Verdensmålene synes ikke at give os bedre byer (The Sustainable Development Goals don’t seem to give us better cities)
Opinion piece in Politiken Byrum 23.06.2020.
An experiment like the self-organized, floating housing community, the Harbour of Peace, is a better guide to a sustainable transition than so many goals and strategies.
Fredens Havn er et fristed som bør bevares (The Harbour of Peace is a sanctuary to be preserved)
Opinion piece in Magasinet KBH 12.06.2020.
Instead of suppressing what is different we should be tolerant and let people live the way they want to.
Fortællingen om grønne bydele er falsk (The story of green developments is false)
Opinion piece in Politiken Byrum 24.01.2020.
Only by allowing people direct influence on urban development may we create truely sustainable and socially inclusive cities.
Socialdemokratiets boligpolitik bliver partiets undergang i hovedstaden (The Social Democratic Party’s housing policy is causing the party’s downfall in the capital)
Opinion piece in Altinget 28.10.2019.
The development of centrally located neoliberal neighborhoods is based on speculation in the real estate market, unlike the cities on the outskirts, where the developmemnt is controled by public housing companies. In both cases, however, the layout is characterized by a lack of imagination and lack of opportunities for the residents’ own imagination to unfold.
Structural and spatial relations
Article in Wedebrunn, O., Almegaard, H., Munck, A. (eds.) (2019). Engineering with Ole Vanggaard. Copenhagen, The Architectural Publisher B, pp. 82-87.
The structural system of a building may relate to the shape of the building – and vice versa. However, in my collaborations with Ole it is the relationship between the structural system and the spatial organization which is of interest.
Kan vi ændre levevis? / Can we change our way of living?
Feature article in Politiken 20.02.2019.
There is a need for experiments like Fredens Havn, and for many more experiments like it, that may stimulate our creative and social potentials and increase our awareness and understanding of nature and of each other.
Skal København fremover bestå af monotone øer? (Are monotonous enclaves the future of Copenhagen?)
Opinion piece in Altinget 05.02.2019.
The politicians want the development of Copenhagen to include seven new islands for industry, a new island for housing and a car-free inner city that will probably become an “island” for tourists and shoppers. But the functional zoning of the city is an outdated and destructive approach.
Ban cars in cities
Essay in Alog 28.02.18.
Do you know the feeling? You’re stuck in traffic and you can literally feel your blood pressure going up as you become increasingly frustrated with the time that is being lost because of all those morons who are blocking the way ahead. You may also begin to wonder what all those gasses and fine particles of soot, which are being emitted from all those idle engines in front, are doing to your health. And, if you’re less of a narcissist, you may begin to take pity on the poor cyclist who is being bullied by the big SUV or on the woman with her bags and children who is unable to cross the road.
A new voice in urban politics
Interview with Ashwin Mahesh in India: the Urban Transition (2014).
Ashwin Mahesh is a scientist who turned environmental activist, development worker and technology entrepreneur before becoming a leading candidate for a newly formed national political party, the Lok Satta, contesting from the city of Bangalore. In this interview he discusses problems of urban management in India today and proposes public participation and community building as means to solve the problems.
Running out of water-in India
Paper in India: the Urban Transition (2014).
While “the green revolution” certainly helped prevent famine, the introduction – in India during the late 1960s – of chemical pesticides and fertilizers, water-intensive crops and groundwater irrigation has contributed significantly to the pollution and depletion of water and also to population growth, which, in combination, have reduced the amount of available water per person by more than 2/3, causing water stress today and possible scarcity within the next few decades. So far, most of the population growth has taken place in rural areas. But from now on, almost all of the growth is expected to take place in urban areas. The future water situation in India, therefore, will increasingly be determined by the capability of its cities to conserve and recycle water.
Making India slum-free
Paper in India: the Urban Transition (2014).
