The Very Best Of Odense?

The Very Best Of Odense?
Opinions | Written by: Pil Lindgreen | Translated by: Malte Joe Frid-Nielsen | Thursday, November 8, 2018

The award show celebrated Odense landmarks like H&M, Søstrene Grene and Magasin (!). Is that really the best the city has to offer? Hardly. 

Last Thursday there was a gala in Odeon's great green hall. Complete with speeches, cocktail dresses, VIP’s, and thunderous applause. And it wasn’t to celebrate the national music scene, international authors, global media or business moguls, but in honor of our very own Odense: The everyday, down-to-earth Odense with all the working people whose businesses, volunteer initiatives and cultural institutions shape this unique city.

For those who aren’t familiar with the concept or have wondered about the blue stickers that have suddenly sprouted on shop doors these last three years: Best Of Odense is an audience award created and presented by Fynske Medier, or more precisely the weekly newspaper, Ugeavisen Odense, with the stated intention of “celebrating the city’s commercial and cultural life.”

The weekly’s readers decide the outcome through popular vote, but the nominated are selected by a panel of experts in their respective fields.

On a scale from hooting local-patriot to self-hating pre-emigrant, I’m doubtless closer to the former. Not in the sense that I think my hometown is better than every other place on earth – but rather, that my city is an interesting place to live, not despite, but because of all the things that separate it from others. In other words, I’m in the target demographic for a night of Odense back-patting. So why did I go home feeling so alienated and embarrassed about the image of the city we were supposed to be honoring?

Let me start by saying that there were several lovely Odense moments spread over the course of the evening. Not the least of which was two generations of barkeeps from Carlsens Kvarter in a wrinkled wool sweater and T-shirt, respectively, who got the prize for “Best Place To Go Out-On-The-Town” and in lilting Fyn accents invited the evening’s host, Anders Breinholt from the satire show Natholdet, to record his next podcast in their establishment. There was also music by local 15-year old violin prodigy Stefan Burchardt, who blew everyone away, and Per Sahl from Havnens Loppemarked (the Harbor Fleamarket), who recited the full name of every single regular patron from the last 20 years during his thank you speech and had to be loudly played off stage to stem his tide of heartfelt anecdotes. 

Still, the thundercloud above my head grew darker and darker as the nominations ran across the big screen. Which city was it exactly that we were celebrating? Why did the presenter’s words about local pride, passionate innovators, entrepreneurs and the city’s unique environment ring so hollow?

The award show in Odeon. Not pictured: The writer’s nails as they dig furrows in her thighs. Photo: Hasse Frimodt, Ugeavisen

Was it just because my favorite places didn’t get enough awards, that I felt more and more downhearted about the trend that emerged as the night progressed? Sure, I would have clapped more enthusiastically if, for example, Kjærs Bøger, Momentum Musik, Sofar Sounds, my own workplace, Odense International Film Festival, or Restaurant ARO had won their categories, because that’s where I go and the side of the city that I cherish as my own. But even though I don’t often eat at Eydes or Umashi or Kok & Vin, or go to Zoo much, I thought they deserved their victories and determined to visit some time soon.

So what was wrong? The great embarrassment was to be found in the copious names of chain stores that appeared among the locals and totally dominated certain categories. What in the world does celebrating national and multinational franchises, which can be found on street corners in every large Danish or Northern European city, have to do with Odense’s own DNA? Could Mickey D’s at central station be “Odense’s Best” if enough people get their hangover junk food there?  

It shouldn’t be possible to end up with a “Best of Odense” where Magasin, H&M and Søstrene Grene walk home with awards, or where the evening’s culture award goes to Tinderbox, only to have their PR chief John Fogde highlight that the main office in Århus was pleased to be recognized for the third year in a row.

You can think what you want about award shows and the need to show local pride in that specific manner, but if the purpose is to honor the city’s local champions, then I simply don’t understand why you would attempt to do this by inviting the people of Odense to consider their favorite places and bring in all of the city’s commercial and cultural actors to celebrate Odense’s special characteristics, when the nominations, in addition to the aforementioned problematic winners, include franchises like Bahne (a Danish concern from 1956, specializing in gifts and handicrafts with 19 shops nationwide), Jagger (a Copenhagen fast casual concept), Café Vivaldi (a chain from Slagelse with 17 cafés in 12 Danish towns), Georg Jensen Danmark (seven flagship stores in Denmark), Weekday (a Swedish clothing chain with stores in 9 different countries), and Heidis Bier Bar (a Scandinavian after-ski chain)?


Nominated for Best Place To Go Out-On-The-Town: You can really feel you’re in Odense, now! Or Århus, Aalborg, Thisted, Copenhagen, Sønderborg, Svendborg, Oslo, Trondheim, Bergen, Kristiansand, or Helsinki. Photo: Heidis Bier Bar Oslo.

The irony was not lost on Anders Breinholt, who threw a couple of satirical jabs in this direction, and who had done his homework well enough that his own jokes about the Hunderup neighborhood and construction noise in the center of town landed more cleanly than Ugeavisen's own congratulatory speeches. 

This is where the award committee needs to reevaluate their whole concept, if they want to have anything of meaning to say about what separates this patch of dirt from any other. Otherwise, I’d suggest that they rename the award “Best Of Western Retail” and hold the gala in a conference hall close to a random airport next year.

