Sketchbook Tour: Days 022-028

Core Course Week Edition: starring; a berry daring quest, strangely shaped starlings, and a very *extra* building

Day 022

I currently live with a host family on the Island of Amager, which is still in the city of Copenhagen but has a more residential, not quite suburban, feel to it. One of the perks of my location is that I am very close to Amager Fælled, a large park and nature preserve. Walking through this wooded capsule is always a fun mini-adventure with dozens of paths and trails to walk down, edible black berries to find, and surprise Scottish Highland Cows. The park also reminds me a lot of home and the southern, Minnesota river valley I grew up in.

This sketch shows a specific path with woods on the right and a green fence, the tell-tale sign of a construction project, on the left. The fence surrounds a new development project that will include more high-density housing. More housing and increased density are almost always needed in cities. However, this project is a controversial issue. Many are upset about destroying a large portion of Copenhagen’s coveted and protected green space. As a result, this stretch of fencing features a fair amount of graffiti containing non-DIS-approved content.

Day 023

On my walk through Amager Fælled, I noticed that blackberry season was still in full swing and several berry patches were still laden with some tasty morsels. In preparation for Core Course Week, I wanted a relaxing Sunday, so I set off on a daring and dangerous mission, armed with the finest of Tupperware and cottage core aspirations.

My foe was highly trained in the art of guerilla warfare, so I had to search out dozens of smaller berry patches that each only yielded a handful of prizes. It took a while, but after honing my senses and taking the paths less traveled, I managed to fill my moderately sized Tupperware and return home triumphant. The sketch here shows a portion of my spoils. Most of the other berries were baked into some scones, which, although dry (I’m still getting used to a new oven and you can’t win every battle,) paired wonderfully with some coffee and a restful Sunday.

Day 024

Core Course Week: A week at DIS when regularly scheduled classes are canceled so we can focus on our “Core Course.” This involves two days of visiting sites in Copenhagen followed by three days of visiting other cities in Denmark. Traditionally, Core Course Week, CCW, is characterized as enlightening, exciting, and exhausting.

In my architecture studio, we are currently working on designing a harbor bath that allows the people of Copenhagen to easily access the water for swimming and launching kayaks. To give us some mid-project inspiration, we spent our first day of CCW touring existing harbor baths and recreational water hubs in the area. This quick sketch was based on a photo I took during the tour. It shows one of my classmates sketching on top of the Maritime Youth House, a beautiful wooden center that was modeled after the shape of waves.

Day 025

 On our second day of CCW, we took a ferry to Sluseløbet harbor and talked with the co-founder of MAST, a studio specifically focused on floating architecture. Taking the ferry involved a long wait time and was probably less convenient than taking a bus or train, but given the subject of our visit, it seemed necessary. The ride gave us a greater appreciation for the history and culture of the harbor and it also allowed me to snag a couple reference photos that became the basis of this sketch.

On an unrelated note, my new dream in life is to run a houseboat cafe called The Hungry Duckling where a friendly flock of mallards is able to climb up on the deck and join patrons eating outdoors.

Day 026

This room may not look familiar, but it is an interior exhibit of the Vadehavscenteret, a building I sketched on day 008. I returned to this beautiful building with a group of fellow architecture students as a part of CCW. This room was my favorite exhibit when I first visited and it still is after my second impression.

Every year, starlings migrate through western Denmark in huge flocks. When they all land in the fields near Ribe to roost for the night, they create a natural wonder nicknamed the “black sun.” Despite our best impromptu efforts, we were not able to see the black sun in person (starlings don’t seem to honor DIS itineraries,) but this exhibit/art installation mimics the natural phenomena. Tiles are suspended in an ascending trail towards a skylight in an otherwise plain, white room. A recording of a flock of birds taking flight is played in the room and the tiles darken in sync with the sounds to recreate the experience of birds flying overhead. To quote the master lyricist that is Eels, “I like birds,” so this serene exhibition will always be a favorite.

Day 027

This is an exterior Plein Air Sketch of the Tirpitz museum, a short drive from Denmarks westernmost point and located in what my studio professor called “hobbit land.” The landscape features rolling hills, tall grasses, subtlely colorful moss, and sparse patches of compact trees and shrubs. It could be considered a humble landscape, but it is embraced by its inhabitants. Thatched roofs are a legal must and new development on untouched land is practically forbidden.

I love the pride and care that the Danish show towards this shire adjacent landscape and I love the way this building works with it. The angled green roofs mimic the surrounding hills and the corten steel edges and railings create firm boundaries that still harmonize with the site due to the color and texture of the steel’s patina. The building concept also reminded me of my studio friend’s final project last fall. This immediately took me back to long nights making cheese jokes and drinking copious amounts of tea.

I was less impressed by the exhibits and interior of the museum which were well done but leaned towards gimmicks. Don’t get me wrong, the entire building was well-designed. But the inside couldn’t compare to how the building’s exterior melts into and out of focus as you weave through the hills and grasses of western Denmark.

Day 028

Another museum full of color and vegetation, but extremely different and one that leaves me with much more mixed emotions. This is a portion of the HC Anderson Hus in Odense on the island of Fyn. It’s a sprawling and whimsical building within the center of one of Denmark’s largest cities. I had seen the exterior of the building before, but this was my first time inside, and I was pretty excited to discover what the building was hiding. The entire complex uses increasingly elaborate ways to describe the life and work of Hans Christian Anderson. It begins with simple illustrations, audio clips, and a handful of artifacts and ends with a massive underground room filled with hands-on exhibits to immerse you in some of his famous tales. In a word, it was extra.

The experience was interesting, to say the least, and even if you disagreed with the tone the building was going for, it would be difficult to deny that they nailed it. But there were elements that didn’t sit right with me. Part of this elegant site was a garden, sunken below street level, that looked the part of a fairy tale setting and allowed natural light into the lower level of the building. But it was inaccessible. Every time you came accross a door to this enticing landscape, you were met with a printout sign; “emergency exit only, alarm will sound.” Most of my group noticed this, and many of us were upset at our unfulfilled visions of weaving seamlessly between highly curated exhibits and a serene garden. 

My mixed feelings on site led me to do another two-part drawing, creating the inked linework on site and saving the color I knew it needed for another time. As I added watercolor, I pondered. At the museum, a recurring thought I had was it’s cool and all, but it seems like a bit much for one dude. It was hard to imagine justifying a building like this and the budget that must have gone alone with it. This train of thought is undeniably influenced by my identity as an American with a focus on public interest design. It is difficult to divorce how I think about projects from my baseline setting of America or Minnesota as the site. This positioning isn’t all that helpful for evaluating projects built in a country with more encompassing and established safety nets for its citizens. This thought line naturally bled into a well-established inquiry of mine. Do we have the right to create indulgent bliss while inequity exists? I didn’t get any answers from my paint, but I was left with the lingering thought that, regardless of everything, I found this building incredibly beautiful.

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