Earlier this year the European Commission released its annual Flash Eurobarometer of quality of life in European cities, a huge survey of how happy people are living in hundreds of cities across Europe. In this survey the second happiest city in Europe was found to be Copenhagen, Denmark with 67% of respondents there very satisfied and 28% satisfied with their life, with a mere 5% saying they’re not happy with the life they lead.
Recently I was lucky enough to enjoy a weekend away in Copenhagen as part of a work trip and got to see first hand what makes this city such a great place to live. The streets were filled with happy, laughing people riding their bicycles, while the sidewalks were full of the bicycles of those who were busy doing something else. It was a real contrast to the streets of Helsinki where everyone seems to keep to themselves and go about their business in the steadfast manner Finns are renowned for. In fact there were so many good looking girls riding their bicycles around the city with their hair flowing out behind them smiling and laughing that it could quite possibly have been a scene from a shampoo commercial…
Founded in the 10th century and made capital of Denmark in the 15th century by the 17th century it was a major regional center in Northern Europe so has a rich history. Much of this history is still evident today along with a plethora of outstanding modern architectural gems by some of the top architects of the 21st century (so far…).
Our day started with a quick stop off at Kastrup Sea Bath, which was near the airport. This is as the name suggests a bathing area in the sea, a semi-circular wooden structure with changing facilities, places to sit and most of all a protected swimming area within its arms. Unfortunately being the start of winter it was a bit too cold to enjoy fully.
Next stop was Louisiana Museum of Modern Art which was a 40 minute drive north of the city but well worth it. It is a stunning museum in all aspects, beautiful architecture, delightful natural surroundings that are utilised in the museums exhibition spaces and some great exhibitions. We were lucky enough to catch the last days of an exhibition by acclaimed Japanese artist Yayoi Kusama whose style I had seen used as part of a major art project at Angela’s pre-school while in Tokyo, so was keen to check out her work in real life. There were a dazzling array of mind blowing interactive installations along with her standard artworks which has made me a fan of her work.
The Buildings of BIG
As architects no trip to a foreign city would be complete without taking in the modern architectural icons of the city and for us it was the works of BIG Architecture, with Copenhagen based Bjarke Ingels being one of the stars of modern architecture, we took the opportunity to check out some of his work. First there was the “8” House, an apartment complex shaped in a figure 8 then on to “The Mountain” once of my favourites which is an apartment complex with all of the units set back from the one below with gardens on the roofs to create a building that looks like a mountain (well maybe a small hill for us kiwis…).
Another very impressive building was Forfatterhuset Kindergarten by another Danish Architect COBE. With our experience of owning our own pre-schools I have always been interested in the design of learning environments for kids and this place had a great feel about it. I managed to snap off a few pictures before being told politely by a young girl of around 4 years old that we weren’t allowed to take photos with any kids in them, so will include a couple here in which the kids aren’t identifiable.
Look out for Part 2 of this post coming soon….