Quality time with a bit of Odense-shopping: Photo Magasin in Rødovre

But – interjects the careful reader – this is an audience award! Ugeavisen can’t help that people love Søstrene Grene. That’s just something the people of Odense have in common with all of humanity. And they’re the ones who voted. But that is a totally flawed conclusion, because an audience award isn’t an objective statement of fact. If the question is “where have you bought the most furniture?” the answer for most Danes is probably IKEA. But that doesn’t mean that a Swedish modular cabinet is the best Danish design has to offer.

If, on the other hand, you ask which local shop you most enjoy visiting and which you would recommend to others, or where your most important cultural experiences have been recently, then Odense has thankfully become a place where there are a ton of varied answers to be found.

This Thursday’s collected Best-Of nominations are even more frustrating, since the city actually does offer a unique shopping and cultural scene, nowadays.

If the awards and nominations are to reflect the city Odense has become – and not be dominated by the habitual paths people carved during the previous century, propped up by a couple of successful imports – then Ugeavisen's central premise needs to be changed. They need to ask better questions if they want to call the resulting answers “The Best Of Odense.”

Winner in the category of “ Best Shopping For Her”: That local upstart clothes pusher, H&M. Photo: Kolding Shopping mall

To help out, I’ve got two suggestions which need to be taken into account in order to make next year’s Best Of award a meaningful recognition of Odense’s unique qualities.

  1. Only shops, groups, institutions and other actors who are founded in/have their base of operations within the geography of Odense can be considered for awards. It’s not a question of passing a citizenship test, and of course new arrivals are welcome, but the physical shop or event has to be planned, run, or organized in Odense.

Result: You avoid ending up with a list of winners that could as easily have been named in Randers, Roskilde, Næstved, or Holstebro. If that means some categories have to go, so be it. The list has to reflect the city. If we don’t have enough homegrown haberdashers to fill a list of nominees, then that points to an intriguing hole in our retail market. It wouldn’t be a problem at all, but a great opportunity for Best Of Odense to frame the debate, rather than simply being a business event where everyone chugs the bubbly and applauds when the safest bets carry the day.

  1. The award categories need to change.

Result: The places that are thriving off the beaten path get a shot at the spotlight. There’s also a strong overrepresentation of shopping and food, compared to cultural categories. Because of this, one-time events like Sommerrevyen (the summer cabaret) and large art institutions like Brandts fight for the same recognition. Just as historical museums, art museums, theaters, music venues and galleries all fall into the same cultural pot. It makes sense to differentiate between brunch, burgers, take-away, cafés, and fine dining in the food category. But we miss out on corresponding nuances like “Best Music Venue”, “Best Theater” and “Best Gallery” or at the very least “Best Large Culture Venue” and “Best Little Culture Venue”. And while we’re at it, ditch the whole “for him/for her” split in the shopping category. What the hell does gender have to do with any of this?

Hello! Where’s the award for Best “Brunner” (the down-home local pastry, made by every self-respecting baker) or Best Bike Parking!? Why not make the categories specific to our town? You can eat brunch anywhere. And in this vein, there’s nothing wrong with more categories like “Best Service”, which - perhaps as the only exception - could bypass the locally-grounded criteria by rewarding skilled and personable employees, regardless of whether their employer pays taxes in Odense, Ireland, or the Bahamas. What about a “Best Idle Chit-Chat” category, “Best Opening Hours” (a perfect category for pubs and corner pizzerias, which might even encourage someone to finally create the good late-night eatery the city is begging for!) or an award for “Most Indispensable Thread In The Local Fabric”, “Best At Preserving Local History” or “Best Risk-Taker”?

A bonus reason for expanding the categories:

This Thursday a large portion of the winners were up on the stage for the third year in a row. What does that show? That Odense is a predictable town with few great restaurants? That Tinderbox is the best local cultural event? No: Just that Tinderbox is the biggest in terms of audience and publicity and that the award show has so few cultural categories that even the biggest of the “smaller” events disappears when it all comes down to number of tickets sold.

It is the nature of audience awards to highlight the mainstream, but since we already have a Best Of Odense nominating committee, specifically tasked with selecting finalists from among the thousands of reader suggestions, I can’t see why you wouldn’t give the audience the best possible options to vote on.

Maybe I’ve misunderstood entirely. Maybe Best Of Odense isn’t about rewarding the people and places that make Odense a lovely, special place to live and who contribute to all of our quality of life by doing what they love, but rather to boost revenues in the local business association’s ailing shops by talking them up on the retail market. In that case – sorry about all the hubbub and wild demands for integrity, ingenuity and nuance. Keep on keepin’ on.

I just have a feeling that Ugeavisen’s editorial board have greater ambitions and more love for their city than that. Their sister publication, Pindle’s, thorough smart and sensitive portraits of local business owners these last few years bears witness to the fact. And it was what their editor-in-chief clearly expressed at the start of the show last Thursday. Which is why I also dare to believe that they would agree that it would be a great thing if the Odense’s widest-distributed newspaper (80.000+ copies) could live up to the responsibility it is to have the ear of the population and publish a list of nominees that is both diverse and surprising. A list of places and experiences, which only exist here in Odense, and which don’t simply affirm the reader’s old habits, but inspire them to explore more of our homegrown shops, cultural institutions and societies. I’m sure H&M will survive without the pat on the back.

Odense’s Best Interior Design. No, wait, that’s Søstrene Grene in Hamburg.


