The Man and his Work

The future of Copenhagen: considerations in the abstract

To write an article on the future of Copenhagen if you have visited it for only a few days does not appear, at first sight, very natural. Actually, apart from the very short visits of a few hours, I did visit Copenhagen once for a few days in December 1961, in order to pay a visit to the city officials and to lecture at the Akademisk Arkitektforening and the Royal Academy of Fine Arts. It was during that short visit that I got just a feeling of the situation without, however, being able to increase my knowledge about the city and its problems enormously. Thus, when I was asked to express an opinion about the future of Copenhagen I could only say that I could express an opinion about the city only in the abstract, only in an abstract analysis of problems and solutions. The usefulness of such considerations in the abstract is exactly the opposite of that found in a detailed account by somebody who has thorough knowledge of all problems: Remaining aloof, considering the problems in a detached, disinterested way, regarding them in the abstract, sometimes helps us to avoid pitfalls created by the very great knowledge of a situation, the great knowledge which sometimes also means too much attachment to detail.

Here again, but in a different way, we have the same old story of the trees and the forest. In order to understand the whole situation I must be able to look at the trees as details and at the forest as a whole. It is quite often very difficult for the people concerned with the trees, with the details, with the day-to-day problems, to detach themselves from this pre-occupation and develop the capacity to look into the whole. It is in those cases that the role of an outsider, looking at the problem only as a problem of the forest, and not of the trees of which it consists, may be of some use.

This is the task I have chosen for myself in this case, for whatever it may be worth.

From Document R-GA; 289, 1963, 64 p.: ill. plans.