23 February 2013

I quit you not

Update on the Test Tubes! If you have never heard about them, here is an ultra brief introduction:

Copenhagen has a cup litter problem, trashcans are filling up too quickly especially during the summer months, creating a mess in certain areas, like those around the lakes and on Queen Louises Bridge. I made a tube for stacking the cups without the lid, and mounted it on the side of the trashcan. And it worked. With pressure from the internet and media, the city finally agreed to make a test run.

Pictogram Test Tube

The test was supposed to run until the end of September 2012, but they only now got around to dismounting them. Officially the experiment is over, although I am not sure you can call it an effective one at that, without an evaluation. I made my own, of course: obviously they worked, day and night, summer and winter, people stacked cups like their lives depended on it. The crew emptying the trashcans were not amused, as they got another task on their hands, but the "snappers", those who pick up individual pieces of litter, were really happy. I talked to one who confirmed that the cup litter problem was gone on the bridge.

Test Tube jackpot

Test Tube jackpot!

Test Tube spilling

Hey, I'm not saying there is no room for improvement, only that it works. Let's take it from there!

Dealing with the cleaning department is another challenge. They are under the impression that we don't have a cup litter problem in Copenhagen (!?).

Cup litter

The problem

All that tells me is that the people in charge of keeping the city clean, don't live here. And, come summer the bridge and the lake area will once again be a mess. Unless someone very stubborn takes the test to the third phase...


I named this one Houdini, he is hiding in the lake.

We don't know how to quit, do we?

The Test Tube follow up in today's Copenhagen Post

The first post: The Test Tubes
The second post: Big news!

18 February 2013

Invisible details

Yeah, so not every day has a higher purpose. Sometimes it is just about staying afloat and recuperating. Walking around the lakes, and bending a good friends ear. If she knows you, she will not frown when you make irregular stops to take pictures of the invisible details along the way.

Plastic strip garland

Hand painted plastic strip garland.

Cat king crown

Cat King crown, a leftover from last weeks Fastelavn, our Halloween for kids. Getting that crown is a big deal when you are a kid. Keeping it, apparently not so much...

Blue shoes in motion

Blue shoes in motion. Salt used for melting the ice is a killer of trees, roads and paws, lately I have noticed more owners taking precautions like this. I like people who like dogs.

City of Copenhagen

The city of Copenhagen.

Iced latte

One mocca-latte-ice-extra-skim-milk-low-fat to go, please.

If only someone could come up with a solution for this cup litter plague..

16 February 2013

That time

It is that time at the year. The daylight hours are increasing slightly, and fences, bikes and sidewalks are once again abloom with the fuzzy fruit.



But all you can think about is this:


If you see the sun, say hi from me. 

13 February 2013

To arms

The green spots of Copenhagen are disappearing fast. What can we do to preserve what is left? First, we can look at why the trees are cut down.

Some are sick.
Among other things disease travel with the young trees imported from tree nurseries. How is that for irony? If we were not so busy cutting down healthy old trees to replace them with young, the risk just might decrease. Other trees are weakened by pollution and things like heavy salting during winter. I was just in Berlin, where they used gravel on sidewalks instead of salt. Just as fine, but not as damaging to the environment. Incidentally the Berlin trees are huge, healthy and plenty. Why be stuck in our ways, when they are not working for us? How about we rethink that?

Then there are the major construction projects.
The most damaging one is currently the new metro line, and in this case someone actually came up with a solution. Jørgen Dahl Madsen rescues trees, and relocates them for the cost of the transportation. Using a tree transplanting machine that gently lifts the tree by the roots, preserving the base, so it can be replanted somewhere else.

Halfway in during the cutting down of the 80 famous Kings New Square trees "Krinsen" (you can spot them behind Bert here), he managed to stop the process and rescue the remaining 52. So far, he is up to a total of 300 relocated "metro trees", bringing new life to school yards, kindergartens and backyards, and he has created a small forest of 100 trees in the windblown Ørestad. I hope I get the chance to document one of these rescues myself one day, but for now I have borrowed his own images:

Removal on Kongens Nytorv/Kings New Square, Krinsen.

In transit.

The transplant.

I am torn between being deliriously exited that it can be done, and incredibly frustrated that we are still cutting down trees that could have been rescued by this method. This should be the only option when dealing with healthy trees. Transplanters comes in all sizes, the city should invest in a fleet, and put our savior of the trees in charge of operating them.

The flatteners and the profiteers:
Which brings me to another issue. Don't allow the architects to flatten our landscape, but instruct them to implement trees that have been part of the cityscape for hundreds of years. Like the ones by the farmers market (see previous post). There was no reason why these trees could not still have been around. If it meant narrowing the space between the glass houses slightly, then so be it. Preserving majestic old trees should be prioritised. We can't leave that call up to a greedy real estate developer, and expect him to do anything, but what lines his pockets. He should be ordered to respect our trees. And he deserves our wrath for robbing us of something so precious. I am not in a forgiving mood.

I have to show you this one. Perhaps to boost the image of Copenhagen as a green city, they have made this set of trees on wheels, to be pushed around for the perfect photo op.