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On the right to criticize without an alternative

On the right to criticize without an alternative
Opinions | Written by: Kasper Herschend | Translated by: Malte Joe Frid-Nielsen | Monday, October 15, 2018

The last few years it has been possible to detect a growing criticism of - and perhaps even outright negativity towards - the transformation our city is undergoing.  Byens Ø, T. B. Thriges gade, etc. The article Bygges Byen Bedre? (Can the City be Built Better?) from earlier this year is just one example of this, while a group like Bevar Siloøen (Preserve the Silo-Island) is an example of a group that might be termed actively critical of transformation itself.

A few months ago, I attended a series of talks about civic activism and urban transformation with a focus on architecture. First of all, I learned a lot by being there. But I also became aware of a dynamic that I hadn’t noticed before: That those who take a critical stance toward modernization and transformation of city spaces are unfairly expected to provide alternative solutions along with their critiques.

The Demand For An Alternative?

By which I mean to say that while a group or individual who opposes a particular political decision may well have a stronger case if they are able to present an alternative, it cannot become a prerequisite that in order to be allowed to criticize a decision, a citizen or citizen’s group must at the same time also be able to formulate a solution which has measurably better outcomes than the original proposal.

Counter Arguments

There are a lot of good arguments to support this stance, but I’m going to present two that I hope can set a proper tone for discussion the next time two conservative city councilors sneak in the back door and hijack an article about urban transformation in order to score a few cheap points on the citizen-engagement-scale.

My ambition with this article is to inspire reflection about political engagement. Regardless of whether the debate concerns our surroundings or the infrastructure and service we get for our tax kroner, we have a right to an opinion about the city in which we make up the population.

The Sudoku Lover

Imagine a random person; or perhaps rather imagine an average person. This average person has an array of skills, among which are an ability to solve Sudokus. It turns out she isn’t entirely average, however, because she loves solving Sudokus and spends 3 hours every weekend solving these Japanese math puzzles. Her constant training has the effect that she is now a mid-level Sudoku-loving Sudoku- solver.

This average Sudoku-lover subscribes to her paper precisely because it has made space in the back pages for no less than 3 Sudokus. She buys the paper Saturday and Sunday and as a result spends a half hour reconfiguring numbers in the squares of each Sudoku over the course of a weekend.

Cross Words

One Saturday morning she discovers to her great disappointment that the three Sudokus have been reduced to one, in favor of an expansion of crossword puzzles over her beloved math puzzles.

She immediately sits down and writes a complaint to the newspaper she had otherwise enjoyed for so long. In this mail she declares that she is prepared to find another paper if they don’t reinstate the three Sudokus and immediately banish the imperialistic word game to the corner which had been good enough for it all these years. On Monday morning, the paper answers that the change is due to a notable drop in the number of Sudoku-solvers among their readership and that crossword-enthusiasts once again outnumber Sudoku-solvers.

Support and Facts

The slightly cheeky customer support employee who is manning the keyboard this particular Monday morning tells the Sudoku-lover that she is very welcome to come up with a better alternative, which he can pass on to the back-page editor. The Sudoku-lover naturally declines, feeling that she has a lost cause on her hands.

But what neither the employee nor the Sudoku-lover know is that recently a number of newpapers and weeklies have been in the process of an aggressive marketing push specifically targeting the Sudoku-solving segment because they actually represent a larger customer base than crossword-enthusiasts.

Thus, the Sudoku-solver had in fact unknowingly presented a better alternative, but since none of the involved parties could evaluate the proposal in light of relevant data, this never became apparent.

Adapted Desires

Another, more academically based line of argument takes its genesis in sociologist and political theoretician, Jon Elster’s concept of Adaptive Preference Formation, which denotes a mechanism in the human cognitive system.

In an oft-paraphrased anthropological study supposedly stemming from the middle of the 19th century, a group of scientists note that slaves in the American south’s cotton fields don’t seem to have a burning desire for freedom. When asked about their wishes, most answer – quite contrary to expectations- things like more food, better sleeping arrangements, etc..

The study has since been taken to show how we humans adapt our desires so that they exist within a more realistic framework. And thereby, that our circumstances determine our desires, which combined with the aforementioned study explains why slaves weren’t able to formulate a desire for freedom until their outer circumstances changed enough to allow it to be experienced as an actual possibility.

The veracity of this supposed anthropological study has been called into question many times, but none the less it serves to illustrate the mechanism which Jon Elster brings up, and which he quite convincingly argues exists in us all.

Incomplete Sketches

When you have to make a decision, you do it from an incomplete list of possibilities. If, for example, I have to move because I am being evicted from my current apartment, I make a list of possible solutions in my head and take my immediate choice from it. In spite of the incompleteness that characterizes this list. I hadn’t considered the possibility of living in Odense’s harbor before someone built apartments there and I hadn’t thought of the neighborhood around Skibhusgade before a friend of mine showed me that this was a place you could actually live; Just to name a couple of banal examples.

Unrealistic Alternatives

I haven’t mentioned Elster merely to point out that we make choices from incomplete sketches of our possibilities, but to bring attention to the fact that there are systematic flaws in the sketches themselves. When in a given political discussion we are asked to propose an alternative, we have to be aware that this alternative - according to Elster – is very rarely visionary, because visionary solutions are by nature unrealistic alternatives.

Obviously it can’t be my duty as an ordinary citizen to have to show  the tax ministry how to run its affairs, in order to be justified in criticizing it. And it cannot be my job as an average person to construct a local development plan that ensures reasonable construction in Odense’s harbor, in order to have the right to say that they currently have the wrong priorities. It is without a doubt my right to present objections toward any – from my point of view – unwise proposed solutions.

