AARCA – research in the Anthropocene

My work at the Aarhus School of Architecture on and along the Aarhus River in both my research and teaching has led to the development of AARCA – a research based and artistically driven project in which I address the challenges and potentials confronting landscape architecture and urban planning due to the entanglement of urbanisation and anthropogenic processes.

The project utilizes the Aarhus Bay Watershed as an area of interest with a strong focus on the Aarhus River Catchment Area (AARCA) as a specific territory of urbanisation. The Aarhus River itself is 40 km in length and the catchment area is 354 km2. Apart from being the reason why Aarhus, the second largest city in Denmark, is located where it is, along the East Jutland coastline, Aros, the original name of the city, literally meaning ‘at the mouth of the river’, AARCA is also the territory in which the Aarhus School of Architecture is situated.

Read more about about AARCA here and follow AARCA develop and unfold on AARCA.DK


Aarhus River Walk

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


A River Walker

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.

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.


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.

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!

Cold War Sites

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.


Garden visits

I have been so fortunate to visit a series of beautiful gardens around the world in 2013: A river garden in Geneva (Switzerland), forest gardens in Copenhagen (Denmark), Mildam (Netherlands), and Berlin (Germany), as well as forests and agrarian gardens as far away as New Zealand.

My visits have resulted in an expanding selection of garden series, which will be exhibited in select galleries in Denmark, the Netherlands and Switzerland in 2013/2014. A selection of these will published in ARKIPELAGET, Pamflet #6 & 7 in collaboration with Edition After Hand. Also in the works is a limited edition art book on the Aire River, which will be available in 2015.