Thursday, September 30, 2010

Lundgaard & Tranberg

The other day I got together with my friend Frida, a former exchange student from the Royal Danish Academy to the UW, and we decided to wander over to the new Lundgaard & Tranberg project that is under construction. Well, we arrived just in time because it started pouring the second we arrived, and we were forced to take shelter under one of the newly built balconies. I decided to return in the sunshine for a few photos.

The building (actually, two buildings) is the new SEB Bank and Pension headquarters. It seems to consist of mostly office spaces, with a cafeteria at the ground floor of one of the buildings. The space between the two buildings is a topographical landscape of white concrete planes, with landscape breaking through every so often. on the second floor, more white concrete planes jut out to become balconies, with holes for the newly planted trees to grow up and through them.

View from the busy street, with a peak into the parking garage.

Planes of white concrete, with landscaping. Skateboarders have already taken over this area, though there are still major landscaping efforts underway.

The two buildings reflect off of one another and create some pretty great effects. My one criticism right now is that the ground level is so reflective that there is little chance for interaction between the ground floor cafeteria space and the garden terraces. It would be nice if there were some places where you could peek inside, at least in these public spaces. Well, it's not done yet, you never know...

The new project just happened to be right up the street from another Lundgaard & Tranberg project, so I visited that one as well, the Havneholmen housing development. The people living on the ground floor actually have steps leading down to the water. I wonder if anyone kayaks to work?

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Islands Brygge, Case Study for Seattle?

This is Islands Brygge, a fantastic waterfront promenade and series of parks along the main harbor in Copenhagen. It is just a few blocks from my apartment, and I spent this sunny autumn afternoon exploring it. The name Islands Brygge comes from the days when the harbor was still a working waterfront, and there were many Icelandic boats docked here. I am writing about this place because I think Seattle could benefit from a close look at a former industrial harbor, which is now a place for recreation.

Islands Brygge addresses many of the issues that Seattle will need to consider once the viaduct comes down: a roadway for motor vehicles, as well as bicycles, buses and pedestrians, a former railway that has since been abandoned, intersections with connecting streets by which pedestrians will access the site, and the ruins of infrastructure that is no longer in use. The scale of the open space here is almost identical to that which will be created when the viaduct comes down.

Here is a photo of Islands Brygge in 1955 (from

Islands Brygge is the site of one of Copenhagen's most popular summer hangouts, the Harbour Baths. The baths provide a safe place to swim within the harbor. Right in the middle of the city! The water is clean enough to bathe, except occasionally after heavy rainfall.

The next stop along the promenade is a small skate park and basketball court that is always full of teenage boys.

Another water amenity is this kayak game. I'm not sure how it works, but I'm imagining something like water polo, only with kayaks.

In a couple of places, the open stretch of cobbles along the waterfront is filled with single-story buildings that house cafes and amenities. They are small enough to not block the view for the rest of the neighborhood, while providing meeting places, and shelter from inclement weather.

Trees, sculpture (remnants from past industrial structures), and benches provide a change in scale, and create small outdoor spaces to hang out in.

Ok, I'm honestly not sure what this old wall is from, but it may be part of the old railway that ran along the waterfront here. Behind the wall, there are small courts for bocce, and structures for kids to play on. On the right, a single rail car still sits on the tracks of the otherwise abandoned railway.

The park eventually opens up onto a grand lawn space, where many people seem to take their dogs out to go to the bathroom. There are trees planted here, but for now the lawn seems massive compared to the cozier spaces at the beginning of the promenade. I'm sure it fills up on sunny summer days, however.

Marking the end of the promenade are the old grain silos, which have been converted into apartments. The building is a little unwelcoming at ground level, but it serves as a marker for the relatively new pedestrian/bike bridge that crosses the harbor. Though it is rare for ships to pass through the harbor these days, the bridge is built so that half of it pivots around a single point, allowing boats to go through. It is hard to tell, but the bridge is partially open in this photo.

Looking back on Islands Brygge from the other side of the harbor.

