28 August 2014

Notes from Paris

As part of my new Paris ritual, I check up on the vertical garden by BHV. It seems only yesterday it was all seeds and aspirations (second checkup here, third here) and look at it now:

A beautiful vertical wilderness!

I want to climb up there and kiss it, stroke the leaves gently. Nothing strange about that, right?

We still need this in Copenhagen.

On the Seine, the bridge Pont des Arts is under attack. First time I crossed it years ago, a few locks were scattered along the railing as a demonstration of love. Over time this love has become destructive, the railings so burdened with "romantic" trash that parts of it falls into the Seine.

The city is pleading with tourists to stop, fencing off the crippled railing. And still they keep at it. I even witnessed someone mounting a lock, proudly documenting it. Utter morons!

I want to fix this problem so bad.

Later I spotted these in a side street to the Seine.

Perhaps a couple realised that their love was strong enough to survive, without destroying part of Paris. 

On the sunny side, for one month of the year, the Seine highway is closed for cars and transformed into a beach. A madly popular initiative.

It should be returned to the people permanently. Imagine making this an ice skating rink in the winter? Imagine markets lining the Seine? Fleas, flowers, food. Such a beautiful space.

By a busy square, the city of Paris set up a free and manned tap water bar, offering a choice of still or sparkling. The "Ouvrez un grand cru" campaign is running on its second year, educating citizens on the qualities of the water. A public service initiative as opposed to a short-lived PR stunt, designed for the media. PR stunts are so insincere, they creep me out.

So cool. Although not as tasty as Eau de Copenhague.

Select streets are still closed for cars on Sundays, between the hours of 10-19.30. Enforced, mind you: police officers guarding all entrances. Taking the safety of pedestrians and cyclists seriously.

With the bike parking problems we face in Copenhagen (insufficient/non existing parking), it was interesting to see the difference in Paris. There were plenty of parked bikes, but none blocking the sidewalks.

Well: duh! Copenhagen really need to get its priorities straight when it comes to parking space. It's a no-brainer, really: cars have to give. It just takes balls to implement.

Another example of what a street can look like, if you (gasp!) remove a few car parking spots. 

Tell me again, why are we clinging to the concept of metal taking up the majority of our public space?

And there is a politeness in Paris. No drunken yelling in the streets, bar owners put up signs in the window, asking smokers to use the ashtrays. In the buses signs are politely asking that you show consideration for your fellow passengers, and keep your phone conversations in a low voice. Little things like that, but everywhere.

I noticed this old woman stopping in front of a tree, and pushing back displaced rubble, before moving on. She clearly considered it a shared responsibility to keep the city nice. I agree, of course.

The city of Paris returns the favor by not spamming its citizens with advertising, on every single surface. In Copenhagen a scaffolding is seen as an opportunity to visually pollute with spam, in Paris it is used to pay tribute to street art.

Scaffold cover street art

By Nemo, Jérôme Mesnager (l'Homme en blanc) and Mosko & Associes.

Scaffold cover

Oh, Paris.

25 August 2014

From Paris with love

My eyes have been licking the walls of Paris. I needed that so much, a break from it all. Of course once you start the hunt for street art, it is a little bit like going to work. Walking on blistered feet, in the wrong shoes (when will I ever learn?). You almost get to the point of "f*ckit, it isn't worth it", when you strike gold. And then it is. Totally. I am going to start with the best, my first Kashink spotting. It was love a first sight.

Izo-Kashink, Paris 
My heart was racing, this is right up there with German street artists Various and Gould, to me. 

Izo-Kashink, Paris

In a collaboration with IZO.

Izo-Kashink, Paris

From that moment on, all I wanted was to find more Kashink. Nothing else mattered.


Here is a collaboration with Bault, in another part of town. I read up on Kashink, a female French street artist painting fat, gay men. Humorous and colorful in support of the basic human rights for gays, like marriage. In the Bastille area I spotted some of "The Johns", paste up heads with small messages.

A John by Kashink

Oh come on dude!

Detail of a John by Kashink

A John detail, by Kashink.

It turns out she was just interviewed by Jaime of the Brooklyn Street Art Blog, isn't that classic? Like surfing the same wave, oceans apart. Another yummy discovery was AMOUR. Psychedelic stuff.


With something that I consider a pretty accurate street art portrait of me. Ha.


A lot of these were caught in Vitry sur Seine, as the writing on the wall there says:

The city is an open air museum

The city is an open air museum.

It was only once I started researching the artists, to be able to credit them properly that I realised how many of my favorites were female. So varied, so raw and so wild. It makes me oddly happy. Here is a piece by Céleste Java.

Céleste Java, Paris
  Céleste Java, Paris

Céleste Java, Paris

Konny Steding below. 

