On an early morning on the brink of 2014 I had a quiet and solitary bike ride on one of my favourite trails. In a forest muted by an almost glowing fog.
As I rode alone in Bjerre Forest that morning I thought back on how the trail was established by passionate locals while I wrote my PhD on urban forests and landscape laboratories. Together with other trails I rode in that period, it was here, on this trail, that all the theoretical discussions and practical reflections I worked on for more than four years finally met and made sense…at least for me.
During this period my PhD turned into being not only a research document, but also, and maybe even more so, a bodily experience.
I was not only writing my PhD, I was riding it.
Certain trails became extended parts of my small office at the Aarhus School of Architecture. The trails were a mix of new ones being explored after moving to a new city and old ones I had ridden since growing up in Silkeborg in the early 1990es, where I had the largest and most diverse forests in the country right at my doorstep. Memorable places like Dronningestolen, Rybkas Corner, Frederik VII Høj, Kongestolen, Deerhunter Hill, Dobbeltdroppet, Lovisehøj, Velling Kalv, Knøsen and many others met in a blur of writing and riding.
I see this as one of the most important methodological discoveries in my own research education – if not the most important one: To always strive to make theory and practise meet through bodily experiences. By doing that I am merely building upon a long tradition within landscape architecture of using bodily movement to explore a given thought, site or situation:
In the early 1950es one of my great heroes C.Th. Sørensen spent three days walking the heaths of Kongenshus before creating one of the most important landscape architectural projects in Denmark (also seen from a trail riders perspective);
A landscape monument honouring those people who reclaimed vast areas of heathland in western and northern Jutland through among other things forest plantations, which in turn make great trail riding possible today: Blåbjerg, Kompedal, Skagen, Bordrup-Oksby and Svinkløv (Slettestrand) plantations being just one handful out of many more.
Untitled, 2013, C-Print, each photograph 100×120 cm, Ed. 1/5 + 2AP/120×150 cm, Ed. 1/2 + 1AP