This paper examines the uncertainty of the numbers related to slums in India, the promises that are being made and the programs that are being initiated to eradicate slums. And it examines the failure of these promises and programs: a failure that is not only depriving poor rural migrants of the chance to improve their lives by moving to cities but is also depriving society of these people’s productivity.
The slum dweller
Article in Alog 24.06.2013 and in India: the Urban Transition (2014).
Pawan is 26; he’s a good-looking guy, with a charming smile and eyes that inspire confidence. Furthermore, he holds a university degree in geography and is working for the High Court of Haryana and Punjab as a clerk. It’s only a temporary job but he is also taking classes in the evening to pass the examination to qualify for taking on a higher and steadier position with the government.
Alternatives to the automobile in the Indian city
Commentary in Economic & Political Weekly, no. 47, 2013 and in India: the Urban Transition (2014). Modified versions published in Alog 02.04.2013 (“Car-free campus in Bangalore”) and Alog 09.04.2013 (“Car-free sector in Chandigarh”), The Global Urbanist 02.04.2013 (“Trialling the future of urban transit …”) and The Global Urbanist 09.04.2013 (“Taking the car out of Corbusier …”) and World Streets 17.12.2013 (“A car-free sector in the middle of Le Corbusier’s city”).
For the past century, the automobile has captured the imagination of people around the globe and for many, it still constitutes the ultimate symbol of having achieved middle-class status. According to a rapidly-growing number of academic studies, however, the automobile may have detrimental effects on human health and life quality, especially in cities, where the concentration of automobiles contributes significantly to pollution, environmental degradation, social isolation, stress and physical inactivity.
The horrendous costs of motorized transportation in (Indian) cities
Paper in India: the Urban Transition (2014). Modified versions published in The Global Urbanist 26.03.2013 and World Streets 30.03.2013.
“Every once in a while an article pops in over the transom, as happened this morning, that provides us with a good, independent checklist of the woes and, if not the solutions, at least the directions in which solutions might usefully be sought to our transportation related tribulations. And this carefully crafted piece by Danish architect Henrik Valeur is a good case in point. His independent out of the box perspective leads him to making comments, links and pointing out relationships which take him well beyond the usual transportation purview. And if his immediate source of comment in this article is the awful, the quite unnecesssary situation on the streets of India, the points he makes have universal application. Healthy stuff for planners and policy makers” Eric Britton, Editor, World Streets, 2013.
Bangalore – the urban schism
Travel essay in Alog 04.03.2013 and in India: the Urban Transition (2014).
By the beginning of the 21st century, Bangalore had emerged as a global hub for software development, production and services, with most of the world’s leading IT companies being located there and two of the leading Indian IT companies being headquartered there.
Grow your own food!
Article with Arshinder Kaur in Economic & Political Weekly, no. 24, 2012 and in India: the Urban Transition (2014).
Growing your own food in the city is becoming a global trend: from growing vegetables in recycled plastic bottles in a loft in New York City or in a slum dwelling in Manila to community kitchen gardens in a posh neighborhood in London or in a favela in Sao Paulo, people are experimenting with different ways of becoming self-sufficient with food in urban settings.
Hvad har vi lært af Chandigarh? (What has Chandigarh taught us?)
Article in Byplan, no. 1, 2012.
I had been invited to Chandigarh in October 2010 to give the Le Corbusier Memorial Lecture and conduct a three-days workshop at Chandigarh College of Architecture, but ended up staying for half a year to work with the city architect, Sumit Kaur, and a group of students from the college, on a new master plan for the city.
If the intention is to create a better world / Hvis meningen er, at skabe en bedre verden
When we (Danes) want to describe the results of the development assistance we provide, we call it “The World’s Best News”. Several independent observers believe, however, that the last fifty years of Western development assistance has largely been wasted and that in many places the “assistance” has impeded rather than assisted development. A reality check is needed!
Chandigarh – an Indian Adventure / Chandigarh – et indisk eventyr
Travel essay in Journal of Architecture (India), no. 2, 2012, Alog 19.02.2012 and in India: the Urban Transition (2014).
