THE PERFORMING GROUND OF FRAGMENTED IDENTITY | Copenhagen, Denmark | Unit 21 | 2014
Awarded Distinction for Thesis
Fragmented Perception of Cityscapes
The year began with an interest in how city streetscapes are perceived in a fragmented fashion and provide the viewing pedestrian with a shifting sense of place. The first drawing studies analyse how we ‘see’ a streetscape, our eyes darting between points of focus, drawn to these points for their meaning, salience or movement. From these external world triggers, we construct an internal world perception of a place, relating to personal or collective memory, our internal world therefore moving and changing rapidly.
The Performing Ground of Fragmented Identity
Once in Copenhagen, attention moved to the causes of these shifting internal geographies, looking at the relationship between permanent and transient architecture and the socio-political conflicts and tensions within the district of Nørrebro, located north-west of Copenhagen’s city centre. It can be considered as a site for socio-political diversity, associated with young people and migrants. Conversely, Copenhagen has a general perception of being culturally homogenous and egalitarian. It is this tension that the building programme seeks to overcome, providing space for and celebrating heterogeneity.
The Performing-Ground of Fragmented Identity is an original proposition. This space is for people to explore their personal identities, collective memories, and to interact with ‘other’. It addresses Nørrebro’s current conflicts of identity and culture through different performative meeting types, from the adversarial to the co-operative. Here, locals can encounter and challenge other cultures, turning the destructive tensions of the street into a productive socio-political act. Through the performance of social dynamics plus the architectural recognition of local cultural diversity, the Performing-Ground seeks to be inclusive, giving local residents a sense of civic belonging. Conceptually, performance is a transformational act – both a maker and symbol of transformation. Through experiential modes, it both creates meaning and change within the performance microcosm and within the wider world.
The Performing-Ground sits at the junction between Jagtvej 69, Nørrebrogade and Assistens Cemetery. The Ground utilises both the Jagtvej 69 site and a deconsecrated north corner of the Cemetery. Choosing sites of spatial injustice is a way of ensuring a socio-political connectedness to place. Jagtvej 69, or the Ungdomshuset, was demolished in an act of iconoclasm, having once been a local symbol for alternative ideologies – a place of meaning for women, left-wing groups and youth subcultures. The site currently stands empty, giving little indication to outsiders of its former function, and local groups unable to agree on how the site should be used in the future. Conversely, the cemetery is a place of peace, where many of Copenhagen’s significant individuals are interred, and where Copenhagen’s residents come for leisure, these days for cycling, resting and wandering the leafy paths, and historically as a site for picnics, an act subsequently banned.
In siting the Performing-Ground at the heart of local memory and identity, it holds the symbolic capacity to express local socio- political issues, becoming a site of relevance to residents. The Performing-Ground re-addresses the permanent/transient relationship of Nørrebro, particularly Nørrebrogade. Instead of a dominant/subservient or shell/occupation dynamic, both states are represented as equal and symbiotic, sharing different scales and roles. Permanence begins, initially as a framework, platform or ‘ground’, and transience completes and defines. Also, through considering the theatrical representation of building typologies, it was possible to consider types in terms of performative and evocative necessity, breaking away from typical ideas of form and space.