”This is a themepark, but you have to figure out your own theme.”
I went to
My first arrival into Christiana was that of a different place. As soon as cross the threshold of the formed by the old army barracks building on Prissengrade Street, and enter under the sign that says,”Welcome to Christiana,” (on the other it says, “You are now entering the EU”), something shifts. The sounds are different, the sights are different, everything is just a little different. Visually it is a little more chaotic, not too much though. The beautiful rigidity of the old historic tight urban fabric shifts to a more open space and flowing space, with boundary edges littered with graffiti, unkempt green growth and truly diverse mix of people. And that is one of the most interesting things about this place. Everyone is here. It was in my guidebook, I have seen it in tourist maps, etc. For a place that began as an alternative, drug using, hippie, revolt community, it is pretty well integrated to an extent. In most other places, outsiders would be afraid to even set foot in place like this, but not in Christiana. Its survival depends on the openness and integration of everyone except, mainly the police. But, its openness does not just hinge on survival, is very much at the heart of this once described ‘social experiment.’ Anyone is free to wander around the entire area. Having been spared the traditional development of most of the rest of the city, you find yourself in a weird mix of rundown historic army buildings and the, before you know it, you feel like you are in a rural area, with funky quirky self built houses, dotting the mote that originally fortified Copenhagen. The greenness, the lushness, the wildness of some of the houses, all give physical form to a different reality.
That reality is a community that basically governing itself since 1971, when a number of people stormed the barracks and began occupying the area, in response to the challenge of finding decent communities of affordable housing in Copehagen. The 85 acre establishment stipifies that the land and structures are owned communally.
Each day, I have ventured further and further into Christiana. I have been timid, because it is so different. Yet, I get a little more comfortable and more and more layers begin to reveal themselves and get me even more fascinated and intrigued with the whole thing. It is huge, it is crazy, it is so unique. It is what you would expect and so much more and so not what you would expect. The built environment and form is striking. There is a reason the form (or lack of) should be valued. It cannot be built or established anywhere else like this. Maybe a rural place like western
Rural gives you many possibilities with living your life freer, not being bound by so many rules, etc. You can build how you want (to a certain extent), what you want, but what happens when you live in an urban environment—how do you express that? Of course, it is not necessarily an expression, but a means of living. Do each one of the houses in
I was lucky to meet some very interesting people in the area. One was a really cool artist, and lived in a crazy space dome that she had built with other artists near
The architecture of Christiania is very much a result of the process of never being finished. The houses are constantly being transformed, little by little. In fact, many of the original houses were site trailers, but on the land, ready to be moved at moment's notice if the threat of eviction came. Over time, as Christiania's tenure has become a little more secure, these temporary homes have evolved into permanent ones. The trailers are now often buried in the maze of additions of many of the houses.
The residents of
So, if you live outside the rules, are you illegal? Should you be punished? In a more established democratic society, the rules are different. Do they have a right to and live above the law? If someone gets arrested for smoking or selling weed in central
I guess the beautiful thing about
Finally, one big difference of
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