our student group inside sjakket’s basketball court building

for our second bicycle-tour field trip, my ‘body culture in urban space’ class visited some different sports and culture facilities in nørrebro, a neighborhood north of the city center that is home to a concentration of different ethnic groups (and that seems to be just at the beginning of a gentrification cycle). we had a beautiful biking day – bright and sunny, and there were people using the outdoor spaces that we visited. having seen six or seven different sports and culture facilities in just two copenhagen neighborhoods makes me realize what a priority this combination of activities (and this type of facility) is in this city. the buildings that we visited are all fairly new, and seem to have been projects in which the designers felt comfortable pushing the boundaries of ‘normal’ urban architecture – perhaps inspired by the intended use of the buildings? – and this definitely makes them feel like energetic and active spaces. we visited three projects on this tour (and rode through nørrebro park, but i was unable to get off my bike and take photos). as in the post about our first field trip, the italicized text is lifted from the course flier, and my own comments are in ‘normal’ type.

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#1: Korsgadehallen (BBP Architects, 2006)

“The project is based on two main concepts – an indoor and an outdoor concept, that corresponds to a united whole. The indoor concept is to create an indoor ‘village green’ or ‘common’ for different sport and cultural activities. The Centre for Sport and Culture (Korsgadehallen) consists of a large central area with the necessary dimensions for different playing fields, handball, volleyball, badminton etc. This central space is encircled by a sequence of minor spaces with different characters: the open alcove, the balcony, the staircase, the closed dancing hall, the free standing wall bar, the small niche for a break, the glass facade etc. The construction is made of steel beams that are placed at slightly different angles hereby creating an irregularity enhancing the ‘cave concept.’ This irregular space also creates an informal atmosphere and expresses movement and multi-functionality. The keywords are daylight, transparency and flexibility hereby creating a connection between the different activities and users and a connection between indoor and outdoor areas. The outdoor concept is to cover the ‘indoor village green’ with a new landscape – a green hill for activities and recreation. To make this possible the playing field is placed in a level 3.5 m under street level. This new urban landscape – a ‘village green’ lifted 9 m above the street level is enriched by the evening sun 1-2 hours longer than the same area on the street level.”

i really liked that the roof of this building can be used – and was being used – by a group of school children while we were visiting. the mound/cave concept seems to fit rather well with the idea of a sports center, and it makes the experience of the building more active, as you are always climbing up or down to enter/exit it. the split-level interior also enhances the ‘buried’ quality of the building and was surprisingly well-lit and not dark or cave-like. one of the architects from bbp gave us a tour of korsgadehallen and told us that non-sports activities like concerts and flea markets happen on the gym floor, so it’s not strictly a sports facility. because of the building’s location in nørrebro, a somewhat socially distraught neighborhood, it sometimes suffers from vandalism of the glass windows. we didn’t really get a straight answer from the designer about how the building might be better integrated into the community, but at least our discussion highlighted how important this part of the building process is – that is, ‘selling’ the building, or the idea of the building, to the surrounding community so that a feeling of shared ownership and respect for the space might be established.

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#2: Multi Square (Morten Wassini/House Arkitekter, 2006

The Multi Square at the corner of Ravnsborgade and Skt. Hans gade is used for playing, sports and local cultural events. The square is primarily designed for kids and young people, but the vision was to rethink the playground concept by creating an exciting urban space, which can attract other groups of age and interest too. The central element of the square is a playing field for basketball, hockey etc. The field is defined by a steel and wood construction. Along one side spectators can settle down and on the other side a scene gives space for local theatre and music events. The square also offers a ramp-landscape for skateboarding.”

i love the simplicity of this project. it’s basically a white square painted on a wall (as a screen for projecting movies or images) and a very spare concrete playing field surrounded by a low wall. there were several kids using it when we stopped by, for soccer as well as for sitting and texting friends and skateboarding. it’s not at all institutional (like most of the other projects we visited) and is out in the open, which makes it feel very inviting and public. it really feels as if it belongs to the neighborhood and not to an organization. it’s interesting to compare this park to prags boulevard, a similarly simple (though larger – and evidently less successful) project in the holmbladsgade neighborhood.

