On looking and dog walking

tracks for a human, most dogs, labrador and beagle

I got into walking as a ‘cultural activity’ after our first dog moved in. He’s now eight and a bit, joined two years later by a little brother. Being beagles, known for their stubborn nature and equipped with the second best nose in the canine kingdom, they are not the most trainable of hounds. (My mother: don’t get a beagle – they run away). This can make walks challenging.

The writer walking the dog describes dog walking thus:

a strange activity somewhere between Romantic walking for inspiration and walking to work and leisure walking and a chore like washing up…

We have a repertoire of five walks which can be extended or reduced depending on the season (our routes on the coldest and hottest days of the year are practically identical), a beagle-scale interpretation of the 30 minute walk round the block. We have also tried beating the bound/aries, or at least as much of them as is within beagling distance, off-pavement action permitting.

While the beags keep their noses on the job I am free to make my own observations of our patch, exploring the unexpected in the local streetscape from prize winning modernist housing to a Le Corbusier style block, tracking the latest teardowns and outdoor fashions, and monitoring the state of trees. Our walks are the perfect justification for wandering into areas where a daily routine would never take us.

After growing up with dogs I had my own take on how things should be, and getting to grips with Danish dog walking habits has taken its toll. I never got the memo which said you should train your dog to ignore other dogs – round here most dog walkers would rather cross the road than exchange greetings. End result: a food chain of unsocialised dogs ranging from the French bulldog who reacts to a beagle, who himself reacts to a labrador.

It’s a different matter in parks and open spaces, where it seems that beagle owners are the only ones who pay attention to dogs on leash signs. And the few dog parks are packed with over-excited dogs getting a rare social fix – a stressful environment with a fight just waiting to happen. (Sadly, most dog parks aren’t well fenced, which makes them a no-no for beagle nr 2, a true escape artist.)

All this has a parallel in the unspontaneity of Danish social life, where encounters are planned ahead with those you know and eye contact on the street is avoided. Just the first of many lessons into Danishness learned through walking.

So we tend to walk solo on our own particular kind of drift, with the twin inspirations of John Zeaman’s Dog walks man, a unique combination of doggy memoir and psychogeography, and suggestion 15 of the Lonely Planet guide to experimental travel:

If you don’t normally walk a dog, take one for a walk and be led by what interests the dog.

In On looking Alexandra Horowitz, psychologist and animal behaviourist (plus owner of “two large, non-heeling dogs”) describes how she was inspired by walking with her dog Pumpernickel to consider how her daily journeys could be done better. In the book she undertakes 11 walks round the block with assorted experts in the way of seeing. Some lessons from her walks:

  • from her 19 month old son – the world at a different granularity, overlooking the edges or limits of an object
  • from  a typographer – the compulsion to read what was readable, to parse all visible text (it’s the same for editors, I’m thinking)
  • from a naturalist – the power of the search image, a mental image of what you seek, ignoring everything else (this explains the efficiency of how a dog finds food – and how we can spot our friends in a crowd but not find something under our noses when it deviates from the expected)

Her reaction to a walk with Fred Kent of the Project for Public Spaces presents a refreshing take on Jane Jacob’s ‘sidewalk ballet’. Alexandra is a pavement rage type: “slow-moving pedestrians clutching recent purchases and looking at the storefronts, up in the air, anywhere but where they are going…the storefronts that attract their attention are ubiquitous and cluttered – to my eye, visually messy”. For her “a surfeit of slow walkers and loiterers” is a hindrance, for Fred “it’s social; it’s kind of getting a sense of something.”

On that block of Broadway with Fred Kent, I was starkly reminded of the very simple truth that there are many ways to look at the same event.

Alexandra also revisits the territory of her earlier Inside of a dog. Most dog walks are done to allow the ‘animal’ to pee or to get exercise – just as most human walks are done to get from a to b in the quickest time possible. What about walks simply to ‘see’ the world?

