Denmark: Universal Appeal
We couldn’t have had a more welcoming first impression of Copenhagen. We rented a small AirBnB from Ida in the Plejcenter Sølund complex in Nørrebro, just outside the city centre. Her place is thoughtfully decorated with understated Danish design (I kept seeing the items we used every day at design shops around the city, like these matches, jars and lights.) The apartments within the complex were originally constructed as a nursing home, and were slated to be demolished until a shortage in student housing gave them a new lease on life. They are now filled with 20 somethings who take any opportunity to strip down to their skivvies and sunbathe in the central courtyard. We quickly realized that because of the unique considerations taken in order to build housing for an older demographic the complex is now a shining example of universal design. With its button-operated doors, wide hallways and '0-thresholds' the environment is incredibly accessible. And the functionality now doubles as trendy, minimal environmental design, nicely aligned with the Danish aesthetic.
For example, the bathroom is a 'wet room' with the sink, shower and toilet sharing the small space without any barriers. This allows residents with mobility issues to get in and out easily. I think we might do this to make the most of the space in our tiny bathroom at home.
The complex contains 3 identical buildings which are diagonally placed along the lake in order to maximize the view and amount of sunshine afforded to each unit. Between them are communal gardens, picnic tables, bbqs and overflowing bicycle parking. And within the building, the communal spaces are equally welcoming, the hallways even feature event posters and strings of dainty bunting.
Right at the doorstep are a series of lakes—a great spot for people watching—and a main bicycle-path artery across the city. The area is also filled with good restaurants, wine bars, brew pubs & antique shops. If you're in the 'hood, stop for mussels + fries at Gavlen, local brews + small plates at Nørrebro Bryghus or a glass of tipple at Malbeck.
And since we're on the topic of accessibility, Danish paper currency is another top-notch bit of design. The bills vary in length according to value and each features a different coloured stripe on the edge. That way the fat stacks in your wallet are both attractive and functional.