Happy Ever After? Planning and Squatting the Welfare-City in between the Freetown Christiania and the New Town Tingbjerg
Last modified: 2011-04-27
'From Tingbjerg in the one end of Copenhagen, where everything is quite heartlessly regulated and normalised and forced into the right shapes, one can drive with bus line 8 to the other end of Copenhagen to Christiania, where everything is free, many thinktoo free.'
The above quote is Danish urban planning's grand old man Steen Eiler Rasmussen's description of the difference between his own totally planned New Town Tingbjerg and the squatted, self-organised Freetown Christiania in 1976. Using the occasion of Christiania's 40th birthday to rethink past experiences to imagine the future, I will examine the relationship between Tingbjerg and Christiania in a retroactive cultural-historical perspective: How they were created from planned and unplanned conditions, lost control over their own narrative, and are currently being reconfigured by new policies, plans and actors fighting with narratives to redefine them.
Mostly the New Town and the Freetown are regarded as contrasting phenomena within recent urbanism. Yet, their historical development - individually and mutually - makes it productive to study contact zones where they overlap and affect each other. The former is planned from tabula rasa, the latter superimposed on an urban palimpsest, yet both embody dramatic changes since the post-war period, still marking Copenhagen/Denmark as frontiers for constructions and reconstructions, definitions and redefinitions of the welfare-city. Searching for new urban communities and ideals of "the good life" with diverging strategies and point of departures, they emerged with the welfare society when alterations of urban spaces were crucial to frame radical lifestyle changes. Today, the social democratic utopia and the anarcho-socialist enclave are treated as urban others: "the ghetto" and "the freak", containing the poor, the immigrants and people off the norm, needing to be reintegrated into society's law and order via urban planning.
Since the cases constitute contested urban spaces and debates of Danish (welfare) urbanism, I will first introduce the making of Tingbjerg and Christiania, mirroring social engineering and social movements respectively. Second, I will examine post-1968 planning-ambivalence through Eiler Rasmussen's perspective on the Freetown as a corrective to his vision of the New Town. Third, I will relate the general disappointment with the planned welfare-city to alternative strategies for urban welfare, adding softer social values to urban planning while introducing the actor of the individual/user/inhabitant. Writing at a time when the welfare-city and welfare society are being renegotiated, I will lastly examine how urban planning is reintroduced as political instrument, disciplining cities and citizens, in current plans of normalising the Freetown and anti-ghettoising the New Town.