After more than 300 years of British colonization, the inclusive and contradictory India was no longer capable of holding herself together. At independence in 1947, India split into two, and subsequently three, independent nations. Thus the capital of Punjab, Lahore, came to be located in Pakistan, while the Indian part of Punjab came to lack a capital. The first Indian Prime Minister, Jawaharlal Nehru, therefore decided to build a new one.
Shanghai – the Hyper-modern City
Article in Alog 01.07.2012.
In an essay from 1863, “Le peintre de la vie moderne” (“The painter of modern life”), the French poet and art critic Charles Baudelaire, defined modernity as “the transitory, the fugitive, the contingent” which characterizes the present, in contrast to the eternal and immutable.
The Godfather of the Hyper-modern City
Short story in Alog 30.06.2012.
“I apologize”. Chen breathe. “I apologize to the party, the people and my family”. He sits down. A broken man who has lost everything. The last two years he has spent in prison in Beijing and under house arrest in a distant province. It is spring 2008 and he is now sitting in a courtroom in Tianjin, waiting for his verdict. He risks the death penalty.
Bedre byer-bedre liv (Better City-Better Life)
Review in Arkitekten, no. 7, 2010.
The theme of World Expo 2010 in Shanghai is Better City – Better Life. The challenge is not only to improve the living conditions for half of humanity who already live in cities, but also to give hundred of thousands of people who move to cities every day a change for a better life.
Verdens fattige flytter til byen / The Poor are Moving to Town
Feature article in Information 21.06.2010 and Alog 12.03.2012.
According to the UN, the world will be populated with two billion more people within the next twenty to thirty years, almost all of whom will inhabit cities in the developing world. Building cities for nearly 100 million additional people every year over the next twenty to thirty years is a challenge, but also an opportunity of enormous dimensions. Depending on how it is done, it could either become one of humanity’s greatest successes or one of our worst failures.
Er tættere byer mere bæredygtige? (Are Dense Cities More Sustainable?)
Essay in Arkitekten, no. 12, 2009.
If urban densification has to make sense it must be made more attractive to live in cities. To achieve this, planning and design processes must be made more open and inclusive. In a Danish context the challenge is also to make existing suburbs more sustainable, because this is where most people live even if the density is actually very low.
Byerne og klimaet (The Cities and the Climate)
Article in TEGN, no. 2, 2009.
It is obviously important to develop new solutions, but it is also important that these solutions are affordable for ordinary people. Thus it is not only a matter of inventing new solutions but also of reinventing existing ones.
The 20th century marked a quantum leap in human evolution: the transition from rural to urban life. Resulting in enormous – and enormously disparate – increases in material welfare.
Visionen om den sociale by er global (The Social City – A Global Vision)
Article in Danish Architecture Centre (news), 2008.
Cities have always attracted new ideas, thoughts and dreams. The difference is that the new now comes from anywhere. And that it comes faster, much faster!
Sustainable Urban Development
Comments to the IFHP Ranko Radovic Student Competition in Futures of Cities, pp. 228-235 (2008).
Sustainable urban development is not only about environmental issues. It is also about job creation, social stability, education, healthcare, life-styles and other factors that are determinant for the long-term success of the development.
Lost in Transition
Presentation at the 51st IFHP World Congress in Copenhagen, 2007 in Alog 24.02.2012.
Today, the real driver of economic development in China is the speculative investments in capital and real estate markets. These massive – if somehow intangible – investments are accompanied by huge public spending on urban and infrastructural projects. Together they lead to the explosive growth of service industries and the build-up of entirely new industries, which in turn lead to individual prosperity and dramatic improvements of the living conditions for some 20 million urban immigrants each year.
Thesis with Karin Lindgren for the Xi’an International Conference of Architecture and Technology, 2006.
There is, beyond any doubt, much to be learned about sustainable urban development from the traditional Chinese city model, but it remains unclear whether this model, which was developed for a relative static society, can be adapted to a global market economy, individulized lifestyles and massive urban migration. The modernist Western model may be better suited for this, but it is far from a perfect solution. Urban development based on mono-functional zoning necessitates vast areas of land and extensive transportation. Because the individual zones are only active at periods of time, this results in an excess of energy production and underused infrastructure.
CO-EVOLUTION: Curator’s Statement
Introduction to CO-EVOLUTION: Danish/Chinese Collaboration on Sustainable Urban Development in China, pp. 10-15 (2006).
CO-EVOLUTION has primarily been a learning process. One of the things we have learned is that there is no simple or single answer to the question of “how to improve people’s living conditions without exhausting the very resources needed to sustain a better life?”. But that there is an almost infinite number of possible solutions.
Abstracts with Fredrik Fritzson for a poster, a seminar and a video at the XXIInd World Architecture Congress in Istanbul, 2005.
According to the UN, 3/4 of the population of the industrialized world live in cities, but these are not necessarily cities in the traditional sense. People may choose to live in rural settings, while still having direct access to most urban facilities. The urban region includes not only the city and its suburbs, but also the provincial towns, the rural districts and the nature reserves. In fact, it has no clear external borders. Instead it has plenty of internal ones.
The Perfect Plan
Introduction with Claus Peder Pedersen to A New Future for Planning, pp. 1-7 (2005).
Maybe the planning of the 21st century does not (only) have to be about regulations and restrictions. Maybe the loss of power of the traditional planner isn’t such a bad thing after all. Maybe it is the beginning of a new future for planning.
Bedre byrum i Roskilde – 5 dages debat om byudvikling (Better urban spaces in Roskilde – 5 days debate on urban development)
Article with Jan Bille in Stads- og havneingeniøren no. 2, 2003, pp. 41-43.
“Citizens want more information about and influence on decisions regarding the planning of their surroundings. How can we make use of this engagement to make better plans for all? Currently, the many diverse interests usually manifest themselves through conflicts, which only allow for consensus driven planning towards the lowest common denominator.”
While hundreds of homeless people live in cardboard homes on the sidewalks of Skid Row, others pay hundreds of dollars for a new shirt from one of the exclusive fashion shops along Rodeo Drive. With its composition of 3rd world slum areas and the most extravagant luxury of the western world, Jewish business districts and Muslim mosques, black ghettos and Hispanic barrios, hippie cultures and fanatical sects, LA is not only one of the world’s most heterogeneous regions, it is as such one of the most radical democratic experiments yet to be seen.
Looking at film footage and development schemes documenting the suburbanization around Copenhagen during the late 60’s and early 70’s, it is striking to see how directly principles of temporal organization were transformed into principles of physical organization.
Short story in ’99, p. 16 (1999).
I am sitting in a house in the suburbs talking to a woman who has asked me to design a house for her somewhere else in suburbia. She is quite ordinary and the job seems straightforward. But I quickly realize that I cannot decide about her everyday life and that she would never live the way I had in mind. I also realize there are no authorities I can turn to for advice on how this house should be designed – least of all her, because she is never the same.
20th century urbanization was not about people moving into cities but about cities moving out to the people!
Den Nye By (The New City)
The suburb is arguably the most convincing expression of modern reality. Here you meet modern-day versions of Baudelaire’s “le flaneur” and patients who just got up from Freud’s couch; you see Warhol’s and Magritte’s paintings paint themselves; and you listen to Schönberg’s compositions accompany Jim Morrison’s voice. The cognitive influence of the moving picture becomes evident and some of physic’s abstract theories become overwhelming concrete.
Hr O (Mr O)
Short story, 1996.
Mr. O has a shareholding in the firm A/S. He has never shown up for an annual meeting. Honestly speaking it would also be a waste of time, because it is not a forum where O, in spite of his modest holding of B-shares, would be heard. Nor does he for that matter have anything to say, because just as no one in the firm Inc. knows the person O, his own knowledge of the firm and its activities is in the same way rather peripheral.