Urban Nature part ii

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Since I composed my first post (one week ago... and yes, only got around to posting it today), my title has changed to 'Urban Nature - The Inhabitable Edge.'

One of the most dominant features of my daily landscape is a series of large man-made lakes known simply as 'the city lakes' that separate the historic city centre from the neighborhoods Frederiksberg, Nørrebro, and Østerbro.

The city lakes have their intake from freshwater streams that have been piped underground from 3 different lakes outside of Copenhagen. Formerly used to power watermills, the lakes have also been used as additional fortifications and even as drinking water reservoirs. Since the 1920's, however, the lakes have been primarily used as a 'promenade' with paths and benches going all the way around.

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Peblinge Sø, 1930's

I have been interested in the city lakes primarily because they function as a unique 'mental green space' within the city. The paths are well used and benches are often occupied with families feeding the birds, who still make their homes here. The lakes offer a transition between the dense city and a sort of managed nature, with ordered lines of trees and distinct edges.

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Unmediated transition - private residential gardens facing a lengthy public thoroughfare.

But I also see that the lakes present a missed opportunity within Copenhagen to have a vibrant natural area that serves as a recreational zone, scenic walking/biking route, as well as making an important habitat for fish, birds, plants, and other biodiversity. Bees are the popular thing to save at the moment, but grasshoppers, spiders, and other 'yucky' insects also have an important role in preserving biodiversity within our cities.

The paths are great--in theory--but in reality they present a confusion of traffic, with indistinct marking systems and interrupted flow at the street crossings. Cars and scooters are banned from the western edge, but a main road follows the eastern side, making an uncomfortable relationship between foot traffic and car traffic.

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No cars or scooters..... sometimes.

Another problem is what I call 'anti-social seating'--there are plenty of Official Copenhagen Benches (yes, such a thing exists), but they are all strictly facing forward, allowing 2 or 3 people to sit there at a time, and all looking at exactly the same view.

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Have fun.... if you can.

Finally, there is inconsistent or non-existent lighting around the lakes. As far as I can tell, there are just two small parts that have regular lighting. The others are completely dark, making the paths hazardous to use at night, and not exactly inviting urban life after the sun goes down.

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Welcome to your public space!

This post introduces the site and my motivations for the project, along with what I see as the main design issues of the site--unmediated transitions, anti-social seating, and dark zones. I'll talk more about the ecology of the lakes next time.