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#3: Sjakket (BIG and JDS Architects, 2007)

“Sjakket is a rough oasis in the city – a refuge for children and young people, where they are coached by engaged adults, who gives them help and support. The renovation of the former industrial building took place with respect for the existing qualities of the place, emphasizing the rough atmosphere. The renovated building is adapted to suit the activities of Sjakket and other local needs. The complex exists of two curved spaces – the inside was taken out and only the rough concrete walls, columns, bricks and steel curves were left. A long red container is placed on top of the two curved halls.”

this building seemed like an inspiring place for disenfranchised youth – it’s got PLOT’s trendy-funky signature style and has a very ‘young’ and active feeling to it. it’s brand new, having just opened in november, but the employees seem to be happy with it so far (there were no kids there on the day we visited). the two main halls are reused factory buildings that are now joined by a roof deck and a salvaged (and certainly repainted) shipping container that bridges the rooftops. this project makes good use of color – inside the cherry-red shipping container is a studio for recording rap music (painted entierly in bright magenta), while the basketball court has windows in different shades of pink and the boxing/kickboxing room is vivid turquoise. the different colors (besides being kind of fun) help to distinguish the different spaces and give them each a specific characteristic and quality of light.

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my classmates on prags boulevard – we rode our bikes from site to site

as part of my “body culture in urban space” seminar, the professor arranged a great field trip to several new projects on amager last week. the course is sponsored by my school’s center for sports and architecture, and is led by prof. réne kural (whose handout i quote extensively below). i think the title is a little enigmatic, so to explain what the seminar is about, here’s an excerpt from the course flier:

“The use of urban space has been under transformation for the last 20 years. There are huge numbers of youngsters (and older – up to seniors) enjoying street-style skating, in liners, jogging, riding, bicycling, etc. This indicates that the city is not just a place for living, working and shopping, but a true pleasure-ground – a place where human movement, emotions and energy is vital for our experience of urban space. In which way will modern planning affect physical activity and how will contemporary body culture influence our life condition in the city? From this perspective, the planning of the future city is a true challenge to architects and politicians.”

it’s a really fun topic, and we have another field trip scheduled for later in april. the five projects we visited last week (below) are all places that i have visited (and blogged) before, but it was nice to see them again from a different perspective. because the course handout put together by prof. kural gave such a nice description of the projects, i just used the handout text below (in italics). my own comments, links, etc. are in ‘normal’ type.

these projects were all part of a neighborhood revitalization program (called ‘kvarterløft‘) in the holmbladsgade area. the various projects we visited were built as part of a strategy to provide high quality recreational and outdoor public spaces that would increase sport and cultural activity in the area while giving the overall quality of life in the area a boost. i’m using the holmbladsgade kvarterløft as a case study in my planning thesis, so this was a really enjoyable field trip for me.

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#1: Prags Boulevard (Kristine Jensen Tegnestue, 2005)

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Prags Boulevard starts at Amagerbrogade and ends with a view of the Øresund. It is a part of the neighbourhood facelift scheme around Holmbladsgade. The main intention was to have a green area with a high utility for people of all ages. This has resulted in seven activity areas that are placed along the main pathway of the park. Names like The Stage, The Pitch and The Ramp refer to the type of activity which takes place here. Along the entire stretch of the park, there have been placed lamps and chairs especially designed for Prags Boulevard. The approximately 100 lamps have a unique yellow-green neon colour and it is called the Prague Lamp. Another feature are the 700 chairs that can be moved around individually, so you can find a place in the sun or shade.”

prof. kural said that the space isn’t actually used as much as was hoped for. our group thought that there might be several reasons for this, including the generally inhospitable danish weather, a lack of places to buy food nearby, and the absence of mature trees. although i love this project, i have to agree that it isn’t as functional as the idea of the design suggests. i like to think of it more as an awesome bike path than as a park. hopefully over time, it will be used more and more. click here for a link to my earlier blog entry about prags boulevard.

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#2: Holmbladsgade Sports + Culture Center (Dorte Mandrup Arkitekter, 2006)

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As with Prags Boulevard the Culture and Sports Centre was also built as a part of neighbourhood facelift scheme. The centre does not only have facilities for regular sporting activities such handball or basketball, but also tai chi or yoga can be practised on the so-called multifunctional plateaux. Apart from sporting activities the centre plays host to concerts and theatre events. The canopy streches like a webbing between the existing buildings and the new, and the transparent material is intended to ensure optimum incidence of light. When darkness falls the building will appear like a radiant crystal with all the shadows inside visible from the streets.”

i also like this project a lot, and this is the first time i’ve been able to visit it when it was actually in use. various community groups use the main court space, and there are other, smaller activity areas for wall climbing, ping pong, and dance. theatre groups and chess clubs also rent the multipurpose rooms. here’s a link to my valle blog entry on some of dorte mandrup arkitekter’s projects, including the holmbladsgade sports + culture center.