Konny Steding

Tell me about your fears. Tell me what you want.

It was not until I saw all this that I fully realized what we miss in Copenhagen. Street art have become so scarce here, perhaps because it thrives in quarters with mixed income inhabitants. The poor and low income households have so much to offer a city, but they are systematically being cleaned out. The currency they pay in, is not accepted or appreciated in Copenhagen, by those in charge.

They don't know what they are killing, by overlooking this. Street art is a sign of a healthy and creative city, the total absence of it should be a cause for concern.

Street art of Paris

Bikes in street art. I can't make out the signature, let me know if you recognize the artist!

Street art of Paris

And a big, wild one by Belgian ROA, oh!



A toad in his natural habitat.

So much to learn from Paris, and more to come. I just need to breathe before I go to work on the next one.

Link fest:

An urbanist's guide to Copenhagen

Hey, guess what I completely forgot to mention? I was blogger of the week at Guardian Cities, doing the urbanist's guide to Copenhagen. The good and the ugly, as always. Have a look here: link.


Consider my glitch proof that I really needed that vacation..

17 August 2014

Silent Sunday, good vibrations

Mercedes Benz
 Good vibrations
  Cute butts

09 August 2014

Costa del Lakes

Like someone hit a switch, we went from high summer to something that closely resembles fall. Daylight is fading, evenings are turning slightly colder and denial is in the air. We have got that part down to a fine art. The sunset side of the lakes is right next to a busy road, heavy with congested traffic, noise and exhaust fumes you can almost taste. But turn your back to all that and it's Costa del Lakes. Paradise on earth.

Costa del Lakes

I love the resilience of Copenhageners!


See how easy it is to pretend you don't have cars speeding by at 50 kilometres per hour? If getting your beverages from the cafe across the road, means having to play dare with traffic, so be it.


We are reclaiming the public space inch by inch. 

02 August 2014

A declaration of war

It’s been a hectic week. One thing that had my blood at a boil was the parasitic business “Cykelstativet” (the bike rack), with a simple concept: stealing people's bikes, and holding them ransom. A double payoff, as the owners of shops and buildings would have to pay a steep subscription fee for this “service”. I feel sorry for the poor souls, who returned to find their bikes stolen. We depend on our bikes so much, losing one can cripple a struggling household.

Fortunately, quite a few of these bikes were reported stolen (not everybody found the ransom instructions), the media picked up on it, forcing the police to take a stance. It took them a week to return with the verdict: removing people's bikes is theft, and asking ransom not legal. You don’t say?

What infuriates me the most is not that someone came up with such an evil plan, but the fact that stores were willing to declare Copenhagen cyclists war. The majority of Copenhageners get around by bike. I mean, come on? Among businesses that consider cycling customers a nuisance are Danske Bank (the curse of our country, this bank, devoid of social responsibility), a mediocre jewelry company, that deserves no mention here, and even a bar, “The Moose”. Slow clap. 

It would have been so simple to install a bike rack in front of the business, like it is done all over Berlin, for instance. Perhaps with a small greeting: Welcome, my non polluting friend. No? I guess not. Even though it would have been cheaper to install than this crap, and the subscription that goes with it:

Of course this is a symptom of what we have been saying all along: there is an embarrassing shortage of bike parking options in Copenhagen, both in the commercial and residential areas. Cars have all the road space, and they are fighting tooth and nail to keep it that way. Until the city comes up with an appropriate solution, our only option is to use the streets and block the sidewalks.

24 July 2014

Come rain or come shine

Copenhagernes will look back at this summer, and call it the best in years. It really is. But it is also too damn much with this crazy heat wave and endless sleepless tropical nights. It just crosses a line when your brain starts melting on you. Not to sound ungrateful (feel free to remind me of this come the dungeon), because I also love the long days, the clear skies and living in a skimpy summer dress. As always, it is about making the best of it. Come rain or come shine.

It is kind of poetic how the shadow only comes alive in the sun. The two of them put on quite a show these days.

Light and shadow

Half and half

Shadow stairs

Fleeting shadow-stairs, to be enjoyed while they last.

The summercycle goes from one extreme to the other. After a while of boiling heat, burnt grass and suffering trees, nature compensates with heavy rain. Followed by more complaining, of course. Until you remember the puddle action.

Floating Copenhagen tourists

Toying with Copenhagen tourists. Making them float...

Sliding Copenhagen tourists

...and slide. Without understanding the words, I knew they were talking about the strange girl crouching before them in the street. "What’s she doing? What’s she doing?"

Smiles. I think?

 “Aaaaaaahhhh” this was the moment that they realised what I was doing. Ha. Thank you for playing.