Christiania’s place in the world of travelling ideas : sharing informal liveability

JARVIS, Helen and AUTOGENA, Lise (2014). Christiania’s place in the world of travelling ideas : sharing informal liveability. In: Nordic Encounters : Travelling Ideas of Open Space Design and Planning at The 10th International World in Denmark Conference, 2014, Copenhagen, Denmark, 12-14 June 2014.

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The self-proclaimed ‘Freetown’ of Christiania has occupied prime real estate in the Danish capital of Copenhagen since 1971. More significantly, since the first squatter activists ‘liberated’ this abandoned military site from the Danish state, the ensuing social experiment has occupied the public imagination as a place that motivates non-capitalist subjects to reproduce intangible attributes of living well in a sustainable and caring way. In this sense, Christiania is widely perceived as the unruly offspring of the ‘liveability’ exported by Danish landscape architects (Hellström Reimer 2011).

Every year an estimated 300,000 visitors walk or cycle through the eclectic jumble of barely legible ‘neighbourhoods’ that com- prise idiosyncratic self-made homes; legal, informal and illegal businesses; and numerous community-run welfare institutions intended to cater for all income and age groups (Thörn et al., 2011). Some tourists do not see past the intimidating reputation of Europe’s biggest hash-market; others are inspired by the playful ‘shabby chic’ that thrives on a landscape stripped of com- mercial logos and formal planning intervention. If limited to these encounters, Christiania’s ‘place in the world’ might be ex- plained through orthodox ‘creative cities’ narratives that highlight a profitable paradox in ‘environments and events that are simultaneously organised and yet felt to be spontaneous’ (Ellin 2006; Pløger 2010: 849).

This paper articulates a more ambitious geography of influence by drawing explicitly on a language and theory of urban in- formality more usually associated with the so-called developing world (AlSayyad and Roy 2003). The empirical content draws attention to less familiar visitor groups and ‘emotionally charged’ network relationships exposed by taking specific account of the Christiania Research in Residence (CRIR) programme (Autogena 2014). CRIR has hosted more than 80 visitors (activists, architects, artists and academics) since 2004. The analysis explores ‘how and what’ questions concerning the people and ideas that ‘connect’ in Christiania and ‘travel’ to other groups and sites. It extends existing research by shedding light on multi-scalar micro-social processes (Jarvis 2013). Christiania’s informal liveability is embedded and emergent: it grows not only from the bottom up but also evolves in cycles of enchantment, through colliding relations with the wider world.

Item Type: Conference or Workshop Item (Paper)
Research Institute, Centre or Group - Does NOT include content added after October 2018: Cultural Communication and Computing Research Institute > Art and Design Research Centre
Depositing User: Lise Autogena
Date Deposited: 08 Jul 2014 11:12
Last Modified: 18 Mar 2021 08:45

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