in europe (and i’ve been through switzerland).  the water in the fjords was so still and clear, there were moments that i actually got vertigo from looking down into the reflections of perfectly crisp and upside-down mountain ranges. it was amazing. we then hopped on a boat for a tour of the aurlandsfjord. because we did crazily decide to do this trip in november, there were a few issues with fog and ice (our boat had to perform some ice-breaking functions that i’m pretty sure it was not intended to do, and the mountains hid behind the fog for the beginning of the tour). however, once the fog cleared, the views were fantastic. i was actually glad that we got to see the fjords in the winter – the lack of color in the landscape plus the fog that was hiding the meeting point between mountains and water made the whole experience kind of otherworldly and surreal. my usual approach to travel in new countries is to spend time in the cities…and although oslo and bergen were great, i can’t help but feeling that norway is really more about the landscape than the urban areas. now for fjord photos!

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reflection in aurlandsfjord

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the fjord looked more like this at the beginning of the tour- foggy!

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…and icy!

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the fog begins to clear…

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foggy, foggy/and finally some clear sky! yay!

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me and kari on the aurlandsfjord!

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after our fjord tour, we returned to bergen, which was very fun. kari was able to look up her norwegian ancestors at the stadsarkivet, and we got to see the handwritten records of her great-grandfather’s departure for america. bergen is a very picturesque town – lots of houses built on the steep mountainside, and a great harbour. here are some of my favorite bergen photos:

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hi everyone, this is a bit belated, but i wanted to share our thanksgiving in copenhagen.  libby and todd, friends from uw and fellow valle scholars, hosted an awesome thanksgiving dinner – turkey and all!  todd’s studio mates and advisor were there, as well as the whippets, and it was an excellent (and delicious) evening.  kari did a much better job of documenting than i did, so for more photos with people in them (gasp!), please see her facebook album at: http://washington.facebook.com/album.php?aid=2211341&l=bf35f&id=10727558

this was my third (!) overseas thanksgiving in a row, and it was wonderful to be able to share such great food and company.  hope everyone back in the homeland had an equally wonderful holiday!

so we’re back from norway…wow! there’s a lot to tell, so this trip gets two installments. what an incredible country – the landscape was breathtaking, which was a bit of a change for me, who has studied in denmark and the netherlands, perhaps the flattest countries around. we actually spent a lot of time traveling by train and bus and seeing natural sights than we spent in cities, which is new for me. but i think that when visiting norway, this is definitely the way to go. kari and i took a cruise ship from copenhagen to oslo and got to spend one day (and few precious hours of daylight) in oslo. the day was definitely well-spent, though! we went to see the gustav vigeland sculptures at frogner park: 75 acres, 18 years of work by one artist, 600 nude bronze and granite sculptures. it’s kind of overwhelming…and beautiful! there is a loose “cycle of life” theme to the work – there are figures of all ages, and several pieces focus on the intertwining of bodies and interactions between the ages. many of the figures are in motion, or balancing/interacting with one another in some way. they’re stylized but very human, both in stature (though a bit larger than me – norwegians, maybe?) and in expression.  this park was vigeland’s life’s work, and a gift to the city of oslo.
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bridge of sculptures

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figures in motion

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steps leading up to the monolith

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the park’s centerpiece: 121 figures carved out of a single block of granite; the “people pillar”

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decorative gates

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fountain/more gates

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an example of the “cycle of life” motif

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some favorite sculptural pairs

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here are a few more photos from oslo…we didn’t get a chance to see a lot, but i just found out that i might be able to return in the spring as part of my scan|design program, so i’m very excited for that.   stay posted for part two: bergen and the farther (snowier) north!

