Bøggild, Signe Sophie
The New Town and the Freetown. Plan-organisation plus minus self-organisation in Copenhagen

Signe Sophie Bøggild is a Copenhagen-based freelance researcher of architecture, urbanism and bordering fields. In 2007, she graduated as M.Phil. in History of Art from the University of Copenhagen and in 2003 as MA from the Department of Visual Culture, Goldsmiths College, University of London where her special subject was Geographies with Prof. Irit Rogoff. After collaborating with Crimson Architectural Historians in Rotterdam on their big research project on New Towns (2008), she is finishing a chapter on Swedish satellite towns for a book on this topic to be published by Crimson. This research expands on an ongoing, independent research project about the Scandinavian Welfare City between planned utopia and lived heterotopia on which she has worked in her university thesis and prepares to write a Ph.D. Thus, she currently attends a Ph.D. course at The Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts School of Architecture and Aarhus Architecture School. She has written several articles in magazines like Nordic Journal of Architecture and Øjeblikket Journal of Art and Visual Culture. Likewise, she has participated in and lectured at conferences in Denmark and abroad, most recently a paper about the ghosts of modernism at a conference in Reykjavik, arranged by Nordic Summer University, March 2009. She has work experience from places such as The Danish Contemporary Arts Foundation (2001 – 2002), NORD Nordic Office for Research and Design (at present) and the University of Copenhagen where
she has taught and guest-lectured (2004 and 2006). Autumn 2008, she was a research fellow at the Danish Academy in Rome where she studied the relationship between the historical centre and the generic periphery. She has co-curated and contributed to exhibitions, e.g. the new hanging of the 20th Century collection of The Danish Museum of Art and Design (2000 - 2001) and an exhibition about dwellings in Copenhagen by the urban mediator Copenhagen X (2004). Moreover, she has done extensive fieldwork while travelling in Asia and the Middle East.


The New Town and the Freetown. Plan-organisation plus minus self-organisation in Copenhagen

After the national election in November 2001, the new rightwing government in Denmark launched a program, including a competition of a master plan, to control and contain Christiania, Copenhagen’s self-organised squatter-town. Simultaneously, a new anti-ghettoisation committee was set up to fight the ‘vicious spiral’ of decaying post-war New Towns that failed to fulfil their modernist, Social Democratic utopia. One such example is Urbanplanen, located close to Christiania and completed the same year as the Freetown was created (1971).

Nevertheless, the so-called “normalisation” projects for Christiania and Urbanplanen are not singular events. Rather, they are components in a social engineering and identity project since the 1960s, linking individual and urban levels in different social and political strategies to create “the good life” and “the good city”: On the one hand, as a top-down plan-organisation in the planning of the ‘welfare city’ (from tabula rasa); on the other hand as a countercultural and bottom-up self- organisation in the personal appropriations of urban spaces (grafted on top of the urban palimpsest). These approaches should be seen as a relation: If the welfare city intended to domesticate individuals in ordered spaces according to universal minimal standards, the ‘counter-spaces’ of the counterculture sought to emancipate individuals to create alternative spaces and identities in the cracks of the dominant order. In a paradoxical way, plan-organisation (politicians’ and architects’ clear vision of “the good city”) and self-organisation (architecture generated by local space battles) are mutually constitutive. They re-act on each other in the production of the urban spaces in which we live.

From the above assumptions we would like to open up for a discussion of the following questions: How does the paradigm shift from egalitarian, collective ideals to liberal, individualist ideals affect the perspective on and shaping of the city? How are urban spaces currently constituted and unfolded at Urbanplanen and Christiania? Has Copenhagen learned from the historical dynamics between the planned New Town and the unplanned Freetown in the planning and living of ‘new’ New Towns like Ørestaden and Nordhavn?