The Visionary

And that is precisely the point. Because the slaves who weren’t able to conceive of freedom– whether or not they were fictional –  were no less deserving of it. It has to be ok to voice a criticism, without single-handedly being able to propose your own alternative solution.

The hope is that the Visionary one day hears this cry and helps to formulate a viable alternative. But in order for her to hear it, it is important that the critique be allowed to ring out, loud and clear.



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Opinions | Written by: Martin D. Knudsen | Sunday, April 22, 2018



Opinions | Written by: Mie Leonora Heiberg | Monday, April 16, 2018


New buildings for a better city? Grading 18 new buildings

New buildings for a better city? Grading 18 new buildings
Debate | Written by: This Is Odense | Translated by: Francois Picard | Wednesday, March 7, 2018

New buildings are popping up in Odense. And that’s (probably) good. Or is it? People either perceive new constructions as modern-day boxes in concrete, or acclaim them as examples of a booming city, smoothly progressing towards the “big city” dream.

But that’s maybe oversimplifying it too much. The city’s construction landscape is the story of Odense as a city for ourselves and everyone who visits the city. This is the connection between our past and our future. It is ruling how and how much we evolve in it – a simple walk can fill our heads whether with happiness or visions of disaster. It is even ruling how much we talk with our neighbors and how we are together. It is ruling how we live.

First, we’re shaping the city and then it’s shaping us.

Therefore, the city’s construction landscape is actually too important for us to leave it to those who are shaping it. Especially now that it is built so fast that the city we love may be gone before we know it. For better or for worse? There is a high risk that the latter happens, if we don’t talk together about it. Because, that’s what it is about, isn’t it? To evaluate if each single building makes the city better or not.

In this article, This Is Odense is giving grades to 18 new buildings, which are built, almost built or which plans are freshly drawn, and is coming up with some suggestions to improve them. We are not experts, but we believe everyone should be part of the discussions about how to create a good city. So, please read and give your opinion.

1. DIDERIKSEN'S CORNER - SANDAL EJENDOMME/PROJEKTAS HERNING/NJ GRUPPEN

Significant changes are happening on Vesterbro. Goodbye to the anarchic atmosphere with small townhouses mixed with high construction blocks, goodbye to the obscure and fun shops, which have lived a preserved low-rent existence. Hello to closeness city. The first step is Sandal properties’ corner building on Vesterbro and Vindegade, which has replaced Dideriksen’s corner.

Pros: This new corner extends the old apartment block, so the section is now high and close and urban, and the building has a scale that fits its surroundings.

Cons: Attempts have been made to make color variations at the facade level, without great success. Balconies - yes, but of low quality, not adapted to the property. The tinted windows until Fakta, a boring staircase tower and a morn facade along Vesterbro create an uninspiring encounter with the street. Finally, the abandonment of the courtyard to these stone desert and parking area is frustrating. Couldn’t it be possible to find just a little room for living space, trees and other green areas?

Overall grade: 2 arrows.

2. SANKT GERTRUDS ALLEY+STORE GRÅBRØDRE ALLEY - KARSTEN BILL/AI

For a long time, this little dark spot in the middle of the city was dedicated to parking on Sankt Gertruds alley and to a small ramshackle building including a second-hand shop on Store Gråbrødre alley. Now the hole is filled out, potentially creating a living area with shops and outdoor seating spots, from Gråbrødre place and down to Store Gråbrødre alley, where the famous beer bar Mikkeler should soon open as well. The building is not finished and there seems to be some significant differences between the initial design from AI and the construction that is on its way, so it is not possible to give a final grade.

Pros: a dead backside can be converted into a living street, now that the hole is filled out, especially if there are shops or restaurants at the street level. It helps a lot as well that the characteristic tree in the Store Gråbrødre alley has still been allowed to stand. The facade’s stones create color alternations, giving a global impression of variation. With a reasonably successful adaptation to the neighboring buildings and a great urban life perspective, this construction is a good example for the many other holes in the city to follow.

Cons: The facade is not completely aligned with the red-brick surroundings. If, instead of shops and restaurants, there are some flats at the street level, this neighborhood will not become advantageous and the surrounding streets will not live up the same way.

Overall grade: (provisionally) 4 arrows. If housing is built instead of shops and restaurants, 2 arrows.

3. VESTERPORT, VESTRE STATIONSVEJ/RUGÅRDSVEJ - REITAN/FAB

Once, the railroad and the southeastern part of Østre and Vestre Stationsvej constituted one of the city’s borders. On the other side of the road, there were railway buildings and railways. Once the railroad was redirected, a new city border was never built. But it's really on its way now, as new buildings will pop up all the way along the street, and as the tramway will make the street more interesting for pedestrians and inhabitants. Therefore, it is important that it is done properly.

Vestre Port has lived a tremendous life - from the 90's-prestige cinema, then its demolition and to finally a new project of housing, including a Rema 1000, a Lakagehuset, some coffees and restaurants and a fitness center. As the construction is not yet completed, it is not possible to assess the final result.

Pros: Activity in the area with shopping opportunities, coffee life and housing. Parking in the already existing car park.

Cons: Until now, the construction disappoints a bit. There is almost no variation in the facade, and the colors reminds a bit the ones from the Dideriksen’s corner, in other words brown, brown and brown. The corner, which was, at the time of the demolished cinema, maybe not pretty but definitely eccentric, now appears to be boring with this very soft brown curve. But maybe this complex can still be saved with a last-minute wish of a rooftop jungle with trees that can be seen, when driving on Østre Stationsvej.

