christiania, glass house, august 2007

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    please view large for texture and details.

    august '07: christiania, copenhagen's autonomous favela, has just been given a new lease of life by the Danish government. no buildings will be torn down in the next year while negotiations on future developments continue. the fine examples of a modern "architecture without architects" like this glass house are safe for now.

    but christiania's troubles are many and cannot be reduced to the hostile attitude held by our right wing government. what was initially a squatters' community has become a permanent settlement. it has been called a flawed experiment but the truth of the matter is that the experiment is over and has been for many years.

    the rich cultural life that sent out subversive theatre groups into the 'real' world is long gone. the brilliant santa army happening of 1974 when large numbers of fake santas doled out goods from the shelves to christmas shoppers in copenhagen department stores would make little sense today: christiania is every bit as comfortably materialistic as the rest of denmark...the inhabitants' parked cars line the borders of this self-proclamed pedestrian community and hypocracy is rife. any criticism today would need to be self-criticism, never a real strength of the activist left.

    to many, the final straw has been the ruthless exploitation of christiania's naively liberal marijuana politics by drug dealers. threats and violence form the worst chapter in this, the decline and fall of copenhagen's hippies, and a poignant reminder as to why the rest of the world chooses the rule of law above utopian anarchy.

    but if the loss of ideals is felt so keenly here, it is only because those ideals had promise and beauty in the first place. in the words of architectural sage steen eiler rasmussen, in his 1976 defense of christiania:

    "understood correctly, christiania may become an important corrective to a consolidated consumer society run amok. if it didn't exist, we would have to invent it".

    as a corrective, the place doesn't exist anymore and we may need to reinvent it.

    till then, we have the houses.

    le corbusier famously claimed that all architecture could communicate was ideas. and the original ideas of christiania are well put by the best buildings out there: an open community of equals; a deep distrust, no, dismissal of authorities - including architects; a deep trust in the creative potential of ordinary people when left to govern their own lives. modesty. individualism. sustainability.

    today, there is a strong political will to tear the houses down. they are illegal, follow no building code, have no permits. the old copenhagen defense line on which they are situated must be cleared to protect the city's cultural heritage.

    but these buildings are cultural heritage too. and while the 20th century has left us all with a distrust of utopian and idealist thinking, tearing them down will be acting in a dangerous denial of history.

    all my photos of the glass house.
    more words, yada, yada, yada.

    this photo was uploaded with a CC license and may be used free of charge and in any way you see fit.
    if possible, please name photographer "SEIER+SEIER".
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    wowo72, Hagen Stier, cold bright day, and 472 other people added this photo to their favorites.

    View 20 more comments

    1. seier+seier 50 months ago | reply

      ben, I like that you think :)

    2. Moxette 49 months ago | reply

      This is wonderful. I'm in the UK but remember hearing about Christiana back in the 1970s. I had no idea it was still in existence in any form. I worked in a bookshop at the time and we had a large format booklet in the shop about it. I didn't buy one at the time and afterwards regretted it as they all disappeared pretty quickly.

      Robert, is your film likely to be shown in the UK? I should love to see it.

    3. seier+seier 49 months ago | reply

      there is a fine book out now, christiania interiors

      www.saxo.com/popupimage.asp?itemid=801163

    4. Moxette 49 months ago | reply

      That looks great. I shall check it out. Thank you :)

    5. Moxette 49 months ago | reply

      Hmm.. one used copy on Amazon - £135. I will see if my library has access to one.

    6. seier+seier 49 months ago | reply

      :)

      there is a second edition out now, so the price should drop to about £ 25 very soon

    7. Moxette 49 months ago | reply

      Oh good. I shall keep an eye out, thanks!

    8. seier+seier 49 months ago | reply

      you are welcome :)

    9. This is Robert 49 months ago | reply

      Moxette, I just saw your question - I haven't been on here for awhile. I would love for the film to show in the UK, but there aren't firm plans for that just yet. We hope to finish the film by the end of this year. I'm anticipating that it will eventually be available via online streaming for rental or purchase. You can keep tabs on what's happening at www.busno8.com

    10. This is Robert 49 months ago | reply

      The Christiania Interiors book is great, BTW. We have the first edition (well, my ex has it) Beautiful photographs.

    11. Moxette 49 months ago | reply

      Robert - many thanks. I'll keep an eye out.

    12. Graeme's Pixs 43 months ago | reply

      great story, thanks

    13. seier+seier 43 months ago | reply

      thanks.

      I just found and scanned these great images from another alternative commune, this one in holland. it is a demonstration against a threat to develop the area commercially. maybe they show some of what is lacking in christiania today:

      seierplusseier.tumblr.com/post/1267981228/if-you-thought-...
      seierplusseier.tumblr.com/post/1274543346/the-tower-of-ba...

    14. Maria Uldahl 42 months ago | reply

      I love this place!

    15. seier+seier 41 months ago | reply

      does it really say "young today, rich tomorrow"?
      makes me sad.

    16. seier+seier 34 months ago | reply

      good news from christiania: the Danish state and the freetown have agreed on the sale of christiania to its inhabitants. the area will be collectively owned to safeguard it from speculation.

    17. Moxette 34 months ago | reply

      Yes, indeed. Great news!

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