The other day I visited Copenhagen, the capital of Denmark. As always it was a joyful trip and a lot of flashbacks were running in my head, mostly from the late 90’s when I lived there for three years. One day ago I visited the beautiful situated Stockholm, capital of Sweden. As always I noticed a lot of differences from my normal way of life in Lund in the southern Sweden, and from my Copenhagen visit. If you have missed the geographic lesson I can tell you that I from Lund have only 40 kilometres to Copenhagen including a natural border of water, Øresund, and 650 kilometres to Stockholm. Nevertheless, this is not the issue here.
Further on I’m not favouring any kind of “we and them”, but I just can’t stop thinking about a couple of things, such as the differences in the traffic lights system. In Copenhagen and Denmark, its green, turning yellow after one second and then turning red directly. In Sweden it’s green, then “holds” yellow for five seconds before it turns red. Driving in Sweden and getting a yellow signal means DRIVE, and in Denmark this means STOP, and remember that this behaviour runs by our reptile brain. Further on, in Stockholm and Sweden, everyone walks towards red at the crosswalks. In Copenhagen, the Danes wait for green. If someone walks towards red, you know it’s a tourist, or other kind of foreign visitor. Why this discrepancy?
Another reflection that maybe is more educing is the fact that Copenhagen is built for people and Stockholm for cars. In downtown Copenhagen the commercial buildings nearly always have flats in the uppermost levels. And it’s always a file for bicycles and pedestrians at the roads. In Stockholm, it’s often two-files roads downtown solely built for cars and other vehicle (except bicycles). Downtown Stockholm is just shops and offices, no flats at all. What is this doing to the inhabitants in Stockholm vs. Copenhagen? I mean it affects negatively for the Swedes: more stressful environment, less human artefacts and a “cold” and unfriendly atmosphere. Downtown Copenhagen is more human and more vivid. Maybe it is just an old sociology question from George Simmel discussing “the City” that rings a bell?
My humble and simple question to you designer or/and architect or/and other aesthete out there; how do we solve the inhuman impact architecture and hi-tech have on us humans? And tell us how it is in your hometown/country? Maybe there are similarities?
Over and out.