We often go to chosen places of our destination with a certain preconception of the place in our mind already, as we read about it in tourist guides beforehand. We know what to visit, where to eat and party but why not to go somewhere without it all and just allow ourselves to take place for what it is? Experiencing the place afresh in a foreign country, with its cultures, customs and landscapes can be one of the most potent creative catalysts. Here I’m going to talk about the joys and woes I have experienced when going for the first time to Scandinavia.
I ventured to the capital of a small country of Denmark, Copenhagen at the beginning of December to experience it with my own eyes without any mental preparation or prejudgment. Well, you might call it laziness or ignorance I call it the white page you can write on as you perceive it and understand it yourself.
Let me take myself to Denmark then…
In a first place normally most of the flights I took from Barcelona airport were delayed. This did not happen on the way to Copenhagen. The flight was on time and I arrived exactly at the time that it was predicted to. As I got off the plane I made my way to the airport train station, caught a train that connected conveniently with an underground and went to the centre of the city. The cost of the ticket was 36 crones that is equivalent to 5 euros. I was surprised to find out that even though Denmark is clearly part of the EU it has never accepted its currency. As I got to the Central Station I met my boyfriend who took me directly to the design studio he has had the pleasure to work in for the last three weeks as an Artist in Residence. The studio is called SPACE 10 and is based in a hipster, old meat-packing district of Copenhagen. I was immediately introduced to most of the creatives working in there. Struggling to get my head around Danish names. The studio in my eyes had a very minimalistic design itself, containing the showroom with a projector screen, a few chairs in front of it, a laboratory downstairs, some plants dotted around and place to sit down by your computer and design upstairs. I was offered a glass of delicious mulled wine in the studio’s kitchen and was surprised to see that people working in there can help themselves with this magical drink at any point of the day. Well, it really made my head to spin after only a few sips. I couldn’t ask for a more welcoming way to experience Copenhagen. As I was enjoying my drink I heard ‘welcome to Denmark’ from a lady called Carla Hjort. As I later found out, she is a female boss and CEO of the whole place. She kindly took the time to explain to me what the whole project is about.
SPACE 10 is a part of REBEL Agency that is also a patron of TrailerPark Fesival and ArtRebels. It is a future-living lab and exhibition space. Their aim is to research the future of urban living by recognising major challenges that will affect people on a global scale, and exploring possible solutions. The overall goal is to create opportunities for a better and more sustainable way of living in the future. Generally speaking it investigates the future of urban living through a series of labs. At this point I slowly started to understand the clean and crisp Nordic way of living and thinking ahead that I find truly inspirational. It feels like Nordic design is going through some very special moment when it starts to be recognised and looked to as exemplary by the rest of the world.
As we left, we went to Tommy’s Burger next door to have a taste of the best beef I have ever tasted. Finally, with our bellies stuffed we went to an AirBnB apartment to what I thought will be the moment of indulgence in a well-deserved and needed shower and dinner. To my surprise the bathroom was missing a shower cabin and instead, it had a shower head next to the sink only. After few laughs, I was told that this is quite common in Danish bathroom design as the apartments have no shower (or bathtub) and the bathroom consists of a tiny room with a toilet and a small sink. Others, like the one we were staying in have been renovated and now have a shower head up on the wall, but you have to stand right next to the toilet — no shower curtain or anything, the bathroom is completely flooded every time you take a shower. I loved it though, just for the fact that it was so different to what I’m used to and who needs a shower curtain when you have perfectly working central heating?
As a new day dawned on us we made our way to the place everyone was telling me to go to called Christiania, also known as Freetown Christiania. It is a self-proclaimed autonomous neighbourhood of about 850 residents, covering 34 hectares.
Christiania has been a source of controversy since its creation, with squatters taking over a military area in 1971. It was a place where the first Danish hippies moved into and made it their home, free from any governmental jurisdiction, able to smoke weed and a free way of living that some people may found they were deprived of at the time. Walking to its first part I was amazed by how quickly we were offered a joint to smoke. The boys selling it have open bags filled with ready rolled spliffs for sale. I asked them if they had any problems with the police by doing it, and they quickly assured me that they do on a daily basis and that they have been to prison for that twice already. I don’t think that any of them were over 18 years old. They said that they don’t give a fuck and will do as they wish. On the other hand, I was pleased to see some sort of anarchy in this young, confident way of being and this is what I’ve realized later. They might be called modern days hippies but I really do think that this term is too soft for the Danish I met there. To me they are anarchists fighting every day for what they consider for themselves to be freedom. As we were walking forward we strayed from the main, tourist part of Christiana and entered the river part of it. We saw beautiful wooden cabins located on the bank of the river, with a certain distance from each other. Close enough to say hello to our neighbour but far enough to have privacy and your own piece of land.
The next day I returned to Barcelona. It was two all-too short days filled with a sensation of exuberant experience that taught me something new about this part of Europe. To me Denmark before was simply the country in which Shakespeare decided to base his play Hamlet. Today, I know that Scandinavia is an alternative to the Western lifestyle, a forward-thinking country, conscious of the dangers of the consumerism lifestyle and one that is trying to find an alternative to it through its design and way of being. To me, you have to go to places to discover yourself. In a way it is kind of addiction and with the first issue of this magazine we went to Copenhagen-who knows where it will take us next.