Urban Explorer Copenhagen takes a starting point in the city. Using it like a canvas to create art works and explore the hidden and overlooked hotspots of a historical town. The city is truly at the center, and experiences the founder gained from study and life are used to create new experiences for curious Copenhageners who have a passion to learn about new places. Sometimes these places are right under our noses. Read an interview with the man behind Urban Explorer Copenhagen – where the city always comes first.
How did you choose your study?
After an education mainly based on the construction and some jobs in that field, I simply realized that I wanted to be a part of the preceding step of the building process. My real purpose was actually to work as a real actor of the urban development, not only a builder. So I passed a master degree in Urban Planning/Sustainable Development ten years ago.
How does it influence your projects?
This career path has provided me a global vision of the territories development. I have never stopped to be really focused on urban planning, and for me it includes architecture, building methods and so on. The will to share it and to organize tours occurred only a couple of years ago, and there is clearly a logic between my education and the UECPH activity. My passion for the photography has been only added recently to this project.
How did you come up with your concept?
It really came step by step! When I arrived in Copenhagen, I was just so curious, and I wanted to discover my new country, and of course how the city has evolved, the current and upcoming projects. I have met many people who shared their knowledge with me, and I feel their interest in my curiosity. It was like a drug: it is difficult to stop when you learn something about a street, you just want to know the story behind the next street… I also started to publish many pictures of Copenhagen on my social media (sites) and I received positive feedbacks. In 2014 I started to organize tours for a company called Nordic Insite. After a while, I just felt that I could create an alternative concept based on my passions and UECPH was born!
What is unique about running your projects in Copenhagen?
Copenhagen is really exceptional. I am lucky to have visited some countries and I am quite sure that you can’t compare Copenhagen to another city in the world. There is so many reasons of this specificity but I will give you only one: the possibility to bike across this important European capital in only 30 minutes. And when I say capital, it is because it involves a countless number of amazing places and atmospheres.
How does Copenhagen influence you?
Copenhagen has truly changed my way of life for the same reason than (that I expressed in) my last answer. Previously I was just used to drive everyday for all my trips, I have only my bike here (in Copenhagen). The other main influence of this city is the interesting balance between public and private areas, I have learnt to visualize the territories really differently.
And of course, the Danes continue to influence me everyday but this topic would deserve another interview…
How do you choose who to collaborate with?
All of them have been really natural, no real decision and this is exactly what I like. Most of (the) time, it comes from a passion in common, and because this collaboration can be challenging, fun and useful for both of us. But we have to share the same philosophy about our projects, events and so on… I am always very careful of that.
What’s your next project?
I am working hard on my upcoming photo exhibition in Kulturtårnet, an interesting challenge in a unique place. I have also started to collaborate with some schools, institutions and festivals. My first “open” exploration will also come in April. 2018 is really promising
What are some of the most fun memories?
The unexpected side of the explorations is always really fun… But I must admit that I will not forget an episode regarding the upcoming exhibition: I fell into the water (6 degrees) just in order to take a picture… it was fun only a few hours later J
Favorite spots in Copenhagen
I prefer to keep the precise locations for me. But Refshelaøen, Christiania and Nørrebro are the best playgrounds J
Your city explorations lead you to discover a lot of different hidden spots around the city, but also a lot of street art. How do you think the art influences the city landscape?
Really interesting question, I can only answer with my urbanist vision. I prefer let le real specialists talk about the artistic side of this topic (and it is also important to be clear with “graffiti”, “street art”…)
We are definitely in a key moment: more and more cities have started to promote street art, like Paris, Berlin, San Francisco, Lima… and also some parts of Copenhagen. We can see the first controlled transformations of some districts thanks to street art and it’s generally promising. The power of these projects can be not only aesthetic but also social if the local inhabitants are implicated. That can create a kind of reappropriation of the territories and a positive revolution on the city landscape, with more attractive public spaces, and not only in the gentrified city centres!
People might admire your work but at the same time be against street art, which is often part of your work subjects. How do Copenhageners deal with that, based on your experience? Is it more accepted or is still a very controversial subject?
It’s easy to notice the huge difference between the generations. It’s clearly accepted (but not always appreciated) by those born during and after the 70s. I can regularly see a debate during my tours and some people are still really ignorant of this art, and they refuse to see beyond the vandalism aspect of it (that can also be defended). But they can learn from the walls of the city if we explain the story behind them. It’s still controversial but the age of the movement, the efforts of some artists and city actors, but also the generational renewal make it more and more accepted.
Since you have experience in all these different fields and since the city is continuously changing, do you think cities will try in the future to integrate this kind of art in the city's development? (Maybe creating new spaces)
I really hope so. Unfortunately, it’s more and more difficult for the new generation to find legal walls in Copenhagen. Many historic spots have been demolished recently, generally in order to build expensive apartment. We can’t deny there is a need in apartments but we can’t deny either the need of public spaces for everyone, artists included. The institutions must take that problem in consideration and think more about the balance we need in our urban environment.
You managed to immortalize places that were representative of this art that are not there anymore, like the wall of fame. Should this places be taken more in consideration or is it right that the art evolves with the city, be temporary and live only in the memories, like your work?
The city must be developed, no doubt about it… But some historic spots, regarding their historical, industrial, architectural, natural or even artistic past should be kept or at least adapted. This is in the DNA of the graffiti to be painted over and over but there is a plenty of talented young artists who could be forced to stop their art as a direct result of the gentrification…