Faux olde towne

Jakriborg is a neigbourhood in Hjärup, a suburb of Lund. Whoever glances at it from the passing train might find it very old and well-preserved in its quaintness. It’s not! It’s deceiving and mischievous. It’s the trickster’s doing.

Hjarrup

It was actually built in the 90s by realtors Jakri AB as a pastiche of medieval building styles backed by modern building techniques – below these impressively high gables you can occasionally find a concrete base with underground parking. The streets were designed to mimic medieval vernacular urbanism, with curvy streets and narrow alleys but it all comes out too neatly. It’s not even local Scandinavian architecture that is pastiched, the whole thing just feels very Flemish or German.

Despite all this, the town common was nice enough to spend a few hours and have a picnic. The town is completely car-free in its inner streets and that certainly improves the quality of life for its denizens. Not a sound was heard for hours, except for a few neighbourly conversations. Doesn’t take medieval fake architecture to create nice living surroundings, but Jakriborg succeeds in that at least.

SFI

SFI, or Svenska för invandrare is the swedish language course that all communal schools for adults provide to immigrants – free of charge. If you have a swedish ID, you get to get classes. It’s not easy to get out of work two times a week to cycle to the boundaries of the city for a two-and-a-half hours of classes, but the teachers there make it feel as smooth and easy-going as possible. Plus, you get to meet people from all over the world.

Gastelyckan

In the last class of the term, a few days ago, the school invited us for a little mingling between classes, some snacks and some singing along. Typical swedish songs for the end of the school year and the beginning of the summer (Den blomster tid nu kommer, Idas sommarvisa, Oh boy!, this last one by swedish blues and reggae musician Peps Persson).

Gastelyckan

And yesterday was the final level exam day. Around 4 hours of testing of reading, listening, writing and speaking, with a lot of breaks. A long day, hopefully, with a happy ending.

Mingling with the danes

Canal in København

One place we had never been in on our previous visits to Copenhagen was The Black Diamond, the modern extension to the Royal Library of Copenhagen. As a public building, it catalyzes people’s relationship with the water, as it provides an outdoor living room under its protruding black glass volume. It was late in the afternoon, and having wandered the gigantic hallways of the library and having checked the exhibitions that were there, we were just about to call it a day and return to Lund. Outside we were approached by two friendly characters: “Are you enjoying Copenhagen? Would you like to tag along and party with us?“. “Yes” on both counts. We tagged along!

Christianshavn

Turns out we had just met the two most friendly men of Copenhagen that were on their way to meet the two most friendly women in Copenhagen. We sat on the cobblestones by the canal in Christianshavn, drinking Danish beer and getting to know our new Danish friends, waving hello to the canal tour barges.

Amager Øst

When we got hungry, we walked. We walked until we had to stop in another canal to alleviate ourselves from some beer by-product. I distinctly remember a rickshaw being involved in the affair, but that’s another story. Along the way, the beer buzz made us the best of friends. There was a grocery store, there was hurling boxes of cookies like a frisbee, there was chilli con carne and guacamole. There was good music and funny stories. And then it was midnight. Fearing our two-day ticket wouldn’t be valid for the return, we rushed to the subway, then to the train, then we were home, yet another layer of Denmark revealed.

On Utzon’s trail

Susan the hostess

Susan was the best of hosts! We discovered her house in Airbnb, it lay fifty meters from the shoreline and less than a thousand from Louisiana Museum of Modern Art. She immediately made us feel at home, she already had recommendations for our dinner – a quaint little restaurant in the Nivå harbour – booked a table, lent us bikes and we were on our way. Back home after a solid and delicious Danish burger, she offered us tea and wonderful conversation until midnight.

Humblebaek

In the morning, after a sunny breakfast that she’d left us before going to yoga, we went to visit the neighbourhood’s private jetty upon the Øresund. The sun was shining bright and the reflection on the gently wavy water turned it into a yellowish-green up close, or a blinding white far away on the horizon, where a faint silhouette of Sweden’s coastline and a less faint contour of the cliffs of the isle of Ven (Hven in Danish) could be seen.

After a short train ride to North Copenhagen and another north-westward from the city, we reached Bagsværd, a suburb of the capital chosen to become the site of a church designed by Jørn Utzon in the sixties. The design, having little resemblance with a church from the outside, had the natural light as it’s best friend and ally. It’s one of those designs where everything seems obsessively drawn by the head architect, from the free-form concrete ceilings emulating clouds in the sky, to the door plaques and the detailing of the exhibiting cases upon the hallway walls.

Bagsværd church

Benefiting from a lot of glass ceilings and being mostly built with prefabricated blocs of white concrete and white ceramic casing, we had to wander the long hallways with sunglasses on. While it is nordic and timeless in the process – almost everything seemed prefabricated! – it was international and time-framed in its layouts and free-form ceilings – reminding Le Corbusier’s Notre Dame du Haut in Ronchamp or several of Niemeyer’s works. It’s a daughter of modernism and a spearhead of Frampton’s critical’s regionalism.

Louisiana

Train to Humblebæk

After a few hours spent in the holiday-deserted streets of Helsingør, we caught the train southward to Humblebæk, an otherwise unremarkable small town on the western shore of the Øresund – using the Danish spelling here. What really puts this town on the map is Louisiana Museum of Modern Art, an outstanding building, landscape and institution in the outskirts of Copenhagen. It’s been around since the late 50s, harbouring works from all kinds of well-known artists from all around the world. The exhibitions that were there weren’t exactly my cup of tea, but I rejoiced seeing the tiny permanent Niels Wessel Bagge collection of pre-columbian art. Such objects were there to remind me of the wonders of simplicity in patterns, shapes and colours and also that humour belongs in art! Like three-dimensional caricatures The more we stared at some of the objects, the funnier they got! I love to find that in art.

Louisiana

Outside lies the true richness of Louisiana: it’s carefully designed gardens, with (litterally) tons of sculptures and peaceful viewpoints over the sea. The sun was already low so we took advantage of whatever picnic leftovers we had and called it a day on top of the natural grassy amphitheatre. But our wonderful hostess – whom we hadn’t met yet – still had something in store for us.