Our Urban Living Room
By Benjamin Wells
In just ten years COBE have established themselves as central players in Denmark’s contemporary design scene, as affirmed by their new exhibition Our Urban Living Room at the Danish Architecture Centre in Copenhagen. Designed as an architectural intervention in itself, the exhibition thoughtfully and creatively presents a selection of their projects in Copenhagen and across Denmark.
An expansive timber ‘bookshelf’ structure forms a series of rooms and presentation areas within the Danish Architecture Centre, with a scale model of the exhibition space providing an initial indication that this is an architectural experience as much as it is an exhibition. The intervention is intended to be another example of an ‘urban living room’ – COBE’s definition of socially engaged projects that bring everyday activities into the public realm. A selection of these projects are presented through a variety of visual medium, linked together with descriptions of COBE’s design ethos under optimistic headings such as ‘urban democracy’ and ‘social livability’.
The exhibition’s success is in its relationship to the wider city at a variety of scales. From the digital mapping of Copenhagen, which collects photographs with the tag #oururbanlivingroom to the open invitation to COBE’s office on Papirøen, there are a series of timely reminders that the exhibition is a representation of material projects. Our Urban Living Room provides a narrative to architecture that can be visited across Copenhagen, and serves as an invitation to explore and experience these projects physically.
|At COBE, we regard the city as our extended home and we strive to create buildings and spaces that invite Copenhageners to use and define them.”|
|/Dan Stubbergaard, COBE founder and artistic director|
A 1:1 metal balcony attached to the facade of the Danish Architecture Centre begins this process and provides one of the most enjoyable moments of the exhibition. The visitor, having read about the design concept and ongoing construction process behind COBE’s transformation of the old DLG silo in Nordhavnen, is invited to step out of the exhibition space and onto a replica of the balconies used in the project; a tangible architectural experience which begins to bridge the gap between representation and reality.
Through a series of individual architectural projects, the exhibition also tells a larger story of Copenhagen’s evolution from an industrial city to an ‘urban living room’ – now often claimed to be the world’s most livable city. COBE have undoubtedly been central to this transformation, as reflected in their work’s consistent focus on social collectivity, urban mobility and quality of life. Projects such as Nørreport Station and Israels Plads demonstrate these ideals, acting as examples of the crafted ‘everyday architecture’ that COBE, and indeed Copenhagen, have become recognized for.
|The better the city is designed, the more people will want to live in it and take pride in it. This is not a matter of beauty, elegance, or wealth, but a story of social livability and urban democracy.”|
|/ Dan Stubbergaard, COBE founder and artistic director|
In contrast to many of COBE’s contemporaries who work internationally, it is striking that all of the projects exhibited are in Copenhagen or nearby – it is very rare to see a young practice be so prolific in such a concentrated area. In the current landscape of globalized and exported design, it is refreshing to see an architecture studio commit to designing in the context they know, and to be so successful in doing so.
Rather than highlighting an architectural language common to all of the presented projects, Our Urban Living Room succeeds in revealing the social agenda at the core of COBE’s design process, which has enabled them to quietly produce a body of work that has been readily embraced as an integral part of Copenhagen’s urban fabric.
Collaborators: Financial support for the exhibition by Realdania and Knud Højgaards Fond. Book published by Arvinius + Orfeus with financial support by Nykredits Fond, A. P. Møller Fonden, Dreyers Fond, Danmarks Nationalbanks Jubilæumsfond and Realdania. Photography by Rasmus Hjortshøj – COAST. Graphic design by Rama Studio.
Team: Dan Stubbergaard, Eik Bjerregaard, Stine Lund Hansen, Greta Tiedje, Clara Kynne, Alexander Ejsing, Line Wej Herdel, Milan Milenkovski, Antonia Szabo, Adam Lyko, Hendrik Sell, Otto Closs, Igor Klyus, Monika Jachimowska, Evan Wakelin, Daniella N. Eskildsen, Anne-Gaëlle Elin.