I'm not sure that all of these ideas could translate directly to Seattle. This waterfront promenade lines a quiet residential neighborhood, though it is nearly in the heart of downtown Copenhagen. I think the most important element of this project is the fact that there are spaces for everyone: teens, children, elderly people, joggers, mothers with strollers, swimmers... The most successful spaces are not the biggest and the grandest. They are the cozy places for sitting, having a cup of coffee with friends, or watching while your kids play. I really appreciated the attention GGN paid to the creation of smaller, cozier spaces for their Seattle waterfront presentation. I hope that James Corner Field Operations will take those ideas into consideration when designing a new waterfront for Seattle.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Anatomy of a Rhubarb Horn

Kristine, this one's for you:

One of my minor assignments here in Copenhagen has been to find out how to make this particular pastry. These rhubarb horns have one of the most complex flavor combinations I've ever found in a pastry. Naturally, I've been eating several horns every week in order to properly analyze the components, which are:

  • Soft, yeasty pastry dough, probably similar to cinnamon roll dough. Made with whole milk, yeast, flour, sugar, melted butter, and maybe an egg.
  • Inside, there is a layer of custard, but it must be mixed with a small amount of almond paste, because there is a faint almondy flavor, and nutty texture.
  • Also inside, is a slightly tart layer of rhubarb (no strawberry) compote. Amazing!
  • Lastly, on top there are sprinkles of sugar and sliced almonds, and maybe some sliced filberts, that get crunchy together while baking.

This is the first of my non-photographic blog posts, but since a substitute camera arrived on Friday (thanks Mick and Jess Yu) I may post some more photos soon.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Helsingør, Denmark

Aerial view of the fortifications around Kronborg castle (photo taken from wikipedia)

Here are the last few photos from my broken camera...I have a substitute camera on the way. These photos were taken on a trip to Helsingør, and Kronborg castle. The castle was built in the 1400's by the Danish king, Eric of Pomerania. He built the fortress to better enforce the payment of 'sound dues,' a toll for passing through the Øresund Sound into the Baltic sea. In return, it was the king's duty to protect traders from pirates. The castle was heavily armed, and passing ships were supposed to tip their flag to signal their intent to stop and pay the dues. If they failed to signal, canons were fired. This model shows the original fortress, which was only inhabited by the king and his entourage for short periods of time.

The castle was expanded over the years, first by Frederic II, then by Christian IV. Most infamously, the castle is known as Elsinore, the setting for the play Hamlet. Perhaps because of this, and because of the long military function of the fortress, it has a reputation for being a very gloomy place. I was surprised, because although it was sparely furnished, the interiors were bright and elegant.

The most exciting part of the castle was a visit to the underground storage chambers. These chambers were a maze of passages and secret rooms, all barely lit. Down here is where they keep the statue of Holger Danske (Ogier the Dane), a legendary character who slumbers away, supposedly until the day that Denmark is in grave danger, when he will wake up to protect the country.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Stockholm's Public Library

I have been looking forward to this visit for a long time, after studying this building so thoroughly during my first year of architecture school.

Access to the library from the street happens on this ramp, which takes you up to an elevated platform with seating for outdoor activities.

The concept is very clear: the rotunda houses the books, which are stored on three stories of bookshelves around the edges, accessed via narrow staircases. The room is daylit via high windows that light the white volume above, which is plastered with a texture that evokes a cloudy sky. Reading rooms flank opposite sides of the rotunda in long, rectangular volumes.

My visit was brief, but the library was really lovely. I can't wait to go back and spend some more time there.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Allotment Gardens

I just returned to Copenhagen after a week's visit to Stockholm, where I met with the Swedish Environmental Research Institute, IVL. I will be collaborating with IVL on several projects over the course of my Valle research visit. The main project will involve a cost/benefit analysis of urban stormwater systems. I will be looking at different regional patterns of stormwater storage in the built environment, including: green roofs and facades, park ponds and reservoirs, storage tanks built into large public buildings, more elaborate small-scale sewage treatment systems (living machines), and perhaps a project that utilizes public rights of way for stormwater treatment or storage. If anyone has any ideas of another pattern or example that I should be considering please let me know!

This trip was my first visit to Stockholm, and I was able to take some time to explore the city. One of my favorite parts of the city were the allotment gardens in Södermalm. These allotments were originally garden plots given out to the poorest families in Stockholm during WWI. The city was on the verge of starvation, and the plots allowed people to cultivate their own food within the city. There are currently over 100 plots, and they are usually passed down in the family. The plots are small, and most have a garden shed or small shelter, but are not meant to be lived in.