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#3: Maritime Youth Center (Plot, 2003-2004)

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Built as a part of the neighbourhood facelift scheme the Maratime Youth Center plays host to Sundby Sailing Association’s youth section, as well as the kids and youngsters of the area. The centre is a starting point for water activities, and the buildings below the wooden deck has room for more social activities. Depending on how the weather will be, you can either service the boats inside or outside and hold talks and workshops. The wooden deck has an outdoor space of 1600 square metres, which is substantially more than the projected 375. This solution deals with the problem of contaminated soil which is isolated underneath the wooden surface and the money that had to be spent on cleaning up could be used elsewhere.”

i’ve visited this project once before and didn’t get a lot of new information on this trip, but it seems to be a fun, innovative building. it definitely gives off a ‘youthful’ vibe and fits into the beach and harbour area with its wavy form. i really like that one is able to inhabit the roof of the entire building – there were several kids playing on it and sliding down it while we were visiting.

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#4: Amager Strandpark (Hasløv & Kjærsgaard, 2004-2005)

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The Amager Beach Front is located just of the west coast of Amager. It consists of the beach along the coastal road, a lagoon, an island and 2 parks. Along the island there are situated 4 stations containing all the service facilities you will require on a day at the beach and the curved pathway connects them together. In the northern part of the island the landscape is made up of sand dunes, and at the southern part you will encounter more park-like grounds. Amager Strand Beach has been thirty years underway with the final framework outlined in 2000. With the Metro station stopping nearby the area attracts people from all over Copenhagen.”

what a great beach park. i love how simple the “bunker” structures are and how much emphasis is actually on the landscape of the beach. here’s a link to my earlier blog entry about amager strandpark.

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#5: Kastrup Public Bath (White Architects, 2004)

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The Kastrup Public Bath takes up the tradition from Helgoland, which had to be torn down in order to make room for Amager Strand Beach. It consists of the main building on water, a new bathing beach and a new service building onshore. In addition there will be constructed a gigantic Amphitheatre on land. A 100metre long bridge leads from beach and out to the Lido. The Lido is constructed from azobe timber which has a high resistance to saltwater. It has a circular shape and a windscreen winding all the way around. The lowest point of screen is 1.5 metres and reaches up to 8 metres. As well being multifunctional and accessible for disabled the structure also offers a sculptural sight for those taking an evening stroll along the beach.”

this project is located at the southern end of amager strandpark. we were there on a pretty crisp and windy day (great skies, though!) and inside the ‘donut,’ it was sunny, warm, and pleasant. though not quite pleasant enough to take a dip in the sound. there were a number of people just hanging out there – picnicking, playing guitar, and so on. that was where we ended the day and then stayed for a while to enjoy the sun and the view. : )

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this week i took a seminar at school called “typology of dwelling,” part of which was to take a one-day field trip to different parts of copenhagen, looking at new ideas in housing projects. our professors rented a bus, and we stopped at seven different developments, all either under construction or built within the last few years. the focus of the course was to consider each project at different scales of organization (the urban plan, the single dwelling, the building structure, and the detail) as well as ways in which the different projects might be equipped to handle change over time. it was a really fun trip…here are my photos from the projects that we visited:

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#1: Oxford Gardens, Amager (Bplus Arkitekter)

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these were rowhouses done on an extremely tight budget. i thought the spaces were really nice, but the detailing, not so much. but i guess that’s what suffers when there’s not a lot of money to be had. a really nice couple let us onto their roof balcony so that we could get an aerial view.

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#2: VM Mountain Dwellings, Ørestad (BIG, formerly PLOT)

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(libby, these are for you…) the vm mountain is progressing nicely! i didn’t have time on this trip, but i plan to go back to see the model unit that they have on the site. the idea with this building is that each unit gets its own private view and garden…and the parking is contained underneath the units (behind the screen with the mountain graphic on it, lower right photo). i’ve heard that even the parking space is supposed to be pretty impressive (“cathedral-like,” even!). we’ll see…hope it’s finished before i leave.

