About the Theme: Here comes the sun... – University of Copenhagen

About the theme: Here comes the sun...

World in Denmark 2013

The upgrading of the historical city’s open spaces has for the last decades gained much attention among the design professions and beyond. Yet, the many public or collective ‘open spaces’ in the postwar city are currently being fundamentally remodelled due to new problems and requirements. The main drivers are the aim of making the city more sustainable – be it through densification by the clustering of many people in city centers or next to public transportation lines, and through stormwater management – the decline of scenes for public investments and an urban exodus or by turning the open spaces into event spaces in the experience hungry city. Furthermore they are on the threshold to become cultural heritage objects. The embedded questions about the transformation and possible preservation of the postwar city’s open spaces are, however, perhaps more crucial to our ideas of ‘the collective’ and to future ways of living than the transformation of the ones in the historical city. This is what we invite you to explore at this year’s World in Denmark entitled Here comes the sun ...

Open spaces is one of the most constituting elements in the construction of the urban development of the welfare societies in Scandinavia and elsewhere in Europe. From the 1920s onwards, open spaces became the goal and the means of a dream on a sunlit, healthy city inhabited by open-air mankind. Despite the radical 1945-shift in attitude towards nature from being an ideal to something unreliable – provoked by the war experiences – the dreams of a collective society associated with the open spaces were partly realized in the postwar massive urban expansions; in their infrastructural networks, institutions, suburban housing complexes and residential neighbourhoods including all their open spaces. They also mirrored the social democratic ideal of the society as a provider of universal, recreational goods in bringing together planning, architecture and social policy.

Today, our belief in universal common goods is replaced by a discussion of the possible future relationships between the society and the individual and the possibilities and probabilities for negotiation of various traditions, needs and resources available. However, the goal of the modern movement appears to be the ‘liberated individual’ or as the German sociologist Ulrich Bech puts it, ”If thought through to its conclusion, the basic figure of fully developed modernity is the single person”. If so, what is then the future role of the many open spaces of the welfare society’s new cities? What do we have in common? Have the collective open spaces lost their functions and do we still need them? What kind of ideas do we have of collective domains besides highways and social medias?

The many types of collective open spaces – parks, playgrounds, promenades, lidos, open-air museums and the vast green areas –  were the spatial means to provide “most people” access to the sun, fresh air and clean water replacing the dense and unhealthy industrial city. Does this palette of open spaces fulfil today’s needs in a multicultural society? And who will decide how to use which ones and how? A central question is if we today have similar guiding principles – or even dreams – that reaches beyond the adaptions to the outer threats of climate change etc. Apparently the open spaces are still one of the few means for developing a sense of community in a multietnic society. How do we as designers and planners stimulate their appropriation and at the same time reflect the accumulated memories attached to the postwar city and improve its long term environmental sustainability?

The postwar city’s open spaces are in a constant flux of adaptation and reinterpretation concerning the way we think of them, use them and shape them. It is about time for us as designers and planners of open space to recapture and perhaps reinvent the idea of ‘the collective’ ... to think of how this good can be reflected in the open spaces that we share. What leitmotifs can steer the daily transformations of this new, postwar city that takes place with increasing velocity?

The 9th World in Denmark has set forth to explore possible futures of the postwar city’s open spaces – their function, use and designation, their ethics and aesthetics. The title, Here comes the sun ... besides being a wonderful Beatles song questions our visions for the future collective open spaces in that part of the city where most of us live.