Walking with Pumpernickel means seeing the world through her choices, the subjects of her attention and what she balks at or lunges towards. Walks geared to Pumpernickel’s needs:

  • into-the-wind walks – eyes closed, nose in the air, nostrils working
  • smell walks – revisiting old smells, finding new ones…walks defined by smell rather than length or destination (for humans, odours tend to be either enticing or repugnant, alluring or foul, evocative or evaded, but to a dog, smells are simply information, their world a topography wrought of odours)
  • sitting walks for the more mature – in a field with ample olfactory vistas and plenty of dogs upwind (the beags do this in the garden)
  • social walks – to interact with other dogs
  • to avoid: long blocks with no trees or lampposts

Returning alone to her walk round the block Alexandra finds herself alarmed at the limitations of ‘amateur eyes’. Her 11 companions, equipped with diverse sets of coordinates and systems of navigation, have helped her overcome the ‘selective enhancement requirement’ for paying attention, highlighting the different parts of the world we have learned to ignore or do not even know we can see.

She realises that she is missing much simply in the name of concentration (attention’s companion: inattention to everything else): “we miss the possibility of being surprised by what is hidden in plain sight right in front of us”.

From Howard Nemerov’s Walking the dog:

Two universes mosey down the street
Connected by love and a leash and nothing else.

…a pair of symbionts
Contented not to think each other’s thoughts.

foto

walk? who said walk?

Studying walking and my practice

I’m currently participating in the Walk Exchange’s Walk Studies Training Course, a six week online seminar which “takes the form of a walk that facilitates interaction with the city through the lens of critical readings and examples of artistic practice”. Now I don’t do performance or play, let alone self-identify as an artist (at best a curator/formidler), so it’s all a bit tricky. (For more on tours as performance or artwork see B_Tour’s Imagining new spaces for an urban society through artistic guided tours | full lecture.)

From my course application:

The trigger [for my interest in walking as a practice] was moving to Denmark, which for me has not proved to be a fairy tale. Key factors are the homogeneity of Danish society and what I have come to call ‘Danish scale’ – Danes do not often dare to dream.

Walking (in a city which worships the bicycle) has played a key role in coming to terms with this. Brought up in an Edinburgh suburb in a walking family with dogs as constant companions, daily walks with my two beagles, a questing breed, have led to an intimate knowledge of Hvidovre, the suburb I live in. Weekly excursions to Copenhagen, in the main the less touristed parts, are illuminating in making connections with my life experience in a range of UK urban environments. Overseas trips provide further input – maintaining a holiday methodology in Copenhagen makes it almost feel like being on holiday once a week.

After 10 years in Denmark I still feel adrift – but it’s been a rewarding process getting to know the city better.

As far as walking in Denmark and writing about it goes, it’s a very different culture. There is, however, a wave of site specific work going on over the summer, spotted first in the shape of En landsby på højkant on Amager (reviewanother | Byens NetværkReumert-salon):

My aim in undertaking the course was primarily to put a stop to going down rabbit holes and work out what my walking practice is all about, so I can move onto a more productive phase. Here’s the course process:

  1. Read the attached text and the website linked above.
  2. Look through the walking exercises submitted after last week’s walk. Pick a few to try out during your walk.
  3. Complete this week’s walk along with a few of the exercises developed last week.
  4. Create instructions for a walking exercise that reflects your walking experience. Make sure this instruction could be completed by a solo walker, or a group of walkers. Include your instructions in the comments section below.
  5. Add any reflections, thoughts, writings, photographs, ideas, etc. to your personal page.

It’s an odd thing, with the reading a very mixed bag and the requirement to create a walk and integrate others’ into the next week’s walk representing a further challenge. Plus it feels quite anonymous – compared with a MOOC it’s not very social.

Of the other participants the Edinburgh Walking Workshop, founded in January 2016, is obviously of interest. From performance corner (see founder Jeni on on walking as a creative process), where walkers can engage with the prompts/provocations in any way they like.

Looking through their work so far I enjoyed Jeni on The Esplanade and Account of a group walk to Musselburgh, plus Kay Cur’s Purposes of walking to the airport. And, just seeing the placenames (Crags, Hermiston, Oxgangs…).

I find responding to the exercises hard, but rewarding afterwards, and it’s highlighting some key issues to unpick.