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#3: VM Houses, Ørestad (JDS Architects, formerly PLOT)

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one of my favorites, mostly because of the funky balconies. the two apartment buildings look like the letters “v” and “m” in plan, hence the name. these are right next door to the vm mountain and were finished several years ago. i’ve been here before, but this time i got to sneak inside and take photos of the (very yellow) hallways. : )

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#4: Tietgen Dormitory, KUA (Lundgaard + Tranberg) tietgen1.jpg

another copenhagen favorite. this is probably the nicest dorm i’ve ever seen. a friend of a friend lives here now, so i’m going to have to try to arrange an interior visit. the manager of the building told us that the architects had no budget for this project – a dream come true! i like the organization of the building – all of the common spaces face the interior of the “donut,” while the individual student rooms are on the outside of the ring to maximize views and privacy.

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#5: Fyrtårnet, Amerika Plads (Lundgaard + Tranberg)

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although this project is named “the lighthouse” after the tall tower, it is actually a combination of high-rise and townhouse-type apartments. i would definitely move into one of the townhouse units that we visited – an excellent view of the train tracks (above)…with extra sound-proofing.

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#6: Sluseholmen, Sydhavnen (various architects, see Sluseholmen site)

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the last project we visited is almost an exact copy of a dutch project that i’ve visited, the eastern docklands in amsterdam. they even brought in the same master planner to do the initial design…and proceeded to create eight new islands in the south harbour in order to create that dutch, canal-like atmosphere. i guess i don’t really like that the idea was just transplanted, but the houses seem to be selling out. the photo above is of one of the finished areas (the photo on the lower right shows a new canal yet to be flooded).

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a week of conferences

September 28, 2007

okay, it’s back to work after all of that travel. this week, we had two excellent conferences at school: the ifhp 2007 student congress ‘futures of cities,’ and a one-day mini-conference entitled ‘creative systems.’

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poster for the futures of cities conference and exhibition

these were great for me because the first conference was mostly about planning issues, while the second focused more on architectural (and related) systems. they were really fun – and stimulating (like i needed more thesis ideas!). i’m writing up both of these conferences in more detail on my valle blog, if anyone is interested in more info or photos.

futures of cities was held jointly with the ifhp world congress (read: expensive but amazing professionals’ conference), and we got to share some keynote addresses, events, and a party with them. more than 300 students from 35 countries came to copenhagen for the student congress, and there were more than 193 entries in the 2007 ‘futures of cities’ competition (which was a large part of the student conference). i really wish i could have been able to take part in the professionals’ conference – there were something like twenty different topic-specific organized tours of copenhagen to choose from! it was really cool to be a part of the student conference, though. for me, the highlights of the two days were addresses by shigeru ban and ellen van loon (of oma) plus getting to see all of the cool competition entries (which will be on display at school for a while). the main areas of focus at the conference were shanghai, dubai, dealing with doomsday scenarios (caused by natural disaster or global warming), the design of socially irresponsible iconic buildings, and micro-communities. it was really interesting to get a largely european perspective on the issues tied to these topics, and also to hear all of the hype about shanghai. shanghai and dubai. what a pair. it was also humbling (though not surprising) to see u.s. cities used as examples of unsustainable development (hello, atlanta, denver, and houston!). we’ve got a long way to go, but there are some really inspirational examples out there. okay, moving on…

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the four speakers’ exhibits at the creative systems conference

the creative systems conference was also great – it was one day packed full of speakers, but they were all really interesting and the topics fit together really well despite the speakers’ quite varied backgrounds. anne beim, the ph.d student who put this conference together, did a really great job of choosing the topics and organizing everything. in brief, the topics were: possibilities for using research to reorganize architectural practice into a more sustainable and responsible system (stephen kieran); formation of more efficient and beautiful concrete columns using fabric formwork (mark west); using technology to achieve architectural solutions that cannot be arrived at by hand (ludger hovestadt), and technology transfer in extreme textiles (matilda mcquaid). there was some fantastic discussion about new materials, the use of technology in design, and what “innovative” really means – and why we are continually striving to innovate. the conference organizers have promised that the discussions will be published eventually; i hope i can get my hands on a copy!