At the end of my Stockholm visit my camera stopped working, so my next posts may involve some creative visuals until I can find a replacement.

Monday, September 6, 2010

Daytrip to Hamar

Jack, Jessica, Samuel and I took a day trip from Oslo to Hamar to see the Hedmarksmuseet, which was designed in stages by Sverre Fehn. The museum consists of a raised pathway through ruins with elaborate display stands and cases for the variety of artifacts housed there. There also happened to be some textiles on display in the museum during our visit, so that explains the colorful splotches on the walls.

Also on the grounds is an amazing steel and glass structure designed by Kjell Lund, which encloses the ruins of the cathedral. The site is situated looking out over Lake Mjøsa, and is surrounded by 18th and 19th century farmhouses.

Lake Mjøsa was really lovely once the sun decided to come out. We walked the 1.5 km back into town along the water.

It was a nice surprise to find many edible plants incorporated into planters in Hamar. This one is full of chard, and a variety of herbs and flowers.

As usual, Samuel decided when we took breaks for fun, and he really took a liking to this deer statue in the park.

One other interesting thing I noticed in Norway was the use of automated external shading devices on even the most basic buildings (IDL folks, are you guys reading this?). Pretty cool, so far north. I guess they do have to deal with some low sun angles in the winter though...

Friday, September 3, 2010

Oslo Visit

This week I was able to take a quick trip up to Oslo to visit fellow Valle scholar Jack Hunter and his family. I took the ferry from Copenhagen, and traveled overnight to arrive in Oslo on a beautiful, clear morning. This was my view from the boat as we cruised into the city.

The first thing we did when I got into Oslo was to walk down to the new opera house on the waterfront, designed by Snohetta. This building has received much attention in the past 2 years for it's public presence, and the fact that you can walk (or roll) from ground level to the top of the building. However, I found that it was especially interesting to see the building in the context of the rest of the city. The second photo here shows a view of the city from the top of the opera house. A large highway separates the city from the waterfront, and the opera house must be accessed via several pedestrian bridges. A majority of the rest of the waterfront remains abandoned, reserved for industry, and inaccessible to the public. This building is very significant for Oslo as a public gateway to the waterfront. I believe it is especially inspirational for Seattle, because we are battling a very similar problem: a disconnected urban waterfront.

The opera house is surprisingly steep, but the variety of textures in the marble make it easy to walk all over the building. Even Samuel walked most of the way up! Though, railings are used more sparingly here than in the states, so small children need to be kept close.

This was my first glimpse of young Samuel in a few months, and he's become very mature since I last saw him: fashionable in skinny red jeans, with a taste for dense rye bread, cured meats, and European cheese. Samuel kept Jack busy by running up and down the ramp to the water after our picnic lunch.

The interior of the opera house is also lovely. The path up to the seating is full of comfortable places to cozy up with friends and a glass of wine. The railings even come equipped with a mini rail to prevent drinks from falling over the edge!

Another highlight of the Oslo visit was a stop at the new Oslo School of Architecture, a recently remodeled factory block along a riverfront park. The remodel was done by Jarmund/Vigsnaes Architecture, and incorporates a nice rooftop/courtyard green space.

My experience of Oslo was very different than I expected. I imagined a more unified, medieval town center like most other European cites, but instead I found a city that seems to have grown in spurts. It can feel quaint on one block and grungy on the next. I found many odd juxtapositions of old and new, with many parallels to Seattle (disconnected waterfront, awkward pedestrian bridges, places with very rapid development...). All in all, I found Oslo to be full of surprises, and worth the time it would take to become accustomed to the city.

I also enjoyed some Sverre Fehn, though a side trip to Hamar and the Hedmarksmuseet was dedicated more thoroughly to his work.

And, some electric Buddy cars which are so tiny that they can park perpendicular to the curb. I also saw some Think brand cars that are made from a recyclable milk jug-type plastic that is reminiscent of playground structures.

Last but not least, the Vigeland park, devoted to Vigeland's sculptural works.