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my friend kari and i are off to norway for a week or so…oslo and bergen! we’re excited, and although there will be no blogging for a while, i’ll be back in force with lots of travel photos after thanksgiving. hope everyone is well, and have a happy turkey day! vi ses/see you soon!

today i tried out the harbour front podwalk on the cphx website. i think this is a great idea…i don’t know if cities in the u.s. other than nyc (seattle? chicago? minneapolis?) do this, but it’s a great way to do a “self-guided” tour of the city at your own pace, on your own ipod. i modified it into more of a pod-bike-ride, and it was pretty cool. there are two podwalks available from cphx, and this one focuses on five new projects on copenhagen’s inner harbor. (cphx also put together a series of do-it-yourself bike tours, which are awesome!) the reason i alternatively titled this post “den sorte havn” (or “the black harbor”) is because three of the projects very dark in color. in close combination, they strike me as a little bit odd, though i’m not sure why. maybe i’m just used to super-transparent public projects in the states. anyway. i’ve included links to the podwalk audio with each project, so you can do a virtual tour (a pod-chair-surf?) through my blog! here we go…

introduction to the harbour front pod audio

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harbour bath pod audio

the harbour bath was designed by the danish (former) firm plot. part of the havneparken (harbour park) on islands brygge, this project was opened in 2002 as part of the deindustrialization of the inner harbour. as shipping technology changed, the older warehouse buildings on the harbour were converted into housing and office buildings. the municipality also cleaned up the water in the harbor, and now what was once an industrial shipping lane is a body of water that is clean enough to swim in. very nice!

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so, it’s a bit cold in november for anyone to be swimming, and the pool is closed for the winter…but here’s a photo from another site of the habour bath in use. in truth, it looks pretty fun. hopefully i’ll get a chance to try it out before i leave in june…i’m actually moving to the neighborhood of the harbour bath in january, so it will be just a short walk away from my new place. : )

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black diamond pod audio

this is a new, rather high-profile project by danish firm schmidt hammer lassen. it’s actually an extension of the old library, which is located directly behind it and not really visible in the photo. the building is clad in black granite with transparent materials at street level so that is seems to “float” above the ground (still not totally sold on this). it does make it look a little less bulky, i guess. the slice of glass in the center is the main atrium. i’m a little embarrassed to admit this, but i haven’t been inside yet. i think it’s because i’m still waiting to get my danish social security card in the mail, after which i can get myself a library card and actually use the library.

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a view of the black diamond from the southwest. there’s a really nice plaza (foreground) that steps down to the harbor, providing lots of places to sit and relax. also, the building allows the street christians brygge to pass through it under a series of overhead bridges. you can just see a tiny piece of the old library to the left of this photo (the brick building).

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detail of the bridges over christians brygge.

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nordea pod audio

this is the danish headquarters of nordea bank (the only non-public project on the podwalk). henning larsen designed this campus of buildings, which was completed in 1995. the firm tried to make the buildings both modern and contextual, and paid particular attention to the massing and spacing of other structures on the harbor. i think they did a pretty good job; materially, it relates to the black diamond rather well (this was built first, though, so maybe it’s the other way around), and the forms complement the existing harbourfront structures.

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more views of the nordea hq: two of the office buildings with vor frelser kirke (our saviour’s church) in the background/view northeast up the harbour

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playhouse pod audio

this is the new playhouse for the danish royal theatre, which is currently under construction (though almost finished!), and was designed by lundgaard and tranberg, yet another danish firm. actually, i learned from the podwalk that until very recently, copenhagen was closed to international designers (for 250 years!)…i don’t have the exact dates on this, but i’ll be sure to ask around about it.

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another view of the playhouse from across the harbour

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opera pod audio

it was tough to escape my shadow today. (sigh…that harsh winter light in northern europe.) the last building on the tour was the new opera, which i’ve mentioned in my blog before as being somewhat controversial. the opera, like the nordea headquarters, was designed by henning larsen. it was offered to the city as a gift by the shipping magnate mærsk mckinney møller on the condition that he could have complete control over the building’s siting and design. the city agreed. møller proceeded to locate the new opera on the harbour, directly along copenhagen’s royal axis, so now it sits in line with the frederikskirke and amalienborg palace. (i was also told the the city did an eis for the site and determined that the construction of the new building would have NO negative effect on the harbour whatsoever, and that the site was perfectly fine to build on as it was…a bit sketchy, if you ask me.)

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there’s that shadow again…these are two views (from the side/from the front) of the main atrium space of the opera house. rhiannon and i actually got rush standing-room tickets and saw la bohème here in october. it was really fun, and definitely worth it. though i’m not a huge fan of the building’s exterior, the inside is actually quite nice. here are links to some of rhiannon’s excellent interior photos: (operainterior1.jpg, operainterior2.jpg).

