18 February 2016

Listen and learn

Something extraordinary happened this week. Remember the 35 year old retirement home Sølund, just down my block? A huge yellow lake view structure in three parts, surrounded by old trees? The city planned to demolish it all and start over, and three years ago they had already picked a winner: a curb-kissing monster sucking out all light and killing all trees on the grounds. Your basic nightmare. They conveniently skipped the part where you ask the neighbors for input, and had already initiated the process of relocating the elderly. At the info-meeting three years ago (almost to the day) the neighbors were not happy.

Sølund i regndråber

Mini reflections of current Sølund retirement home.

The neighbors object
At the meeting a young girl stood up and asked why all these vacant apartments (from the relocated elderly) were not used to house students? This question received condescending smiles. My objections related to the trees on the ground. Why could they not be incorporated? At least the oldest, facing the street? Move the line back to the current position? More smiles. As the winner had already been chosen, this meeting was merely considered a formality.

The neighbor-resistance persisted but what finally put a halt to the project, was a few political parties who vetoed the plan due to insufficient parking. Imagine that? Saved by cars. For a long time, half of the apartments were left vacant. The neighbors pushed for homeless students to be allowed in until the city finally caved, and let them in on a two-year lease. This was the beginning of an experiment: would the two generations be able to coexist?

Plejehjemmet Sølund

The city decided to start over with a new competition, and this time the neighbors were heard. And, interestingly the concept of mixed generations turned out to be so successful that it became part of the new plan: a mixed facility. By listening, they learned.

Save the Ladytree
My job has always been to save the trees. With 70+ on the grounds, I had to pick my battle, and I focused on the 154 year old Ladytree and the old corner beech. I could just have called it by its formal name: ginkgo biloba, or temple tree, but it is more than that. It is a piece of Copenhagen history, the very soul of the street. No two trees are alike, and they all have their own personality, they should all at the very least be named. To make people care about this tree, I figured it needed an identity.

Step one: create an identity
Being a female (oh yes, they come in genders), I named it the Ladytree. Now she needed exposure. I cut out a giant tree hugger from cardboard, painted and dressed her. 

Step two: exposure
The Ladytree (Dametræet) and the tree hugger climbed into the news here and there. The tree was registered by The Danish Dendrological Society (with her proper name, of course) and finally in November last year, the Ladytree made it to the national radio, and was even introduced in a small video.

The outcome
Yesterday the winner was announced for the new Sølund. From the online material I could tell the old beech was safe, but what about the Ladytree? I called the architect, and asked if they had spared the old ginkgo. His reply: “of course we incorporated the Ladytree”. Oh sweet holy mission, so very accomplished!


Last night I browsed the winning architect's website, and discovered a picture from one of my roaring Sølund posts. They read my posts!? And they got the message. Ha!

Previous Sølund posts:
Feast your eyes, (the good) May 23 3013
Something rotten (the ugly) May 27 2013


  1. Brilliant!! Good for you!!

    1. It is so good for the trees. I will have to move, because I won't survive 2-3 years of nonstop construction right next door. But it is okay, knowing at leaat some of the beautiful old trees will stay. <3

  2. Kæmpe tak til dig Sandra. Du er træernes talerør og en øjenåbner for, hvor vigtigt det er at bevare dem i byens rum.

    1. Tusind tak, Lone.

      Det er en ubeskrivelig glæde at være med til at redde et træ. Og de er nemlig så ufatteligt vigtige for byens rum og mennesker. Især de gamle, som man nærmest systematisk har udryddet i årevis, nu må det stoppe. Så dejligt at se en udvikling til det bedre. : )


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