Full posts to come, but for now here’s a quick overview:

  • week 1: territories in transit – a solo walk to Hvidovre’s former centre, now a transit zone (text and photos)
  • week 2: pigeon patrol – a beagle led walk in the garden to reflect on cultural approaches to nature in the city (text)
  • week 3: going for a walk – a drift through shared space and its associated obstacles (text and photos)
  • week 4: the last walk/invisible walking – a drift on Nordic taciturnity and the designing out of personal contact (text)
  • week 5: soul experiments – hitting a dead end (text)
  • week 6: walk anywhere anytime – from oppositional practices in everyday life to the articulation of cultural narratives (text and photos)

Post-course reflection: I only actually went a specific WSTC walk in week 1, which ironically featured the least creative response. In the other weeks I used the exercises as a kick-off for my own walks, with mixed success. The exercises helped create a focus, however my issues with walking art remain. See Debbie Kent:

Does there really have to be a big gap between walking art participant and someone who takes a country walk to look at the landscape or who goes on a tour to learn about the history of a place?

She suggests that “the artist’s walk might tend to have the intention of affecting the participant or the audience in some way, whether by involving them in an unusual activity or shifting the way they perceive and process the world”, but is this specific to walking art?

 

#CAFx2016: Copenhagen Architecture Festival

Copenhagen may not have a decent open house event but it does have probably the world’s biggest architecture-cum-film festival, on its third run-out this year (see post re 2014 and 2015). The Copenhagen Architecture Festival (aka CAFx; Twitter | Facebook | Instagram), took place from 10-20 March, still dominated by film but accompanied by debates, walks etc in 12 themes at more than 30 venues, with presences also in Aarhus (AAFx) and Aalborg (ALAFx).

Of the themes, Københavns Forvandlinger stuck out as by far the biggest – subdivide, guys! The most eye-catching events were sold out when I looked, but at least there was some hand-wringing around gentrificationCopenhagen vs the rest of Denmark also looked on point.

Providing further food for thought was Det urealiserede København, showcasing the 1960s proposal for a motorway round the Lakes, which has a certain perverse appeal in the face of the bucolic set of potential projects generally rolled out. 2015’s six best, which you could visit on a guided bike tour, included Cykelslangen, which surely opened in 2014 (and still makes me want to poke someone in the eye). But it’s not all about Copenhagenized and Copenhagen Dreaming – two housing projects, Brygge Blomsten and Sundholm Syd, were also recognised.

Film i s-toget meant that instead of TV 2 News the screens in the trains showed historical film clips, if only after midnight and at the weekend. More multi-media in the shape of three new audio walks, with one on (inevitably) Vesterbro bag facadenLyt til København offers short recordings made at random spots, while Ghettoblaster from young folk in Nørrebro probably does what it says on the tin. Part of a Lyd og rum theme, there was also a workshop on Havenlyd og byrum, the sounds of the lost harbour.

In the handful of place-centred events, an exhibition looked at DSB Byen, the area behind the central station, which we nosed about back in August 2014. The creative classes have now moved in, with a three part event from AMPD (Facebook), themselves based on Otto Busses Vej. Here’s the latest wheeze for the some of the area, involving IKEA and green roofs.

The Brønshøj council estate of Tingbjerg, designed by Steen Eiler Rasmussen in the 1950s, surely merited its own theme, like Aarhus’ Gellerup – so will get its own post shortly here.

Website critique: it’s very blue, and I wish things wouldn’t slide up and down when you hover over them. Then there’s a Mine Favoritter section, but no way of favouriting things. Would never have happened on my watch. On the plus side this year you can filter by type – see walks, including one on bikes, the gentrifying tracks of Nordre Fasanvej (involves games) and yup! Vesterbro.

Interestingly, the EN button takes you to an on-the-fly Google translation. Google as globish? As far as #some goes, it’s strictly PR in best exclamatory style! No attempts at coverage or recordings of the very interesting talks etc for those not able to attend. Instead there was Snapchat.

B_Tours 2015: Berlin and Leipzig

This year’s walking inspiration from Germany – see posts on B_Tour Berlin and Belgrade in 2014. Twitter: @b_tour_festival | Facebook.

B_Tour Berlin, now described as “a new hybrid form of public art that provide locals with a new perspective of their city and an opportunity to experience it differently”, ran from 26-28 June, with the theme of Re-placing the periphery. 

First up, B_Talk #1 around the festival theme:

The terms “center” and “periphery” are conceptual constructs denoting not only geographical but social, economic and cultural formations. Representatives of artistic and academic institutions will illustrate the challenges these conceptual constructs bear and present their approaches to creating new and thought-provoking conceptualizations of contemporary spaces. Which are their approaches to the problematization of the terms “periphery” and “center” and why is this extremely relevant to every and any city inhabitant?

