R3A Blog

R3A Blog

How the Danes Turned Active Construction Sites Into Public Art

Author: Jody Horn, LEED AP ID+C

During my college years at the University of Cincinnati, I was given the opportunity to study abroad in Copenhagen, Denmark for 3 months during the summer of 1999.  This past summer, I took a trip back to this Scandinavian architectural wonderland, and was pleasantly surprised by not only how much things had changed, but also, how so many things had stayed the same.

Local artists painting a mural on the construction barriers.

Photo Credit: Byens Hegn

 The Danes have a finely tuned ability to maintain the importance of "we" in everything they do, plan and create.  This attitude is something I noticed back in 1999, and is one of the reasons why I fell in love with the country and people of Denmark.

A family enjoys an interactive sculptural installation.

Photo Credit: Byens Hegn

Copenhagen is currently in the midst of constructing 17 new Metro stations, planned for completion in 2018.  Obviously this construction is having a major effect on the residents of the city, as well as visitors from around the world.  A construction project of this magnitude has the potential to make or break people's perceptions of the city, and this was very much apparent to the Copenhagen Metro Team.

Instead of walling off the 17 construction sites with chain link fencing and a visual assault of "Construction Site - Keep Out" and "Danger" signs, the Danes have yet again embraced the opportunity to beautify the urban landscape, and turned massive construction barriers into public art displays.

Both trained artists and neighborhood graffiti experts have been afforded the opportunity to display their talents on what would otherwise be sizable visual obstructions at key public squares throughout the City.  The displays are often interactive, and are sometimes coupled with public performance art sessions, landscaping, and even sculpture.  Residents and visitors alike can stay up to date on the latest art installations and performances by visiting the "Byens Hegn - Cool Construction" Facebook page. https://www.facebook.com/ByensHegn

Visitors and citizen alike can watch construction in progress from viewing windows and elevated platforms at many of the Metro construction sites.

Photo Credit: Søren Hytting

For those with a genuine curiosity for what is going on behind the barriers, many of the sites feature observation windows and even viewing platforms, where citizens and visitors alike can catch a glimpse of the Metro construction in progress. 

This attitude toward construction site barriers makes the inconvenience a little more palatable in the short term, at least for some.  Perhaps this approach is something that we on the other side of the pond should consider embracing to shed a more positive light on a temporary inconvenience. 

Given the amount of construction sites within Pittsburgh, we have numerous opportunities to showcase the talents of our local artists, or keep visitors and citizens updated on construction progress.  Hopefully a thoughtful approach like that demonstrated by the Danes will serve to change attitudes from that of temporary frustration to enjoyment and excitement of what is to come.