Atlas of the Copenhagens
The past two decades have seen a marked increase in city ranking indexes and urban metrics, yet across the board American cities continue to score poorly — last year no US cities made the top 25 in lifestyle magazine Monocle’s Quality of Life Survey. On the opposite end of the spectrum lies Copenhagen, the capital city of Denmark, presented time and again as one of the world’s most ‘liveable’ cities and celebrated as a global model of sustainable urban development. In the run-up to this year’s rankings, we look closer at Atlas of the Copenhagens, a thoughtful and engaging book edited by Deane Simpson, Kathrin Gimmel, Anders Lonka, Marc Jay, and Joost Grootens, to explore the multiplicity and complexities of Copenhagen today and how the city can begin to inspire new ways of analysing and interpreting the urban environments around us.
The point of departure for Atlas of the Copenhagens is not to view the Danish capital as a single entity, but instead as a multiplicity of overlapping and contrasting urban environments. These shifting scales and perspectives come to life in the book’s graphical and text contributions, which are best understood as an anthology rather than a linear narrative. From mapping the urban layout of Copenhagen’s most loved public spaces to comparing the number of plastic bottles used to other cities across the world, the maps and diagrams collected in the Atlas cover significant ground. Academic essays, insights and pull quotes compliment the book’s graphical elements and invite the reader to deepen their understanding both of Copenhagen as a model city and how it has influenced, and been affected by, the ways in which contemporary urban environments are measured and compared.
The Atlas was first conceptualized during a series of student workshops at the Danish Academy of Fine Arts(KADK) in 2011 which focussed on an increasing use of ranking indexes and livability terminology at municipal level. Questions emerged such as, “what constitutes a contemporary competitive and attractive city?” “How are concepts of sustainability and livability measured and communicated?” And, “what alternative ways might cities be mapped and what new stories might these cartographies reveal?” As the Atlas project continued to gain ground once the workshops had concluded, it was subsequently pursued within a…