Trees on wheels

I can't... I can't... find the words.

Since I have brought this subject up, I am approached by people who share my concern. Some have documented old trees being cut down to make space for parking. The examples keep pouring in, indicating that the problem is big and pressing. I would suggest that the city appointed an advocate for the trees. Someone to keep an eye on new projects, who could step in and ensure that the remaining vegetation is properly protected.

Here we go again.
Currently the city plans to demolish the only 30 year old retirement home Sølund, just around the corner from me, destroying everything that grows there, including rare and giant trees. And, by the lakes a row of ancient chestnut trees are in danger of being cut down, to make room for... asphalt. I beg you?

If you have any ideas how to turn this around, please leave a comment, we need all the help we can get. Also, we have made a group on facebook, where you can come up with suggestions, report endangered city trees and keep up with the latest news: Red Byens Træer (in Danish).

Maybe we can make a difference? We have to try. 


11 February 2013

The asphalt jungle

Calling Copenhagen a green city is nothing but a marketing strategy. A closer look reveals a set of very different priorities. For instance, urban vegetation is the first to go when a new plan is set in motion. The unprecedented eagerness to destroy and build from scratch is tearing Copenhagen up and leaving it as an unattractive asphalt jungle. And they move fast. I have split this subject into two posts, this one will be highlighting the problem, the next will address possible solutions. Here we go:

The Farmers Market (Torvehallerne):
Remember how joyful it all was, back when we heard that the farmers market was finally returning? Here is what the square looked like before:

Look at the beautiful old trees. The real estate developer Jeudan were encouraged (but not obligated) by the city to preserve the vegetation, and they did put on a show for a while, sparing the old trees. You can even follow the progress of the construction site in aerial view (link), on their own website.

If you click on the link, try scrolling down and enlarge these two pictures: 
October 2010: Vegetation is still around, they are even describing how beautiful the trees are in fall.
December 2010: All gone! No mention of them again.


By opening day, the old trees were replaced with young twigs, so skinny that they are barely visible on this picture. Bean counters logic: a tree is a tree.

(PS! It gets a lot worse, just wait for it)

I contacted Jeudan to ask why they initially preserved our old trees, just to cut them down in the end? The answer: "The old trees were removed, and replaced with new ones". Move to strike as non responsive. Any further attempts to reach someone in the administration was shut down. This runaround tactic tells us that they know they are in the wrong. But nobody calls them on it. So next time they take a bite out of our city, and they are big eaters so you know they will, they are bound to repeat this behavior.

But it doesn't stop there. No sooner had they finished (!) the farmers market, before the next big project was launched. Right across is Israels Plads, playground, fleamarket and urban oasis. This is when it gets really ugly.

Israels Plads:
The city of Copenhagen is actively involved, so you would assume that preserving the trees were a priority, green city and all. I hitched a ride with Google Streetview and counted more than eighty bushes, plants and trees.

80+ trees butchered by a city that calls itself green?

One guess what the city did as the first order of business? Exact same spot below:

They cut it all down.

Clearly the architects were not instructed to preserve the existing vegetation and work around it. Nor was removing the trees and replanting them somewhere else considered a priority. I would really like to know how the administration of Copenhagen have the nerve to call themselves green? And what kind of selfrespecting City Architect allows this to happen on her watch?

The Salami Method:
The Danish Society for Nature Conservation has named this the Salami Method: cutting away a little bit here and a little bit there. Disregarding protected land, terminating the status at convenience. Building a metro on a cemetery or drying up a protected lake, transforming it into a construction site. Or, in the case of the proposed harbour tunnel, building a freeway right across it. Anything is possible, nothing is safe. Green is just a word.

In this "green" city, healthy old trees are cut down to make room for parking, or even for no reason at all, like it very nearly happened on the bunker corners. Had we not made noise, the bunker forest would have been long gone by now. We simply can no longer afford to just shrug our shoulders, and write these losses off as sacrifices made in the name of progress. When what is going on, is the exact opposite.

Welcome to the jungle.

Saving the bunker forest, an ongoing story, part one, part two, part three, part four... (jury is still out, the only thing they do quickly, is destroy) 

07 February 2013

Spanking alert!

As soon as I am done coughing my insides out, there will be some serious spanking going on in here. Yes, I am talking about you, City Architect of Copenhagen, looking the other way while real estate developers rob our city of entire forests of precious old trees. Ah, you thought we wouldn't notice? That we don't care? You have another thing coming.

Hva lavr I bag ligusterhækkn / What are you doing behind the privet

Hva lavr I bag liguster hækkn? / What are you doing behind the privet?

04 February 2013

Bike spotting

In the absence of street art I have turned to bike spotting. Quite a few of them are little pieces of art left in the street, so maybe it is not such a big leap. Often it is just a detail that catches my eye.

Berlin bike light

The flashy light.

Bike box

Or the built-in box. 

Vintage details are my favorite, but hand painted action is good too.


Mañana, mañana.


And sometimes, like today, you run into a bike that is just perfection, from texture to frame:


Rusty by design, that flawed perfection again.


Yellow rubber...


...and wicker!?


Bordering on kinky. 


With wooden handles!

I rest my case.