Urbanism in the Anthropocene

On May 9th I will begin a three week long course with 40 3rd year students at AAA on Urbanism in the Anthropocene.

The course takes its point of departure the fact that natural scientists think of our contemporary age as a new geological epoch. The Holocene has given way to the ‘Anthropocene’ as human activities have significant impact on the transformations of our planet, its ecosystems, and geology. Concurrently, urban researchers think of our age as ‘the urban age’ since more than 50% of the population of the Earth now lives in cities. The percentage is expected to increase in the coming decades.

In short: the future of humanity most probably will be fundamentally marked by both urbanization and the human impact on the planet Earth.

The course kickstarts with a two day international public seminar, which addresses the challenges confronting urbanism (urban design and planning, landscape urbanism) due to the entanglement of urbanisation and anthropogenic processes. The speakers are Simon Marvin, Professor in Geography at the Urban Institute at Sheffield university and good friends Jens Christian Svenning, Professor in Biodiversity at the Aarhus University, who participates in the development of the Aarhus Landscape Laboratory, and Thomas Sieverts, Professor Emeritus in Urbanism, who supervised my PhD.

On May 10th I I will present my ongoing work on the Aarhus River Valley and the establishment of the Aarhus Landscape Laboratory on a former waste deposit right next to the river, only a short walk from the future location of the Aarhus School of Architecture. An area which is also the focus of the 3rd year students participating in the course.

 

Mikael Hansen in the Aarhus Landscape Laboratory

I have once again had the great pleasure of working closely together with Danish landscape artist Mikael Hansen on a week long landscape course for 150 1st year students at AAA. Something which I have been looking very much forward to since we ran a similar course in 2014 and 2015.

The course took place in Eskelund, the new site for the Aarhus Landscape Laboratory, where the students, in almost constant rain, hail and sleet, had to propose and build an intervention that qualified a certain spatial quality in the landscape laboratory.

Despite the enduring challenges of bad weather the result is 15 wonderful, crazy, ephemeral, beautiful and quiet interventions that are being exhibited in the area from April 29th to May 20th.

Rethink Urban Habitats

On March 5th I will participate in the conference Rethink the City organised by Centre for Strategic Urban Research. Here I will present the two interrelated projects Rethink Urban Habitats and Aarhus Landscape Laboratory.

Early in the morning, prior to my presentation, I will walk with walker extraordinaire Henrik Schultz from Studio Urbane Landschaften. We will walk from the landscape laboratory in Dead Creek Valley along the water of the tributary into the valley of the Aarhus River to where the water meets the harbour and the Bay of Aarhus.

A fitting way to prepare for a presentation: River walking in good company.

Approaching Landscape Laboratories

For five great days from December 2nd to December 6th I visited the good people at the Faculty of Architecture at Liege University to talk and walk experimental landscapes and discuss Scandinavian experiences with the landscape laboratories in Alnarp, Snogeholm, Sletten and soon-to-be-Aarhus.

I was in the good company of passionate people like Catherine, Rita, Paul, Roland, Erik, Jitka, LarsOla, Martin and many more who are all engaged in critical thinking about and practicing new urban habitats.

Apart from giving two presentations of our new and ongoing landscape laboratory experiences in Aarhus I walked the Meuse Valley along the Meuse river and visited both the former and current botanical garden of Liege. The first garden being just outside the doors of the Faculty of Architecture, the latter being on the forested slopes of the Ourthe valley south of the Meuse River.

Also, I had the great pleasure of walking old terrils in Martinet near Charleroi close to the border of France and, driving home through a winter cold Germany, the former military airport of Kalbach Bonames, which has been converted into a new urban habitat just outside Frankfurt.

Arkipelaget – Book launch at Kunsthal Aarhus

The Aarhus School of Architecture will host a book launch of Arkipelaget issue #4 – 6 at Kunsthal Aarhus on October 8th at 4 – 6 pm.

Arkipelaget #6 is entitled LUCUS and includes some of my photographic work on forest clearings. Also, I have written a text about landscape photography in which I describe my photographies as double images:

“At first sight, they depict their subjects, but on closer perusal (more or less visibly, so to speak), they reveal the opposite angle and a shadow portrait of the reflective photographer at work ((Wenders, 2001). In that sense, my camera is a lucus in itself. It is a transformational space, which intermittently allows light into the negatives, which constitute the physical foundation of the photographs.”

Some of the photographies in LUCUS were recently exhibited at the Aarhus School of Architecture.

 

Into the boreal with the Danish Art Foundation

With great support from the Danish Art Foundation I am now working on a larger project, which will shed new light on urban forests and nordic landscape architecture – the focus of my own research.

The first part of the project is beginning to take shape and over the coming months I will be venturing into the boreal of Norway, Sweden and Finland to work on the next pieces of the project.

I look forward to show the results during 2015.

 

In the forests of Latvia and Lithuania…

I have just arrived home from a seminar in Riga on closed cities and sites and a short study trip to a series of former military sites in the forests of Latvia and Lithuania.

Together with a handful of good colleagues I among other things visited the now derelict military city Skrunda-1 in Latvia and the nuclear missile base Plokštinė at the shores of Plateliai Lake deep in the Lithuanian Plokštinė Forest.

While the Plokštinė missile base has been turned into an EU-funded Cold War Museum, Skrunda-1, which was once one of the most strategically important early warning radar and surveillance locations during the Soviet occupation of the Baltic countries, is slowly but steadily transforming itself into a ruinous urban forest integrated in the forests surrounding it:

Walls, hallways, cellars, rooftops, balconies as well as former supermarkets, kindergardens, apartments, boiler rooms, prisons, guard towers – with all their Soviet propaganda – have over decades of neglect been transformed into spaces of transition pointing both backwards in time to the silent horror of a cold war that had serious consequences for the occupied countries in the Soviet Union and onwards to a possible new site-specific nature of the future.

Landscape Experiments and a walking exhibition

I have had the great pleasure of working for a full week with good colleagues, almost 150 bachelor students and the land artist Mikael Hansen on what has been the first workshop in the Aarhus Landscape Laboratory.

Together with good man Martin Odgaard I have been working for more than half a year on creating the foundation for the landscape laboratory and there are still a lot of work to be done. So it was a humbling experience to see so many students among the hawthorns, hazels, heat pipes and muddy waters along the Aarhus South Highway in Dead Creek Valley!

The students worked in collaboration on 15 landscape experiments and the beautiful results were exhibited in a week long walking exhibition, which was a first possibility for the public to see the Aarhus Landscape Laboratory from the perspective of students.

 

Road trip to Sweden

I look forward to a one-day road trip in good company to Alnarp in Sweden tomorrow.

Together with my colleague Martin Odgaard I will be visiting old friends Anders and Roland at SLU to talk landscape laboratory. Of course, most of our visit and talks will take place in the field while walking the laboratory – the most wonderful meeting fascilities around!

Our goal is to further qualify the design and planning of the Aarhus Landscape Laboratory, but if we are lucky we will be able to bring home some of their magnificent 2013 laboratory honey:

Honey Bees at SLU

Spring exhibition in Aarhus

During all of May and June 2014 I will be exhibiting a selection of photographs as well as sound and video installations at the Aarhus School of Architecture.

The exhibited works will be selected from some of the series and projects I have been working on in 2013. To coincide with the exhibition a few of the works will be published by Antipyrine in an ARKIPELAGET double publication together with an essay by me on landscape photography.

I will serve local tapas and beer during the reception in May (to be announced). I hope to see you there!