Overall grade: (provisionally) 3 arrows. A jungle on the roof of the building would allow to reach the double!

 

4. KARRÉ 1, ETAPE 2, ØSTRE STATIONSVEJ - OPUS/5E BYG/C.F. MØLLER

Where there was before a train wash plant lie now 3 blocks with a pretty successful attempt to be coherent with the rest of the street’s towers, divided into massive high-rise buildings and now located at the corner, facing Kongens Have. Karré 2 is a funny V-shaped building, made of bright and yellow bricks with some variations. The building is well advanced but not yet finished, so it is not possible to assess the final result.

Pros: Here can be seen more original facades – material variation with the bright and yellow bricks and at the balconies’ level, that, to some extent, create a coherent set with the street. There is a clear attempt to make this corner facing Kongens Have stand out. Here is a building that has a little something. Fortunately, the street and road demarcations have been adapted to the environment and create then a clear urban coherence across Stationsvej. And the underground parking is nice.

Cons: Where are the living areas at ground level? There is nobody, not only on the street but as well facing Byens Bro, where it would have been perfect to have a restaurant, the street being less busy thanks to the upcoming tramway. The place is there, the pedestrians are there. If there is no restaurant, may the place be reserved to food trucks? In addition to that, there are as not too many similar features that can be seen on the towers on the opposite side of Østre Stationsvej, and there is no connection to the rest of the area's red bricks. Finally, was it really necessary to add this metal cladding on the penthouse?

Overall grade: (provisionally) 4 arrows.

5. HF/VUC FYN - HF/VUC FYN/SKJØDE KNUDSEN/CEBRA

HF & VUC Fyn finally ended up in City Campus at the end of the Byens Bro, during a huge moving- and patience-game and a new building finally emerged from that. The area around the building is still almost comically unfinished - awaiting the outcome of the recent trial between Odense Municipality and the company that owns a piece of land between the Byens Bro and VUC. Here is a building that creates mixed impressions. Some are happy with the led-lights that makes an evening walk at the harbor more lively and serve as a demarcation when cycling over the Byens Bro, while others are horrified by the facade cladding, which looks like some metal grills that hide electrical wires in a newer soulless industrial building.

Pros: Attempt to create a building, still living during evenings thanks to the led-lights. Noticeable style. But the building’s interior is actually more exciting – look inside!

Cons: The facade cladding is relatively uninteresting during daytime. The building does not create much connection with the surroundings (however, it can be assumed that it has so far been limited to what it was about). The surrounding outside areas are nonexistent – where are the trees, the green areas and the nice living spaces for the students?

Overall grade: 3 arrows.

6. TOLDBODGADE/GAMMELSØ - ?

When you arrive at the harbor from Åløkkvarteret, you will meet this construction composed of white concrete modules, which is finished and ready for renting, but which should has never been built.

Pros: None.

Cons: The most scratched shape of apartment construction with unworked facades and cheap balconies. The concrete modules look like stacked concrete containers, but without the container's industrial charm. Additionally, the building hides the water and the close harbor. It is hard to see how the surrounding areas will ever become nice places to stay and rest.

Overall grade: 1 arrow (very close to 0).

7. PROMENADEBYEN - BUILDINGS 4 AND 5

The initial plan was to build 8 buildings along the northern promenade, each of them having their own architectural style. The first 3 buildings were built before and during the financial crisis, and then it was over. The last buildings found indirectly a new owner and were given a totally different style and a significantly more scratched architecture, dedicated to parents who want to buy a flat for their children.

Pros: Each construction contributes in its own way in creating activity on the harbor.

Cons: Unlike the first 3 buildings, the buildings 4 and 5 represent a much cheaper version with balcony accesses, and here can be noticed the negative differences when building monotonous facades with using monotonous materials. Here as well, white concrete modules are dominant, and the wind conditions around them are probably not the world's most attractive.

Overall grade: 2 arrows.

8. Psychatric Hospital, TOLDBODGADE - REGION SYDDANMARK

At the corner of Toldbodgade and Findlandsgade lies the new psychiatric hospital, visible from all who evolves on Lerchesgade, from the Byens Bro and Storms Pakhus towards the harbor. The project consists again in building white concrete modules and gives the impression that it has been designed independently of the surrounding area, and that its location on the harbor has been chosen randomly. It is frustrating – and above ironical, when it becomes gradually clear, how the surrounding landscape and the human psyche are connected.

Pros: Each construction contributes in its own way in creating activity on the harbor, and there are occasional attempts to incorporate organic elements, using light wood at the entrances (but you can’t polish a turd).

Cons: The building seems very scratched and looks like a white box without any particular facade. The overall impression is getting worse from the large parking area facing Tolbodgade, which could have been placed underground or in a p-house. When hiding like that the view over the water and the harbor, one cannot be acknowledged to have such unattractive outdoor areas – and the green area in front of the building surely becomes a muddy passage for people who like shortcuts.

Overall grade: 1 arrow.