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part of the creative systems exhibition (a little laser cutter work…)

where i live, where i work

August 30, 2007

well, it would probably be nice to share some important things like…where i spend most of my time (when i’m not on my bicycle…oops, i haven’t photographed my bicycle yet). anyway, here is my apartment. i’m subleasing it until mid-december, at which time i’m going to have to find something else (hopefully something a little cheaper and a little closer to school). it’s sure nice to have a studio apartment, though! it’s also good to be cooking for myself again. thesis and china don’t leave a lot of time for things like that, and it’s one of my favorite things to do. my building is part of a complex that surrounds a courtyard, which is where my bike lives. it’s designed with a single-loaded corridor, so i have windows on both sides. which is great for air circulation and light and such. i especially love the big window/door by my desk…i can open it up all the way and feel like i’m working on the deck. sort of. if my view at school wasn’t even better than this (read on…), i’d have a hard time working there instead. oh, and the food at school is great, but i’ll get to that in a minute, too. here are some photos of my place:

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this is the main street on amager (the island that i live on), amagerbrogade. my building is the one on the right-hand side of the street. (i live on the side that turns the corner and goes out of the photo, not on the street side)

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here’s the interior…love that light!

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and my kitchen…

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here’s a view from my balcony of the courtyard space that my building shares. my bike lives in the long shed in the foreground.

ok, so that’s where i live. i like it a lot, and it’s great to have a bicyle again. there’s an amazing bicycle culture here, much like in the netherlands. the public bicycle infrastructure is great, and everyone rides…to work, to school, to the store; young, old…you name it. it is kind of strange that the last place i biked with any kind of regularity was shanghai, and i have to say that the bicycle ettiquette here (very polite, stop for buses, lots of hand signals) is WAY different than in china (everyone for themselves! defensive biking = certain death!). i’ll have to temper my forward biking ways. so anyway, one of the places that i bike a lot is to school, at the royal danish academy of fine arts. i got the valle scholarship this quarter, which supports academic exchanges between scandinavian universities and the university of washington. it’s a great scholarship, and i feel lucky to have received it. i chose to study in copenhagen because i’m interested in a particular architectural evaluation program that was started here (by one of my advisors at the royal danish academy, prof. gregers algreen-ussing) and also because denmark is turning out some crazy and amazing modern-yet-contextual design. you can read more about this and see additional photos on my valle blog, if you’re interested. my school is on the island of holmen, which is situated between the main city center and the island that i live on, amager. lots of islands here in copenhagen! the school used to be located in the central city, but moved to holmen nine years ago and currently occupies a collection of old naval buildings. all of the buildings have been refitted as offices, studios, and classrooms – and they are great spaces. i still can’t believe how amazing my office is (those who saw my thesis location in condon hall will understand…). let’s break for some photos:

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here is the main axis into campus (which is across the street in the photo). the building that you see at the end of the axis is the new copenhagen opera hall, which has generated tons of controversy. it is also located along a significant axis within the city form (part of aforementioned controversy)…if it hadn’t been built in this location, you would be seeing amalienborg palace and frederikskirke instead. i can imagine that the folks at the danish royal academy had a few opinions about the siting of the opera building…

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this is our admin building

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and this is the building that our office is in…a converted barracks, i think

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here’s the other side of that building…the opera hall is just across the canal!

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and here’s the office i’ve been going on about…and emma hard at work in the office! (emma’s been in copenhagen on the valle since may…we’re sharing an office right now, but she’s taking off pretty soon). notice how she’s working hard…and i’m taking photos out the office window. (thanks for the photo, emma!) this is a great place to work. i wish architecture grad students at uw had spaces like this! okay, the annex is great…but does it have a view like….

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…this?? yes, that’s the opera, with the harbor and the dome of frederikskirke in the background. i can’t believe this is actually the view from my office…i love it!

here is the canteen (kantine), which has great food (and lots of smorrebrod choices!). the cafeteria food here is really, really good. i look forward to school lunches…

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and yes, those are pv panels above the skylight! the building generates enough energy to power itself! sigh…

here are some more photos from around campus:

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top: outdoor sitting/lunching space, studio spaces, and the main auditorium

bottom: the exhibition hall, and a light-pattern-detail that i really liked (if you can’t tell by the skies in these photos, it was a great day to be taking pictures!)

and, finally, some maps! i’m going to try to put more maps on the blog this time…

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copenhagen/amager relationship

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home, the city, and school!