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the opera from the rear

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harbour front conclusion pod audio

my personal conclusion is this: the podwalk gets two thumbs up. more places should have podwalks and bike tours, and i hope cphx makes some more (in english, too, please!) for copenhagen, because there is so much great architecture to see. i really liked the theme that this one had of the changing harbour, and being able to see a number of projects that tell the story of its transition from an industrial area to a public amenity.

and for those of you who are getting bored by all of this architecture, relief is on the way! it’s off to norway on friday, so there are travel photos in the blog’s future. : )

cph, the cyclists’ city

November 9, 2007

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i’ve been meaning to write a post on bicycles in copenhagen, so when my friend alyse nelson’s valle research of last year was featured in the seattle p-i yesterday, i thought it would be fun to share. alyse put together a great report that basically describes how copenhagen works so well as a cycling city: cycle-friendly policies, strategic street and bicycle lane layout, and the city’s underlying infrastructural design principles. she also includes lots of personal observations in the form of photos and case studies. it’s definitely worth checking out. alyse also observes something that i’ve noticed (both here and in the netherlands): everyone cycles, regardless of age or social status. you don’t need to have special biking clothes or gear to fit in (ahem, seattle…). most danes have two bicycles, a “good” one for serious cycling and a beater for riding around the city. it’s a healthy lifestyle, and it greatly reduces the need for personal vehicles. (i have a theory that these northern europeans are able to stay so trim even in lands of wonderful dairy products and pastries because they’re biking every day…) and because the bicycle infrastructure is so integrated with other transportation networks, especially those of automobiles, it’s much safer to ride a bicycle here. motorists expect the bicycles to be on the road (though in their respective lanes, of course), and they are constantly on the lookout for them. i wish i felt as comfortable biking in seattle as i do here – relative to other u.s. cities, it’s a great place for cycling, but it could be much better. glad to see that alyse’s research is being circulated so widely. if you’re interested, pass it on! : )

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bicycle lane and parking in højbro plads, a favorite copenhagen plads.

prags boulevard

November 6, 2007

known as copenhagen’s “narrowest park,” this is one of my favorite new urban design projects in the city. prags boulevard is located, like me, on amager, and it runs east from amagerbrogade, the main commercial strip, toward the øresund. the project was finished in 2005 as part of a general neighborhood revitalization project surrounding holmbladsgade (a nearby main street). in order to make better use of the then-existing rather ordinary boulevard, the design firm of kristine jensens tegnestue created a really great 3/4-mile-long park/bicycle path/pedestrian walkway. it serves a circulation function, and also contains spaces for playing soccer, gardening, skateboarding, picnicking and play-acting. it’s not as used in november as i’m sure it would be during the summer months (i was there on a fairly chilly and drab day), but i think you can still tell from the photos that it’s a fun public space!  also, you’ve gotta love the polka-dotted pathway…

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in the background: the start of prags boulevard where it meets amagerbrogade/a biker on prags boulevard

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in addition to the park redesign, a few standard elements were also created to give the park some pedestrian amenities as well as a stronger sense of place. on the left is one of the lime green lamps that line the entire boulevard (here serving more of a poetic than a lighting function); on the right is the ‘prager’ chair…700 of these chairs were created for the project and were distributed to nearby businesses, cafés, and organizations so that patrons and park-goers could easily transport them and make more personal use of the park.

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prager chairs in action! (maybe it’s more like disarray…)

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a “stage” area that was created as part of the park design

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small gardens along the boulevard

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more activity areas: a small cottage-restaurant/a mini-soccer court

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prags boulevard also connects to two of my favorite architectural projects in copenhagen (designed by the firm dorte mandrup arkitekter). on the left is the holmbladsgade sports and culture center, and on the right is the jemtelandsgade neighborhood center (i’ve posted more photos and written about these more extensively on my valle blog if anyone is interested).

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the boulevard ends to the east with a small skatepark. i’ll definitely stop back in the spring to try to get some photographs of the park elements in use…i also want to visit at night to see what those lime-green lamps look like all lit up…stay posted for future photos! : )