9. NORDATLANTISK HUS - NORDATLANTISK HUS/KRISTIANSDAL/CORNELIUS+VÖGE/ISAGER ARKITEKTER OG MASU PLANNING

Nordatlantisk Hus – a North Atlantic culture house, a Greenlandic house, several North Atlantic associations, student housing, a shop, a restaurant, guiding services to North Atlantic students, several conference and meeting facilities. Excellent constructions can perform many roles, and the Nordatlantisk Hus is an excellent construction. A building that clearly shows what is possible with skilled architects and a desire to give it all. A model for the further development of the Byens Ø wrote the Academic Architecture Association - for the time being, unfortunately, it is far from being the case.

Pros: Several functions mixed together creates activity. Exciting, well-thought and innovative architecture fitting well within Byens Ø. Beautiful facades with great dynamics and use of different materials, especially wood. The opened front facade allows the building to communicate well with its surroundings. Nice sheltered terrace under the afternoon sun.

Cons: None.

Overall grade: 6 arrows.

10. STUDENT HOUSING, BYENS Ø - KPC/KRISTIANSDAL

In a harbor where you fear that it is trendier to tear down than to re-use solid harbor industry constructions, which can tell stories about the past of Odense, here is a rare exception. Even though it is not really visible, Kristiansdal’s student housing is actually a converted old building. The local planning wanted a maritime expression with the preservation of bricks and concrete. Unfortunately, it is so unsuccessful that it would have been better to start over.

Pros: Student housing on the harbor contributes to more activity. 

Cons: No variation in the facade, anonymous and boring bricks, killing repetition and unsuccessful attempt to reuse a former warehouse.

Overall grade: 2 arrows.

11. STENFISKERKAJEN - CIVICA/KPC/C.F. MØLLER

Civica’s student housing quality is difficult to evaluate. It is easy to see that the construction is cheap, and that it falls into the category “white concrete”, highly represented in the harbor of Odense. But especially 2 of these buildings, which are facing the outdoor swimming pool of the harbor, are surprisingly dynamic – partly because of these metallic eaves and partly because of this impression of gradual descent into the outdoor swimming pool, giving thus some afternoon light to the summer swimmers. The last building, the closest one on the picture above, looks like however more an airport hotel than a harbor construction.

Pros: Student housing on the harbor creates activity. The shades on the facades and the staircase form facing the outdoor swimming pool draw the attention. From the right angles, the building is greatly coherent with PromenadeByen.

Cons: Staircase or not – it does not save the overall impression of a monstrous white construction. The violent scale of the buildings is not adapted to either a promenade on Stenfiskerkajen, or to the outdoor swimming pool’s reinterpretations of classic harbor pavilions. The elevated parking spots make activity around the buildings even more awkward, and the lack of space outside them does not invite to stay there more than to find the keys in the pocket.

Overall grade: 3 arrows.

12. KLOSTERBAKKEN - ARKITEKTGRUPPEN/C.F. MØLLER

“The best foundation in the city”, as this construction on an island on Odense Å, which was once the Munke Mølle’s cloth factory, was promoted. Unfortunately, the execution does not live up to the expectations and the place potential. The architectural style is inspired by monastery constructions and consists of a series of red-brick houses. C. Th. Sørensen's fine yellow walls still separates the building from Eventyrhaven. The construction’s scale and shape work well with the other red-brick constructions on Klosterbakken and gives some nice viewpoints from certain angles. But the execution and the materials are far from good enough and it dramatically decreases the quality of the construction.

Pros: Well-thought construction with a coherent shape with both Eventyrhaven and the neighboring buildings.

Cons: The red brick used in the building is too monotone, giving an overall impression of a really massive construction, especially from the South. The balconies and metal cladding of the walls look like over-polished alien elements from outer space. The masonry is poorly executed in several places and has been already fixed because of moisture-related damages, a few months after the construction. Even the letters chosen to name the construction look terrible. And then, there is this electrical substation facing the river, which has been half hidden. Additionally, the complete absence of green, in other words trees and plants, on the balconies and on the roof terraces is remarkably bad. Nevertheless, it can still be saved.

Overall grade: 3 arrows.

13. CITIZEN's HUS - ODENSE KOMMUNE/AI

This is a renovation, that creates mixed feelings. The goal was to draw attention, and it obviously succeeded, with this golden facade, shining under the afternoon sun. For some, this construction is another nail in the coffin for a desperate provincial town with minority complexes. For others, this is a facade that wants something, and a building that has a bit freed the focus on what others think. The fact that it has become the Citizen’s house, as it was planned from the beginning, and the fact that the golden facade, when it is clean, looks good, do not prevent us to have some reservations. We shall see!

Pros: Significant and brave attempt to change the train station complex’s horrible facade. Attempt to gather several functions under the same roof (library, Center for Civil Society, Citizen’s Service and Volunteer Center of Odense). No attempt to anonymity.

Cons: The building execution doesn’t live up to the initial visual designs – for example, the balconies have disappeared along the way. Gold side by side with a pale hotel nuance of yellow, mixed with a 90s nuance of dark yellow, is not a win-win combination.

Overall grade: 3 arrows.

14. HOTEL ODEON - ODENSE SPORT & EVENT/KPC/ARKITEMA

Gorgeous and Nordic. Exclusive quality. Luxury and down to earth. High-end without being snobbish. The upcoming Hotel Odeon, from OS&E itself, is always more praised. However, until now, this construction on Thomas B. Thriges Gade still looks desperately ordinary and anonymous, and does not live up to its initial design. The building is not yet finished, so it is not possible to assess the final result.

Pros: 234 hotel rooms in the city center is one of the best ways to create more urban life and activity. Active area at street level facing the upcoming tramway, which must drive right past here. And the urban area on TBT-Gade is the highest class.

