A few days ago I carried out my fifth river walk – the 50km Aarhus River Walk together with my walking compatriot Thomas Juel Clemmensen. For a full fourteen hours we walked in and along the banks of the Aarhus River. From Astrup Mose through the undulating river landscape of farmland, forests, villages and hills into the Aarhus River Valley where the river runs into the Bay of Aarhus close to my office at the Aarhus School of Architecture.
The river was one of the main reasons for me participating in the 50th IFLA conference in New Zealand in 2013.
As our planned walk along Skjern River has been postponed to the spring of 2016 the Aarhus River Walk was a fitting sequal to our first river walk in May 2013, where we carried out the Aire Walk together along the banks of the Aire River from its springs in the mountains of France across the national border into Switzerland to where the river disappears underneath the city of Geneva.
During the final stretch of our Aarhus River Walk, walking a pitch black September night, we passed by silently what was once the minor site of one of the major gardens in 20th century Danish landscape architecture: Sven’s Garden on the northern slopes of the river valley.
From 1965 to 1980 Sven Hansen was Professor in Landscape Architecture at the Aarhus School of Architecture. In 1948 he co-founded IFLA. His garden beautifully exemplified how certain landscape architects in Aarhus have related their work to the city’s overarching narrative of water, topography and territory.
A narrative we are now continuing through the establishment of the Aarhus Landscape Laboratory placed in the valley of Dead Creek on the southern banks of the river directly opposite Svens garden. A garden that was closely linked to the territory we traversed on our walk.
So, to some extent our Aarhus River Walk was also a walk through time and Sven’s Garden…
LAND-SHAPE is a large land art initiative in Northen Jutland under the Cultural Agreement for the region. I recently participated in the jury of the first Open Call to select 10 winning projects to be realised in the region during 2015 and the coming years.
For an intense period of screening and selecting I was in the highly inspirational company of a handful of passionate and creative people:
The jury of LAND-SHAPE has found 10 excellent land art pieces of great variation to be realized in North Jutland within the next 2 ½ years! We have recieved 171 proposals in all from 34 countries from all the world. The level of the proposals has been very high and our 5 censors: Ben Tufnell (GB), Wolfgang Buntrock (DE), Charlotte Bagger Brandt (DK), Trine Rytter Andersen (DK) and Stefan Darlan Boris (DK), have spent a great effort to finally selecting the 10 winners. We now have a wide range of different types of land art project that we plan to realize in North Jutland!
The winners can be seen on LAND-SHAPES website and in different locations in Northern Jutland over the coming period. Also, some will take place during the first LAND-SHAPE 2015 Festival in and around Hanstholm in the first week of June!
I am a river walker.
For a full day in October I have been following the water of Hansted Creek through the tunnel valley of Store Hansted – shaped over millenia by ice and water – to where it runs into the estuary of Nørrestrand and Horsens Fjord a few hundred meters from where I live.
It is my fourth walk following the water of creeks and rivers. The Aire Walk along the moving garden of the Aire River in Geneva being the first – with more walks in urban watersheds to come in the future.
Hansted Creek does not only run through a major part of my everyday landscape being the rolling hills north and west of Horsens placed as it is south east of Gudenåen where I grew up. It also runs through Egebjerg Meadows, which was one of the last wetland areas to be drained through state funding in Denmark and – coincidentally – one of the first areas to be restored in the late 1990es.
From Egebjerg Meadows and onwards to the bird sancturary of Nørrestrand the creek runs through old seabed making my walk – once again – a walk through time.
I am a river walker.
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.
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.
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.
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.
In the spring of 2014 I am co-running an assignment for 150 bachelorstudents.
The assignment will take place in the Aarhus River Valley and to some extent build upon my article The Chocolate River and Gardens of Change, which I wrote in 2012 for the IFLA World Congress in Auckland, New Zealand.
As part of the assignment all 150 students will be asked to use walking as an integrated method in relation to their design work. This in order for the students to experience the valley of the Aarhus River as a three-dimensional map of the site’s territorial substrate addressed not to the bird’s eye view, but to the thinking body of the walker; engaged in the breadth and depth of the river territory. Donald Schön in his book The Reflective Practicioner describes a similar approach as a reflection in practice, a thinking with ones feet (Schön, 1983).
The intention was for the students not necessarily to find their way but to get lost; to loose themselves in the changing landscape of the Aarhus River Valley and in the process discover something they did not aim to discover before setting out on their 150 walks.
In the evening of December 18th I will give a public lecture at KU Leuven in Belgium on the practice of landscape laboratories.
My focus in the lecture will be the relationship between forests and gardens (the ur-form of the Nordic Garden in essence being a stylised clearing in the forest) and the concept of landscape laboratories. Also, I will briefly present the ongoing work of establishing the Aarhus Landscape Laboratory, which I am working on together with PhD student, good friend and colleague Martin Odgaard in close collaboration with the municipality of Aarhus and the Danish Nature Agency.
The lecture is part of the international lecture series MaHS MaUSP 2013 organised by the Department of Architecture at KU Leuven.
I have just returned home from travels in Estonia and Finland, crossing the Baltic Sea from Tallinn to Helsinki in good company and early morning sunligt. I had the mindboggling experience to visit former Soviet military sites from the Cold War period again after my first journey through the Baltic countries in 2009. During my travels to Estonia and Finland I managed to complete the first part of a photography essay on Cold War Sites in the Baltic Sea Region. The second and third part will be done in Denmark in December 2013 and Latvia and Lithuania in May 2014.
One of the most intruiging sites in Estonia is a regional one: Sillamae and its surrounding landscapes. During the Cold War period Sillamae was processing uranium, which was extracted from the surrounding landscapes. Today large scale oil shale mining is carried out around the city along the northern coast of the country towards Kohtla west of Sillamae. The result is a regional landscape of large scale open pit mining, afforestation and waste deposits.
I look very much forward to visit the cold war fort of Langeland in December and cold war sites of Latvia and Lithuania in the spring of 2014.