A new commons in Trekroner
In 2011, a temporary public space placed was inaugurated on a future building-site of Trekroner, a new urban area of Roskilde in Denmark. This was a proptotype of a new kind of commons, and was the result of two dialogue processes I performed in 2008 and in 2010.
It is not possible to denominate this commons with one singel word. It is a place that can flex identity – can used and temporarily owned for many diffferent purposes such as for bmx-cycling, for physical excercise, for birdwatching, for musical concerts, for an evening fire, for an outdoor cinema or for a party. Therefore it stands out as a vague architecture – a crossbreed between different purposes, identities and partnerships.
The new commons was elaborated in very concrete collaboration with the residents of the urban area themselves, who built and now administrates it. Karen Atwell from the Roskilde municipality played a vital role in the process. The towers were built by S A Albertsen. ( For further information, please scroll down).
Supported by the National Danish Foundation of Art In Public Space 2010.
Photo: Cai Ulrich von Platen
The commons as it stands today, a central self governed zone in the open in-between.
Two dialogue processes led to the making of this new commons:
A first was a dialogue I initiated in 2008, as a part of the eleven year long Trekroner Art Plan Project.
During a weekend seminar entitled OPEN PLAN – Imagining, participating residents of the new urban area were invited to define the organization of the new lake area by responding to a question: What would they need in order to share, or do something – together? The residents produced a series of proposals for how the lake area could be organised and some weeks later, their proposals were laid forward for public debate and vote among all residents in the area.
I staged and moderated the seminar, the debates and the voting process, and finally assembled the 7-8 chosen proposals in collaboration with landscape architect Marianne Levinsen. We fusinned them into a proper counter-plan, which was published in 2009 and distributed as an addition to the local paper. ( See below)
Some time later, the municipality of Roskilde accepted the counterplan, and the lake area is now reorganized according to this plan. Thus the art project altered the actual master plan of the new urban development concerning the area around the lake.
The second dialogue was initiated by the publication of this counterplan.The publication was co-edited with residents, who asked for it to be shaped like an invitation to all residents for an old fashioned treasure hunt.
The “treasure” turned out to be eighty young tree plants which then were was “pirate-planted” on places where residents felt there was a missing tree.
This action led to yet another initiative: Not wanting to wait for the city to arrange something for them to share and do together, the group of participating residents chose to go out and physically claim the land they needed to build a new BMX track themselves. And they absolutely insisted choosing the most expensive building ground in the new urban area – as a way of expressing that the planning was in error, and that this lot of land ought to become an open park.
On behalf of the residents, I negotiated access to their choice of place with Roskilde City to obtain a temporary permission to mount the BMX-track. Once approved, the track was later defined and built by residents themselves – with heavy machines and during a very long hot summer.
My contribution during the planning process of the locals, was to add a set of expanded aspects to this track.
I added a small circle of red tennis gravel in the middle of the BMX-track. On this circle, I placed three high towers made of galvanized steel and transparent coloured acrylic glass.
With this addition I aimed to create a glitch in the relatively fixed image of the purpose of the BMX track. A glitch, or interruption of the one rational function, which opened the possibility that it could actually flex its identity, and momentarily become something else than in fact just a track for bicycles.
The new commons is organized as home track for a local BMX–association, but also as a point of departure for a free running path around the entity of the lake area, a place for bird watching, for social gatherings around the fire, flee markets, hang out parties, music evenings, exercise field for elderly and playground for small children etc. etc.
I also secured the possiblity of an expanded involvement from other agents than the group of residents:
The local social association, Trekronerrådet, found two containers and placed them as to allow a small bridge to be built in between them. Their addition was a new dance area, a stage and a rudimentary kitchen area.
Someone else brought loads of low seats found at a recycling site, today used around a fireplace. Yet someone brought a stove to make pancakes – etc. During daytime, the towers mark the site and simultaneously offer themselves as boots for the judges in BMX-competitions. During nighttime, they become coloured lanterns on the site, as I installed light inside them. As I also added a big TV screen, options for light- and sound installations, it was possible for the track to become what it is today – a vague space – a crossing between different identities and partnerships.
Making Trekroner new commons in collaboration with the locals, made me aware of how rarely the experiences and the ownership brought in by new residents into a new urban area – is at all considered important in planning.
On the contrary, it seems that planning builds on a standardized image of the residents as unified customers, in order to simplify budget for and production of buildings and spaces. But if time and space was reserved from the start of an urban development, if the aim was not to entirely define and finish all aspects and all areas of the new urban area – the skills of the new residents in the planning of their area perhaps could elaborate quite different forms of public space. Thereby giving to a new urban area, what contemporary planning not seems to be able to produce – a true sense of place.