Presented in cooperation with Ogino Knauss, who run a Re-centering Periphery project, working with VJing as a technique for creating open narratives and developing creative and critical ways to observe, describe and perform the city – see their work in Berlin.

Come in, Vestegnen and Udkantsdanmark!

Next, B_Talk #2 on  Touristification! New ideas for sustainable tourism:

Museum tours, “underground” or “alternative” tours and traditional sightseeing have become common day practices in most urban environments. This panel will investigate the more nuanced effects of tourism on the city. How does tourism and touristification impact spaces, people and local culture? B_Talk #2 will look at the ways in which tourism can become a more sustainable practice and what could be the role of artistic interventions in redefining and challenging touristic practices.

This is of interest due to the increasing #touristification of Copenhagen, lapped up on all sides at the moment, but fashions change. Plus is there an element of benign ‘Nordicism’ at play? I don’t identify with this fairy tale city, nor does much of the imagery reflect the two thirds of the population who don’t live in the capital (back to B_Talk #1). See too Leipzig’s Hipster Walk (below) – lovely Leipzig has now made it as far as the Guardian’s Alternative Europe series.

See this Barcelona story and Nana Rebhan’s documentary Welcome Goodbye:

15 tours in Berlin, including:

  • Eat the wall – foraging on bikes with two Danes who have MAs in Rhetoric and German studies from KU; see interview
  • Mapping stories on the Ringbahn – “during a 37.5 km journey participants are invited to share their personal memories of, and imagined fantasies about, the stops along the way; these intimate offerings will determine the route of the tour and will be collected and edited into a textual atlas of the city”; see interview
  • Plattenbautour (review) – “The ‘Plattenbau’ has a bad reputation. It is perceived as anonymous and boring. The names of individual Plattenbauten seem almost scientific – PH16, WBS70, M10, Q3A –  yet people live in them and call these strange architectural forms home. How do people turn concrete jungles into liveable spaces? What are the small scale, but crucial, techniques they use to bend the alienating into something familiar?…Boring was never so exciting.”
  • A sesnsual expedition to urban voids –  the hidden magic of linear district heating pipes, abandoned industrial landmarks and community gardens within GDR housing blocks
  • Shadow – seen this before, several times; “After a brief exchange of text messages at the beginning of the tour, the participant will find themselves setting out on an adventure in the footsteps of a stranger. At the end there will be a meeting and a surprise. Bring an open mind, curiosity and a phone.”

No B_Tour Belgrade this year, but instead we have B_Tour Leipzig in cooperation with Tanzarchiv Leipzig, from 2-12 July with the theme of movement in urban space, reflecting on current perspectives of city development and stories of public spaces in Leipzig.

13 tours, including, although pretty much all of them are inspiring:

  • Ghost Tracks: Karl-Heine-Straße – the hidden tracks of the urban space, traces left in the present by ghosts from the past and the future; the audience is led through the so called “booming districts“ of Plagwitz and Lindenau via a GPS-based audio tour
  • Kaufhaus Ury – performative installation, reconstructing the ground plans of what was once Leipzig’s biggest department store owned by a Jewish family
  • Hipster Walk – some people call Leipzig ”the better Berlin“ while others have used the terms ”Hypezig” and ”Likezig”; the walk brings a literary, ironic perspective to the notion and status of ”hype” districts and streets which no longer lie on the periphery of public awareness; available via Talk Walks
  • The Living Boundary – “The airport is the ultimate symbol of the modern world. It is an inbetween space that represents the contemporary hunger for speed and information. Kursdorf is an island of memories, nostalgia and dreams hidden behind the highway noise barrier at the edge of the Leipzig/Halle Airport.”
  • The Monday Walks – follows the Leipzig Montagsdemos of 1989 on the city Ring; audio tour, based on interviews with eyewitnesses aimed at triggering the imagination of participants about how urban spaces can be re-appropriated as public sphere, for the expression of democratic rights and as a place of political action
  • Nightwalkers – follow the traces of countless workers in the former industrial area of Lindenau
  • Phonorama – self guided tour through the Clara-Zetkin-Park, where the Sächsisch-Thüringische Industrie- und Gewerbeausstellung took place in 1897
  • Silent Walk – cross the Waldstraßen district, once the main Jewish quarter of the city

Also four B_talks, on art and activism (3 July), urban sounds and imaginary spaces (4 July), creative capital(ism) (8 July) and tracing histories of public space in Leipzig (12 July), not tweeted.

