One could tell from the very beginning, that our trip to Copenhagen would not be an ordinary one. We have had missed the plane… for 24 hours!!!

 

Monkey designed by Kay Boyasen

 

Not that that would stop us.

I have been waiting for our Christmas trip to Copenhagen with a great anticipation. A long time, I have been delaying a trip to Denmark from one reason or another. To long actually, to be prepared to accept that minor misfortune.

My motive for a trip has not been as much to see all the familiar furniture pieces. Regarding that I have naturally assumed that Arne Jacobsen’s Ants would be crawling all over the place and that Kay Boyasen’s Monkeys would be monkeying around.

What I have really been interested in were Danes. Theirs nature. Environment they live in. Theirs culture. Lifestyle. Where are the origins, the source of their thinking, of their attitude, of their design process approach? Why, on the world, are their designs designed the way they are?

 

Fritz Hansen’s chair designed by Arne Jacobsen; design is based on the famous Ant Chair

 

First thing one notices in Denmark is the weather. And the second is that the locals don’t give a damn about it. It has constantly been on the brink of raining – regarding the time of year we should have probably consider ourselves lucky, since we have experienced almost no rain stronger than drizzle during our three days long stay there. That uncertainty has caused us a constant stress which has manifested in opening and closing our umbrella and pulling our hoods on and off all the time.

Not the Danes. They have been walking, biking, shopping, talking, jogging, drinking grog and do all other strange things, not like the weather is good or poor, but more like the weather isn’t there at all or, at least, its not one of their problems. Looking on the people on the streets from our hotel window before we went out, to find out what weather conditions to expect, constantly returned null information value.

 

Copenhagen Theatre with Opera house in the background. Sky was hard to draw since it has been gray.

 

Secondly, Danes are cool.

But not cool in a careless way. It is kind of hard to explain, to describe. It is about the people’s attitudes ‘about things’ that goes beyond the weather. Maybe the most illustrative is the following anecdote.

The day before Christmas, most of the design shops have been closed, so we took a walk thru the center, across the bridge, to Christianshavn and then along the sea channel towards Danmarks Designskole. As usually, it has been quite cold – I would say a little above 0°C (37°F) and looked like the cloudy sky was undecided whether it should grant us a little drizzle again or make an exception for us and let a few sunrays thru. People have been cycling around trolleying their kids in their funny two wheeled boxes in front of their bikes… as usual. We have just started to cross the bridge towards the new Opera house when, on the other side, we saw a jogger, that has past us minutes ago, jump into the channel. Regarding the circumstances, my mind had a trouble to accept the term “jump” since it implies that one has done it purposely. And in moments, while my subconscious was contemplating about all the unpleasantness of drying and warming myself, that would come after my rescue attempt – which, at that time, looked imminent, he was already on the ladder climbing out. Grabbing his shoes he has obviously taken off before his jump, he came across the bridge towards us.

He has not been triumphant.

He has not been triumphant.

He was not grinning to our, obviously, surprised faces.

He was not grimaced because of cold.

He was not troubled by any way because we have witnessed his, strange to say the least, act.

He was just… cool.

He returned our greeting with a smile and walked to his apartment on the corner of the building, where he changed, unbothered by anything or anybody.

Really cool!

 

Condos across the channel of the Opera House

 

And there is one other difference. It is their attitude towards the design. My guess is, that they don’t say: “Today, I’ll go and buy a design piece.” I’d say, that they simply go to buy a piece of whatever and that they simply don’t but it if it is not well designed. That’s why, they do not pay an extra attention when they see one – good design I mean. It is a common commodity. They are used to it. It seemed to me, that they have made all the extra fuss about it, when they noticed that the their guests are paying it a special attention.

 

Copenhagen opera house design (napkin sketch)

 

That, on the other hand, does not mean, that the superb design is made without the effort. Just a brief visit, which, by the way, quickly prolonged into a few hours, to the DDC (Danish Design Centre) proved, that they have given it a lot of thought and consideration into the importance of good design as well as into the design process itself. And they have been giving it for a long, long time now.

And that shows!

And that makes all the difference.

 

Danish Design Centre

 

p.s.

There is a superb exhibition open in DDC, titled “CHALLENGE SOCIETY – designing simple solutions to a complex future”. It would be open till until mid January 2012 and if you have a chance, it is well worth to pay it a visit. For all the others, ‘visit’ it on the net – it is a must.

Matej Gašperič

Architect