COBE Copenhagen Studio//SP 15
The Winter City
In spring 2015, Dan Stubbergaard, founder and creative director of COBE Architects in Copenhagen, served as the Scan|Design Foundation Visiting Professor at the University of Washington in Seattle. The brief for the studio, “The Winter City,” posited that it was possible, indeed necessary, to create vibrant public spaces for wintertime use – even in cities with northern climates, like Copenhagen or Seattle. The studio brief proposes that the cultural life of a winter city can be improved significantly by developing strategies to extend the use of public spaces year-round.
The studio began with a trip to Copenhagen, providing an opportunity to conduct analysis on three typologically different sites (square, garden and harbor), as well as to experience the challenges of trying to create useful and engaging public space in the wintertime. Using a studio set up in COBE’s office in Copenhagen as their base, the students conducted a thorough analysis of the three sites and proposed strategies for nurturing a specific range of winter activities for each one. Summer activities were considered as well, along with studies of how the sites might be transformed in order to accommodate changing seasonal uses.
Upon returning to Seattle, the studio focused on testing the validity of various site strategies through individual and group design projects. Intensive studio charrettes that occurred during Stubbergaard’s two Seattle visits were essential in maintaining the focus of the studio – as well as providing a critical Danish cultural perspective.
Projects demonstrated a range of approaches for implementing site strategies developed during the first phase of the studio. Several projects are clearly derived from specific strategies developed for a particular site, while others are hybrids of several approaches. The remaining proposals employ site strategies quite different from those developed during the original study – the result of a continued critical analysis of the site and its potential to accommodate winter activities. Taken together these projects demonstrate the potential for winter cities to vastly improve the opportunities for its citizens to engage in meaningful civic activities year round.