Finally, B_events in Leipzig include a workshop entitled Traces of walking: creating an imaginary sound book of Leipzig, with noTours, augmented aurality:

Jewish wildlife recording pioneer Ludwig Koch made a ‘sound book’ of Leipzig mid 1930s which was intentionally destroyed in WWII. We recreate this sound book (imaginary maps, urban interventions and site-specific soundscapes) retracing Koch’s paths through the city and his urban and natural recordings, inspired by his memoires. Participants are introduced to methods of artistic and sound walking and field recording, using noTours, a free online editor, to create their own sound walks.

Hvidovre Rådhus: a suburban town hall

Our local museum, Forstadsmuseet (the suburban museum/of – or in- the suburbs), has started a summer season of monthly walks in conjunction with Hvidovre Lokalhistoriske Selskab (local history society). The first was to, or rather round, Hvidovre town hall, indviet on 19 April 1955 by King Frederik IX and Queen Ingrid and celebrating its 60th anniversary this year:

Hvidovre kommune (council) as we know it today was created in 1901, when Valby and Vigerslev, the areas east of Harrestrup Å, joined Copenhagen (shame!), although Avedøre remained part of Glostrup until 1974.

In the early days the council met wherever it could lay its collective hat, including private homes, schools and local pubs. From 1909-24 it rented rooms at Hvidovre Torv 7, moving to an old school building at Hvidovregade 24, now Bytoften, in 1924:

This building was extended in 1931 and 1948 as the kommune’s responsibilities grew, but with the population reaching 25,000 by 1951 the decision was made to go for a new building, on pretty much open land at Hvidovrevej 278:

rådhus 1960

Hvidovre town hall in 1960 (source: Arkiv.dk/Forstadsmuseet)

The new town hall was designed by Helge Schønnemann, also responsible for a church and two schools in the area. Rather than a display of municipal pride the intention was to create a working town hall with a modest exterior. Itself now also much extended, forming a civic centre with the 1970s library and community centre next door, it will be interesting to see how this typical 1950s building will be integrated into Hvidovre’s proposed 21st century town centre.

2015-04-10 11.42.31

Hvidovre town hall, 10 April 2015

Our tour was centred around the 1950s wing at the heart of the building, with a staircase leading up the council chamber and 5th floor roof terrace:

On the first three floors are socialist realist style paintings depicting local scenes, painted by Victor Brockdorff in 1977:

Mayors through the years have not been overlooked. This is the rather devilish looking Toft, Ole Toft Sørensen (1944-58):

2015-04-09 17.32.56

The foyer outside the council chamber retains a 1950s ambience and has been used in several films:

2015-04-09 17.47.34

Inside the byrådssal (council chamber) is an impressive painting by Carlo Rosberg, entitled En kommune skabes (a council is created), featuring Hans Christian Andersen and the story of The Ugly Duckling (full story):

2015-04-09 17.38.19

The view from the roof terrace, on a sunny evening, illustrates some of the problems the kommune is up against. The surrounding area is flat and empty, all the way to Amager:

2015-04-09 18.22.35

Thanks to Anja and Dorthe for a hyggelig rundvisning!

Updates:

  • 18 April: trying to come up with British equivalents to Hvidovre I tend to use Croydon, however it’s not quite right. How about Droylsden in Greater Manchester? Here’s a blog on its 1970s town hall, the Concord Suite. I visited in the 1990s when I was working in local government, and they still look after one of my many pensions.
  • 19 April/2 May: photos from the kommune’s home page and stories from Forstadsmuseet: Hvidovres første kommunekontor | Kommunekontoret på skolen.
  • 30 November: more info added, after a second visit inside on the first Sunday of Advent, open house day! see also my Flickr album

The bridges of Copenhagen

Update, July 2016: what’s the collective noun for bridges? Scroll to the foot of this post for details of the bridges, big and small, which have opened since I wrote this post in April 2015. The big news though is the opening of Inderhavnsbroen on 7 July after over three years of delays, creating a direct connection between Nyhavn and Christianshavn. See my CPH bridges album on Flickr.

Easter, which kicked off yesterday hereabouts, heralds the start of Denmark’s bank holiday season. There’s a total of seven public holidays between now and 5 June, a good opportunity for some more challenging outings with the beags.

Copenhagen has surprisingly few bridges, with only two, Knippelsbro and Langebro, carrying motor traffic across the main stretch of water in the city centre, joined in 2006 by Bryggebroen for pedestrians and cyclists.

In December two new bridgelets opened after the usual delays, joining up some of the dots between Christianshavn and the islets (holme) created for naval or industrial purposes on Holmen itself. The half moon shaped pasty of Christianshavn, with its crenellated edges, was created from reclaimed land from the early 17th century onwards. Previously occupied by the army and navy, it was opened to public use as late as 1991.

We tend to visit Christianshavn on bank holidays, when the only people about are tourists, so it’s maybe a little unfair to criticise it for lack of buzz, however the area does have a sleepy frozen in time feel, perhaps due in part to the fact that the area was – and still is – characterised by inaccessible corners. But it’s a nice place for a wander with some well preserved warehouses and other industrial architecture, and if you stand in the right place on the vold (rampart) you can catch a half decent city vista.

The two new bridges, funded by AP Møller Fonden with the council coughing up extra due to the lengthy delays, have separate lanes for peds and bikes (one each way). Designed by French studio Dietmar Feichtinger Architectes neither is exactly a feast for the eye, but Tranggravsbroen is a pleasing amuse bouche, a three legged construction connecting Grønlandske Handels Plads, Trangravsvej and Islands Plads. Canal tour boats and smaller motor boats can pass under, and two of the legs can be raised for taller boats, as long as you put in your request four hours in advance.

tranggravsbroen

the three legs of Tranggravsbroen

The Proviantbroen bridgelet, presumably part of the deal to make a route from Christianshavn to the Opera without any form of deviation, sits parallel to Danneskiold-Samsøes Allé – previously you had to take a (not huge) detour.

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Proviantbroen – if you squint you can see the road behind in black

Oh, the beagler i byen attracted a lot of attention and behaved pretty well, all things considered.

2015-04-02 12.08.56

flags and a small beagle outside Nordatlantens Brygge

Sources: Politiken, Magasinet KBH, Byvandring.nu. You want more? Politiken (again) comes up with the interesting factoid that the original plan for a bridge from the Royal Theatre to the Opera was vetoed by Mærsk McKinney Møller, more history from Byvandring.nu, plus a piece on Islands Brygge and Bryggebroen.


Trophy bridges focused as much on show as function:

Photogenically situation across the water from the Black Diamond, the 38m long Cirkelbroen (Circle Bridge) spans the rather shorter mouth of Christianshavns Kanal in an anonymous location somewhere between Islands Brygge and Knippelsbro. Another piece of the jigsaw creating an unbroken route around the old harbour area, its role is just as much one of public space, where passers-by are encouraged to slow down or take a break (albeit without any form of seating). Rather than a conventional bridge it’s a shiplike construction with five masts, a reference to the ships which previously lay at anchor at the warehouses on the wharf, costing DK 80 million and taking three and a half years to build, due to two of the contractors going bankrupt and objections from a local resident. It is expected that around 5000 people will use the bridge every day, although how many for transit purposes and how many for recreational purposes is not known.

Other planned bridges:

  • Albert Nobels Bro – connection between Sluseholmen/Teglholmen and Enghave Brygge at Frederiksholmsløbet, eta 2018 (soft traffic) and 2023 (cars)
  • connection between Nokken and Amager Fælled
  • a key project for eager cyclists is a ‘super’ route through Christiania, facing extensive delays due to protests from the locals

Less peripherally, Mini-Langebroa new cyclist and pedestrian bridge is due alongside Langebro by 2018, where the original bridge crossed the harbour, one of those “gifts to the city” as part of Realdania’s Bryghusprojekt. You will be able to “exchange the car-filled HC Andersens Boulevard for Vester Voldgade, which buzzes with life rather than the noise of cars”, says city functionary Morten Kabell. There’s also a new light project under Langebro.

Seven walks in Valby

Copenhagen”s 10 districts, with Valby in red (Wikimedia)

Update, January 2016: see Valbyruter.dk for a mobile friendly version of the walks på dansk. A PDF is also available (although without maps). And most excitingly, a new route was announced on 22 January, a 7km grey route covering the area’s industrial sites, most of which are currently under redevelopment. Time to revisit and update Walking in Valby!