Cons: A boring red brick, with no variation nor nuance, has been chosen, as well as even more boring and uninspiring window frames in a massive block. And here’s one of the really great unexploited possibilities for green facades.

Overall grade: (provisionally) 2 arrows.

15. CARL NIELSEN NEIGHBORHOOD - 5E BYG/ÅRSTIDERNE ARKITEKTER

The housing construction from 5E was potentially the one with the less exciting design, that the different buildings on the northern part of Thomas B. Thriges Gade could present. But the execution is such that it has actually become one of the best. And, even if it is not a master-class construction, it is obvious to see anyway, that it has been finely worked. From the light-yellow brick with good variations, to the fine dynamism of the facade, as shown on the picture above.

Pros: Beautiful variation, both with the brick and the levels in the facade. A discrete and meaningful re-interpretation of both the materials, the colors and the round gable of the neighboring Fyns Grafiske Værksted. The shops at ground level create activity, and the form of the construction links nicely the Hans Jensens alley with TBT-Gade. Hopefully, there will be added some greenery in the plant boxes lying along the facade.

Cons: The window part could be more exciting. In some places, the masonry at the wall level appears to be too quickly executed, with defects and moisture damages.

Overall grade: 4,5 arrows.

16. HOUSE OF FAIRYTALES - ODENSE KOMMUNE/KENGO KUMA/CORNELIUS+VÖGE/MASU PLANNING

Ok, let’s admit it. There’s a long way to go before this construction is finished. And we are only talking about it to show that it is possible to build with ingenuity, variety, quality and good interpretation of Odense’s DNA (and, let’s add it, without profit-maximization wishes). The new H.C. Andersen’s house, designed by one of the best architects – Kengo Kuma – becomes a construction icon, without unnecessary flash. The most international construction in the city, and maybe at the same time the construction, which best manages to interpret Odense’s quality: beautiful, green and unpretentious.

Here’s a construction that binds together the past and the future in both function and shape. Here are stories from the most famous author of the city conveyed by one of the most modern story concepts from Northern Irish Event Communications. And thus, a future building with soft forms is created through a reinterpretation of the area's timber framing. And then, most of the museum is built underground, for 2 reasons: to make room to re-create the Lotzes garden, over the former TBT-Gade, with greenery all the way down to the upcoming parking basement access; and to avoid creating radical differences in height with the H.C. Andersen’s neighborhood.

If the project is realized according to the initial design, the construction will become one of the finest in town.

Pros: A mixed of materials and use of wood. Beautiful re-interpretation of the area’s timber framing. Extension of the area’s height and Odense’s unpretentious and green DNA. Re-creation of the Lotzes garden as public park. Coffee near the tramway. Green access from the parking basement… (we could go on).

Cons: None.

Overall grade: (provisionally) 6 arrows.

17. BYFÆLLESSKABET - JANUS LYLLOFF/PRAKSIS ARKITEKTER

The building on the right of the picture is part of a modern shared accommodation that the high school teacher Janus won the right to build (beating various building behemoths), right in the city’s center, to him and his fellow roommates. The project is designed by award-winning Praksis Arkitekter from Svenborg and serves as a transition from TBT-Gade’s high brick buildings to the H.C. Andersen’s neighborhood’s low houses with shiny facades.

The building has a fine and modern shape, but it requires a lot relatively to the final execution, and here for example the window frames look a bit shabby, and the balconies facing Rosenhave may give the building a monotonous touch, if they don’t add greenery.

The construction is not finished. Greenery should be added, and the bike path, from where this picture is taken, should be finished, as well as a new Rosenhave on the other side. So, it is not possible to assess the final result.

Pros: Fine dialogue between the big constructions on TBT-Gade and the polished town houses in the HCA neighborhood. Exciting minimalist-modernistic shape. Really great to have shared accommodations in the city’s center. And really nice as well with this public park behind.

Cons: The window frames and the balconies may give a sloppy impression. Greenery on the balconies and trees on the roof terraces can make the difference.

Overall grade: (provisionally) 4 arrows.

18. DANSK BANK - DANSKE BANK/KPC/ARKITEMA

When it has incomprehensibly been decided that the Industripalæ had to make way for the 80ies progression, the compromise was that the public access to a huge indoor garden should be ensured in the new financial institution. Unfortunately, Danske Bank never wanted people to wander nearby them, and so few knew that there was a garden in there.

Now the garden has fallen and the red-brick building is being replaced by a black building, where all Danske Bank's local activities are gathered and which, according to the bank itself, must represent “openness” and “gratitude”. And, moreover, the architecture is almost a true copy of the bank's two new buildings in Kolding and Århus. New Normal. One might think the irony was over, but although very bad, it could actually have been worse. The building present a certain variation and Eventyrhaven will invite the passers-by a little, even if you do not feel that it is actually the intention to go inside.

Pros: The facade is simple but reasonably varied and the active living areas facing Eventyrhaven are good.

Cons: There is no dialogue with the area’s red-brick buildings and not so much “openness” with respect to the public access suppression to the garden inside the building.

Overall grade: (provisionally) 3 arrows.

 

What could be better?

As the grades demonstrate it, there are both good and bad construction in Odense. But our overall conclusion is that it is not good enough, and it could be so much better – especially on the Odense’s harbor, about which the harbor’s director, Carsten Aa himself, admitted that the sales of most of the constructions have actually been driven by how quick money should be earned. And even if we know that many things come into play, when deciding about the quality of a building, we would like to give anyway some examples of how it could be if builders, architects and the municipality pulled it together.

