We arrived on a cold, turbulently windy day. Snug and dry in the Admiral Hotel a converted waterfront warehouse, we fell asleep to the hum of wind gusts whipping down The Sound (“Øresund”) –a strait between the Kattegat and the Baltic Sea. The Admiral is a few minutes walk along the waterfront to new the Royal Playhouse – its interior filled with an atmosphere of starlight, and a view across the river to the dramatically illuminated Copenhagen Opera House.
By evening’s light a walk into the center city; I wondered at the darkness – the catenary lights suspended over every street – and rare punctuations of facade and sign lighting.
Center for LYS (Center for Light) invited me to speak that their annual Lighting Day. This year it was held at the ultimately modern Black Diamond – a conference and cultural center annexed to the “old Copenhagen Main Library” built in 1906.
In the center of the vast, open lobby there are two conveyors that stretch between the old and the new buildings.
The Danish Lighting Center was founded in 1948 with a mission to “advance knowledge and to disseminate information for the improvement of the lighted environment to the benefit of society”. They hold seminars and conferences, and produce a magazine, LYS. Director, Kenneth Munck and Dorte Gram, an architect who coordinated my invitation to the event and writes for the LYS Magazine, were both wonderful hosts.
I joined a dynamic international group of lighting designers and engineers, including Roger Narboni from France. My topic was “Reclaiming the Dark Side of Town, an Underpass becomes a Gateway”; a comprehensive discourse on the making of Triple Bridge Gateway at NYC’s Port Authority Bus Terminal. This project took eight years to complete, with Light Projects role encompassing illumination, color palette and collaboration on the materials for four bus ramps in midtown Manhattan.
Thankfully during the stay it warmed up and I wandered through the city — night and day — observing a massive population of bicyclists and pedestrians co-existing with vehicular traffic, visiting philosopher Søren Kierkegaard’s grave and exploring light and the streetscape.
Mark and I visited the Rundetaarn “Round Tower” – a 17th-century tower located in the central district. It was built as an astronomical observatory and now houses a multi-use cultural space – which showcased an interesting art show of urban signs.
A steep winding corridor of smooth polished cobble stones, with sunken windows and daylight effects upon stucco, leads to a ladder to the exterior observatory level and an expansive panorama of rooftops and industrial structures beyond Copenhagen proper. The 360-degree city view was exhilarating.
Copenhagen is a city of Scandinavian modern and Scandinavian medieval.
From the observatory to the airport, I am enthralled by this northern sensibility.
Interested in other international visits and my public space and lighting observations?
Here are posts from 2009: