Moomin On Up
The rain has paused and the sun has broken through the clouds, gracing us with the loveliest of Copenhagen weeks. I delight in my post-work bike ride back to the tiny, but oh so hyggelit, studio I call my home. It’s on the third floor of a row house in Humleby (which unbelievably means bumblebee), an old neighborhood that was originally built to house shipyard workers. Whether the Carlsberg brewery is next door by coincidence or because of the canny business sense of J.C. Jacobsen is unclear. My landlord, who occupies the lower two floors below me with his family, is not a shipyard worker, though as a teacher whose narrow staircase overflows with paperbacks and his wife’s artwork, he perhaps represents the bridge between Humleby proletarian past and chichi present. Most of the other houses have had their interiors redone in the clean modern fashion, but Lars is reroofing his house mostly by himself. These home repairs have at times meant a bucket in the middle of the kitchen floor to catch the leaking rain–which for a while there seemed like it would never end (remind anyone of Seattle?) Dust, which has resided happily in ceiling cracks for the last century, is now often stirred up, knocked from the roof above, and lands on the bedroom floor to find a new life inside probably one of the oldest vacuum cleaners in Copenhagen. After I borrowed a Moomin book from their fifteen-year-old daughter (who goes to a democratic school where they recently voted to have all vegan lunches) I found a possible explanation for these and other charming Nordic eccentricities. I highly recommend these books to those who are curious and even those who aren’t.
Beyond my cozy home, the city is lively and full of public plazas, private courtyards, and a world-admired public transportation system, including especially effective bicycle infrastructure. There’s common chord, a harmony, of course between my work at Gehl Architects and my life in the city–whose people-first design they so influenced—and of course between that and the Green Futures Lab’s neighborhood greenways project for Seattle, but also even with the coziness of my home life, the hyggelit for which the Danes are justly famous. Perhaps it shouldn’t be surprising that it is this town that keeps finding solutions to problems of transportation and design, solutions so simple and yet so deep—to put people first.
I can’t sign off without first thanking professor Nancy Rottle and the ever so generous Scan|Design foundation for their support in making my life in Copenhagen possible.
Jennifer Richter, MArch Candidate, is working with Gehl Architects in Copenhagen this fall.