We think Odense's opportunity is to find its own way and to avoid committing the mistakes that have been made in Ørestaden and on the port of Aarhus. But if we do not build staying inspired by the city's soul, Odense will never become special.

 

Misunderstood debate about concrete

Recently, there has been a debate in Fyens Stiftstidende about whether "concrete" is a nice or ugly material. But is it the right question to ask? Whether concrete is good depends on how it is used and where it is built. Let's compare some examples. One from the Odense harbor and a Japanese and an English examples. The first boring and unambitious, the others with each their interesting expressions and with variation in the facade:

 

More variations in the materials

In the 18 previously-presented examples, we shout again and again for variation. A construction in Odense (Denmark) is in 95 out of 100 cases built according to the same formula: a concrete wall and eventually a cladding with bricks and without any façade detail work. But it does not have to be. All over the world, we are using for instance more and more wood, which is more sustainable, organic and beautiful. There is a whole word of materials to use, and variations create life and quality.

Mieczysław Karłowicz Philharmonic Hall, Szczecin, Poland

 

Use of wood int a construction in Zaragoza, Spanien 

 

Variation in the facade, rather than extra profit in the pocket

Every ripple added to a cubic concrete box is in the short term a kroner less in earnings for an investor who buys and sells quickly and does not care about the city he is building in. And money is to be earned. Therefore, there is often not so much variation in the facades. But variation can be created in tons of ways - using the right materials, using bricks with nuances in, creating dynamism in the facades, etc.

Within a few years, robots may process all building materials in the desired shapes. And, nowadays, what is it, Odense is sharp working with? Well, yes, robots! And there are even local robotics companies that produce building materials! Maybe we have a solution? Here is an example of what robots can already do today:

Brick facade built by robots, Shanghai Arts center, China

 

Before then, we can definitely enjoy what can be done if you do your best and give the facade of a building some variations:

Library in Barcelona, Spain

 

Apartment building, Tehran, Iran

 

Could we forget dead housing areas and create life at ground level?

Can you imagine a big city, where the area, where there are tall buildings, consists in housing alone? No, right? When homes are mixed with workplaces, cultural functions, shops, restaurants and much more, so we create an exciting city, where there is life at all times. Especially at ground level, it is important to add interesting things to look at – it creates activity in the street and makes it more interesting to live in.

Therefore, it is important that all new constructions built nearby the city center are not only housing, even if housing may be the only way today to earn money the most.

 

Where is it green?

Today, there are tons of ways to use nature in the design of a new construction. Green facades, green roofs, green terraces and balconies, plant boxes, city gardens and parks, trees. But even if Odense is a green city, it is unfortunately very rare that green is used in new buildings. And when it happens, it is usually a thin green roof nobody can see. Not everything can grow in Denmark, but much can be done anyway.

Anything green, when added in the right way, can make a construction really brilliant, and then it can compensate for a poor architecture. There is a reason why the plant is called the architect’s comfort. Should green really always be what we are sparing?

One of the most famous green facade - Quai Branly Museum, Paris, France

 

Equally famous Bosco Verticale, Milano, Italy

 

Transforming rather than tearing down - and creating a city with history

Odense was for a long-time Denmark's second largest industrial city, and has left an enormous legacy from these times around the city center. Once the traditional industrial sites have disappeared, all these areas are transformed at full speed: Havnen, Østerbro, Vesterbro. Unfortunately, it often happens without reusing the edifices that have quality. In this way, you can remove an entire area's history in a very short time.

On the harbor, a part of history has already disappeared. A crane disappeared overnight, the concrete silos, which Aalborg Portland relocates, seems to disappear. And there have been rumors about the fact that the Odense harbor is eager to demolish the fantastic building environment on Siloøen. But maybe Siloøen is the last opportunity to make room for a creative environment on the harbor, which is otherwise at risk of becoming a virtually clean housing area. Here's how to reuse industrial buildings elsewhere in the world:

Re-use of silo construction, Zetz Museum of Contemporary Art, Cape Town, South Africa

 

From sugar mill to hotel, Guilin, China

 

A local architect education and competent architecture firms

The lack of quality in the construction industry can be partly explained by the fact that Odense, contrary to the 3 other big cities in Denmark, does not offer some education programs, that in some ways deal with architecture. It means, that there is no ground for debate and there are virtually no new, innovative architectural firms in the city. All the more reason for changing that.

Join the debate!

The last advice could be a call for everyone to join the debate. Over and over again, builders are allowed to qualify the most rubbish buildings as of the highest quality, without anyone contradicting them. Perhaps they think so as well themselves, so there is all the more reason for helping them on the way.

If the city’s construction landscape must become better, it requires that people from Odense speak their minds!

HOW DID WE DO IT:

- We have selected 18 constructions that represent both good and less good constructions in or nearby the city center. This is not representative for all new constructions in the city, but it gives a good overall picture. Should we miss something important, so please send us a picture or post it on our Facebook page and share your opinion and evaluation.
- We have graded the areas, which are publicly accessible or which can be seen from the street. The grades go from 1 (the worse possible) to 6 (the best possible).
- As it can be difficult to compare the designs and the unfinished constructions with the finished ones, provisional grades have been given to unfinished constructions. It is easy to cheat with visual designs, as they are embellished or because there may be some savings on the way.



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