Get backstage Danish architecture

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Johanne Troelsgaard Toft, Press Officer
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On 21 April, the Danish Architecture Center’s new, large exhibition Backstage opens. The exhibition focuses on key dilemmas in Danish architecture that affect us all. There is much at stake! Can we (still) afford to live in the city? How do we protect biodiversity? Is urban space mostly designed for boys? Is there room for the vulnerable homeless? Are cities equipped to deal with climate change?

The exhibition gives visitors a unique look at what happens backstage when architects and urban planners create the urban spaces and buildings that form the framework for our lives. The exhibition looks at the forces that drive development, the mistakes architects inevitably make along the way, and how we can fix them.

Backstage invites visitors to take a moment to reflect on and discuss some of these complex issues, to better understand what’s really at stake behind the scenes. And it zooms in on the individual, asking what we can do to influence our common future.

Backstage is open to visitors from April 21 through October 3, 2021. The exhi-bition is sponsored by the philanthropic association Realdania.

Join us backstage – literally

The exhibition takes the form of a fascinating theatrical stage, with different sets, scenes and stories that can be viewed independently, but which together form a whole story.

Through numerous cases, photographs, 1:1 installations, architectural models, films and interactive elements, Backstage depicts what it is that makes Danish architecture stand out, and what it means to you and me.

Visitors at the exhibition are invited to study something near and dear to us all – our homes. What’s at stake? Can we (still) afford to live in the city? How does it affect us if our home is on a ghetto list? Can a new library and cultural center change the identity of a neighborhood? Meet three residents, and hear them express in their own words what it’s like living in a housing development that has been designated a ghetto by the Danish authorities.

Visitors are guided through five sets, each of which addresses a specific topic. Here we meet award-winning Danish architectural firms and ground-breaking architects such as Jørn Utzon, Dorthe Mandrup and Bjarke Ingels, each of whom has helped rewrite the architectural rules of play.

Have a look inside

As a country in the northern hemisphere, Denmark has a proud tradition of in-corporating daylight and inflow of light into the construction of homes, schools, and public buildings, but also into the way we live. But is daylight a human right? How does daylight affect our well-being?

In the exhibition, we travel to Greenland to visit a modern correctional facility, Ny anstalt Nuuk, where the architects have incorporated daylight and nature into the architecture in a novel, humanistic approach to prison design. The aim was to create the best conditions for rehabilitating the inmates. But can prisoners be too comfortable?

You can also experience the success story of a genuine design icon, the PH lamp, which hangs in thousands of restaurants, public buildings, hotels and private homes around the world. What drove Poul Henningsen – and how did he live?

He received the key to the City of Sydney

Denmark is known for its high livability ranking. This is a concept in high demand in international contexts, one frequently refered to when branding Denmark, and one which each year gets Denmark on lists of “must-visit” places in influential media. But how do architects go about creating humanistic housing in big cities? What values go into this work?

Danish architect and urban planner Jan Gehl is relatively unknown to most Danes, yet along foreigners. Nevertheless, his work has gained tremendous international recognition and made a huge impact on the way we approach urban planning today – also outside of Denmark, where his book Life Between Buildings has been translated into 40 different languages.

In the exhibition, we get an exclusive look at Jan Gehl’s private study, hear him talk about his work in a video, explore his notebooks and discover what lies behind his fascinating studies, which have brought bike lanes to Moscow and a car-free zone to Times Square in New York.

Watch the sun set in Skagen

The visitors get to experience a large model of Solnedgangspladsen (the sun-set viewing point) in Skagen, designed by Kristine Jensen. Kick off your shoes, lie down and watch the sun set on Denmark’s northernmost point, and let your-self remember that, in the end, one of architecture’s principal aims is to bring people together.

Last, but not least, the large stairway invites you to sit and take in all the different impressions while admiring the theatrical scenography – which creates a snapshot of our shared Danish architectural story.

Fun for families

For young people and families, the Backstage exhibition offers plenty of fun activities to help us understand the city we live in. Crawl through one of the secret passages in the walls or go for a swing under the wooden roof of architectural firm COBE and Clever’s electric charging station.

Little conversation-starters have been placed around the exhibition to encourage not just children and parents, but the rest of us too, to stop for a moment and talk about the architecture around us.

In the virtual reality installation, taking inspiration from Bjarke Ingel’s creative universe, the whole family can draw their own architectural masterpieces – just like real architects. The installation also gives an intuitive understanding of space and scale, which are some of the tools that architects use.

Architecture from the perspective of art

To provide perspective on the exhibition’s overriding theme, the internationally renowned visual artist John Kørner was invited to give his take on how architecture impacts us.

In his graphic series Understanding the Impact of Architecture (2014–2020), Kørner zooms in on architecture and its influence and impact. He does not offer solutions or answers, but instead presents the issues and invites us to reflect on them. The 12 lithographs are on display in the Hall (Note: The Hall may be closed at times due to private events).




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Thank You
The Backstage exhibition was developed by the Danish Architecture Center.

Thanks go to Tinker Imagineers for their collaboration on concept development of the exhibition.

Special thanks go to Jan Gehl and Ingrid Gehl.

The exhibition is sponsored by the philanthropic association Realdania.

Thanks go to all our partners who contributed to the exhibition:
ADEPT, Almen modstand, Arkitema, Bernstorffsminde Møbelfabrik, BIG (Bjarke Ingels Group), Carlsberg, CEBRA Architecture, C.F. Møller, Cobe, Danmarks Kunstbibliotek – Tegningssamlingen, Dorte Mandrup, EFFEKT, Engelbrechts, ERIK arkitekter, Gehl Architects, Henning Larsen, JA-JA Architects, Jotun, Kaspar Astrup Schröder, Kristine Jensen, Kvadrat, Landsbyggefonden, Lendager Group, Louis Poulsen, Lundgaard & Tranberg Arkitekter, Luplau & Poulsen, Mangor & Nagel, Miljøministeriet, NORD Architects, ONV, Petersen Tegl, Praksis, Re-Plastic, RUM, Schmidt Hammer Lassen Architects, Studio Olafur Eliasson, Future of Storytelling, TREDJE NATUR, Utzon Center, Vandkunsten, Vilhelm Lauritzen Arkitekter