Valby (Wikipedia), one of 10 districts (map) making up the Copenhagen council area, is one of my favourite parts of the city. It’s got a no nonsense feel, unpretentious, diverse and full of undiscovered corners. It’s even got a hill, although at 31m Valby Bakke is maybe more of a hillock.

Located on the south western fringe of Copenhagen Valby has an air of isolation about it, separated from Frederiksberg to the north by a park and from Vesterbro to the east by a cemetery, with further parks to the west and south. Railway development has also left its mark, with a main line and a local line dividing the district into two with only one bridge across for buses and cars, and two more local lines creating further pockets of edgeland. Several areas of low density housing also contribute to a suburban feel.

This may however all be about to change, with the redevelopment of the Carlsberg brewery site, higher density housing under construction on a number of brownfield sites and the new Copenhagen-Ringsted railway line, due to open in 2018, cutting through the south of the district.

Valby shares a border with Hvidovre, my home council, to the west. The original village of Valby was even a part of the same parish until 1901, and the two areas are much the same size in terms of population, around 5oK. But with industrialisation starting rather earlier in Valby, and as part of Copenhagen rather than a separate council, it operates in a rather different climate.

On my walk from Frederiksberg to Valby last November I spotted a poster for ValbyRuter, a series of seven colour coded self guided walks. In December Valby Lokaludvalg (community council), announced that a new edition was being prepared, which hit the streets in January 2015.

ValbyRuter in Vigerslev branch library

ValbyRuter in Vigerslev branch library

This being a nice manageable translation project I got in touch with the council, who sent me six leaflets to scribble on. While the translation itself didn’t take too long, some added extras, not least visiting Valby’s farthest flung corners to take photos for storymaps, meant that two months elapsed, but we now have a finished product!

Walking in Valby is a 10 page GoogleDoc. As well as full details and an overview map for each walk there is a link to an interactive storymap for those not fortunate enough to live nearby.

For me the seven walks fall into two main categories, with two looking at historic Valby and four exploring some of the unique housing in mainly lesser known parts of the district, plus a final walk taking in Valby Park, Copenhagen’s biggest. Best discovery: the laundrette in Folehaven. Most surprising: old Vigerslev village, a seemingly unplanned jumble including a Bronze Age burial mound, just a stone’s throw from Hvidovre station.

Having originally planned to plot the routes on a Google map I gave this up, partly as far too fiddly without coordinates to hand, but also because step by step routes can be rather confining, making one a slave to the map rather than drifting and lingering. I don’t think my partner and I have ever managed to follow a route step by step, and not just because of uncooperative beagles.

For such a low word count the translation itself was unexpectedly tricky, starting with the issue of the byggeforeninger, small pockets of housing built around the turn of the 20th century. The literal translation is ‘building society’, but while the English equivalent may have started out in the same way, ie groups coming together to finance and build houses, today when UK building societies can barely be distinguished from banks this doesn’t work. After toying briefly with ‘housing association’, I settled on ‘cooperative building society’.

A further issue is the Danish usage of by and related, eg bydel. Can you really call a clutch of 80-odd houses, come in Den Hvide By, a ‘town’? The new Carlsberg By is being translated as ‘city district’, which doesn’t work for me, but the alternatives (quarter, area, district, neighbourhood) can be equally clunky if not chosen with care.

I like Knight Lab’s storymap service but finding photos for the areas I haven’t systematically walked was a nice illustration of the contradictions in the social/visual turn. In addition to plain old copyright there are issues around privacy and data mining – it’s easy enough to snip from Google StreetView, but should you? And do you really need to contact third parties about using their photos if they seem blithely unaware of rights issues? I have added credits on any borrowed photos on my storymaps, but it’s a rather grey area.

Sources of information on Valby’s cultural history:

Next up, Vanløse, and an update for our Five walks in Hvidovre.

Updates: Byvandring.nu is now offering walks in the area (Vestre KirkegårdValbys Hemmelige Havebyer) and three walks were offered as part of Valby Kulturdage (Valbys hemmelige haver | Valby fortællinger: 4 Sep | 5 Sep | Byvandring i det forskønnede Gammel Valby)