Copenhagen Kulturnatten

As one of the most liveable cities in the world, it’s no surprise creativity and design permeates everything in Copenhagen’s society – from bike-sharing innovations, high quality produce, to the contemporary creative appeal of one of the world’s oldest amusement parks, Tivoli

The highly held Danish aspiration of being hyggelig, loosely translated as cozy, coupled with its rich heritage of storytelling and forward looking direction, makes this city’s enviable creative values worth exploring.

With a strong culture of people-centered design already in place, I was keen to see how Copenhagen would do Kulturnatten – Night of Culture. This annual night has been running in October for 21 years and gives thousands of visitors a chance to experience one-off events across the city in over 300 locations, visiting museums, zoos, fire stations, breweries, parliament, castles, the works…

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The reasonable £10 ticket price and a clever partnership with the local travel providers allows free access to everything and public transport on the night. I was pleasantly surprised to hear that the night is not subsided by the state and ticket sales and goodwill from partners ensures that this is major event is sustainable.

Why does Kulturnatten work?

I think there are a few key reasons which make this massive event so successful:

+ Choice, quality and value.  Clearly the night is well set-up for families, but with nearly 700 events on offer, there is something edgy, surreal, weird, fun, moving, for everyone… The price, including transport costs, is a big plus.

+ An accessible way for cultural organisations to engage new, often younger, audiences.  Exploring the immense 19th century marble sculptures in Thorvaldsen Museum in the dark, lit only by projection mapped light displays was incredible. The light projections were created by local students and included a basketball dribbling etherial Jesus statue. This was an experience not to be forgotten!

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+ There is a strong ethos of collaboration and openness of innovation across the city – The Danish Design Society’s public event was Modern Magic Materials, which encouraged visitors to play with future materials, such as fungus packaging, glass foam, Sugru, and more – it was great to see such a diverse demographic understanding and enjoying these future materials, in an accessible, open and interactive way. I loved this event. Future material buffs should also check out Danish Design Centre’s Hello Materials blog.

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+ Raising design awareness.  Scandinavian countries are of course well-known for their love and appreciation of good design. Cities like Copenhagen and Malmö have created a culture where businesses value design and the public completely get it. I’d love to see other cities get the confidence and belief to place design and creativity so centrally on their city agendas, as these cities. Some top design spaces included:

The Danish Design Society situated right on the main Hans Christian Anderson boulevard in CPH, an unusually amazing central situation for a design centre, houses a cafe, the Danish Design Centre, the Fashion Institute and Index, which inspires, engages and educates people in sustainable design.

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The Design Museum was another great space for promoting the importance and value of design – their exhibition on everyday design was a good example to show that everyone uses design in their daily lives. Their cafe was a delight – decked out only in classic Danish wooden furniture, there wasn’t a drop of pre-formed coloured plastic anywhere.

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A short half hour trip across from Copenhagen to Malmö for the day also proved interesting from a design perspective. Visiting Form/Design Center – another public design centre situated in a prominent central square. With an exhibition space, cafe, and shop full of local designers work, this centre is compact, interesting and free to visit.

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Malmö’s Modern Art Museum is also note worthy, I loved the exhibitions of Russian Avant-Garde work and Soviet hippies. Their lockers are pretty cool too.

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As a fan of public library spaces, the multi award winning extension ‘Calendar of Light’ at Malmö City Library, by Henning Larsen was well worth visiting – function, light and form come together to create this beautiful space.

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