The Adaptation of Alleyways Part 2: Copenhagen/Around the Bend

One week into my four week trek across Scandinavia, and I am already buying into the hoopla. People in Copenhagen are as kind as Iowans, as cultured as Parisians, and as bicycle savvy as Amsterdammers. Many people refer to the people here as the happiest on Earth, and it is not hard to recognize why....they have INCREDIBLE alleyways.

In an attempt to avoid chronicling every single square inch of this beautiful city, I will be speaking about a single alleyway example. This example is Strædet in central Copenhagen 

Strædet is a multi-use passage where there is something new around every bend.

Strædet is a multi-use passage where there is something new around every bend.

What Makes Strædet a Good Alleyway Example?

1. Multiple Uses: It is never difficult to understand what makes an underutilized alleyway. Generally it has not been designed with the intent of use. It sounds simple, but providing an obvious program that also allows for flexibility must be first and foremost; Strædet does exactly this. 

2. Scale: Much like the rest of Copenhagen, the width of the street corresponds very favorably to that of the building heights. With a total width equaling approximately 25' with building heights sitting somewhere between 40' - 50'. This makes for comfortable travel for pedestrians and cyclists, while making travel for vehicles fairly difficult. 

3. Paving Differentiation: One thing that I found remarkable about Copenhagen is that 90% (rough estimation) of the city's sidewalks were of the same paving pattern shown below. 

The rustic paving pattern on the right is found virtually everywhere in Copenhagen. 

This paving differentiates between where people walk versus where people bike and drive. The roadway paving seen above is also different than the normal roadway paving throughout town, providing vehicles an understanding that they must drive differently here. 

4. Alleyway Cavities: Many people's first thought when it comes to alleyways is "garbage" or "service." These are entirely warranted, and are exactly why we must improve our alleyway culture. But, with such a beautiful and functioning alleyway like Strædet, where does the service occur? There are alleyways within alleyways. Small passages that lead to service courtyards within a block of buildings. I think of them best as "cavities." This strategy was newest one to me, and I think that it is genius. Service is still provided through the main alleyway, but you do not see it due to these "cavities." 

An alleyway "cavity."

5. Details & Life: The last, and arguably most important piece of the alleyway puzzle is the details as well as people who inhabit the space. These details are made for a more enjoyable environment for people. From small white pavers displaying parking spots to cafe awnings/seating, this place was thought out thoroughly. 

Integrated paving patterns display where vehicles ought to park. 

Though Strædet alleyway is a well designed place, there was no word that it had adapted from anything else previously. I figured that it would be a shame not to include an alleyway who's history did include some adaptation. Magstræd is one of the more famous alleyways in town as it was once known  as "Shit Alley" because it used to be ground zero for where much of the city's sewage was sorted through. It is now a quaint alleyway for visitors and locals alike to use and admire.

Magstræd Alley 

News and Notes

  • Copenhagen as a whole has been more incredible than I could have imagined. The happiness is immense, the graciousness is consistent, and the sights are endless. I have described this place with many as utopian in a sense. 
  • I went to the Danish Architecture Centre for an exhibit on Snøhetta, a multi-disciplinary design practice based in Oslo. The exhibit centered around their design process....I was impressed. Their work struck me as particularly open, unorthodox, but extremely effective. Their work ranges from that of the famous Oslo Opera House, to the remarkably beautiful Norwegian currency. The term Snøhetta derives from a mountain that stood next to their original office, and signified a place where nobody lives, yet everyone owns. Fantastic stuff.  
  • Tomorrow I depart for Stockholm, and I have high hopes. I am having a difficult time believing it will exceed Copenhagen though. This place is remarkable. 
  • I am currently listening to....Asteroids Galaxy Tour. I have decided to find a band from each country that I am staying, and Asteroids Galaxy Tour is one of the most famous Danish bands. This tune just fit the description all too well.