As Pretty as an Airport / Car Park

I love the phrase ‘as pretty as an airport’. It most sums up most airports – which we usually regard as places we need to spend as little time as possible in.


But Lyon St. Exupery Airport is actually very attractive. But then it should be – it was designed in part by one of my favourite Architects – Santiago Calatrava. He designed the Turning Torso building in Malmo -another of my favourite buildings I blogged about before here.

This really is a stunning piece of architecture – opened in 1994 it represents the wings of a bird. It is fair to say that it has a ‘wow’ factor. When we arraived there was a bride and groom in the airport having their photos taken! I have never seen that…


But I also saw a car park which was nothing like I have ever seen before. It is known at the Parc De Celestin and reminds you of catacombs. There is a periscope at ground level which allows you to look down, although it was difficult to work out as there is a mirror at its base! This was an amazing piece of engineering – pushing cars underground – but quite spectacularly!

Who would have though that a car park could be pretty! Or an airport for that matter.

Tomorrow – here comes the light….

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So what does make a place….

After Deb Tate’s piece yesterday I have been thinking about Place – and wondering what actually defines a place. Perhaps more importantly what is a great place I have been to?

You might recall I am a member of The Academy of Urbansim – and they have set out five themes which define a place.

1. Making people feel at home. Attracting people and keeping them is critical.
2. Paying attention to quality of life. Making the connection between a good place to live and visit. But focusing on those who live there first.
3. Good food. Providing good food outlets is important (We noted this on our USA tour when working with the Sheriff’s Commission in 2009).
4. Art & Culture. Art can present an up-market image.
5. The Environment. We need to take care of our environment both at conservation level, but also in providing new buildings.

Malmo in Sweden is always held out as being a great ‘place’ In particular the Western Harbour – where Calatrava’s Turning Torso building lives gets special mention. I have been a couple of times – I love the place. It does epitomise the themes set out.

The really interesting thing about the Western Harbour is that it was a broken community – an abandoned shipyard. It now has some amazing housing, work places and shops / restaurants. It has a quality to it that doesn’t smack of money but rather of good design.

We need to learn from the lessons of places like Malmo – and create our own great places. Nottingham has some of the buts that can help, but that elusive glue (The Higgs Boson part) still isn’t here! But they’ve found Higgs so it can’t be rocket science for us to get the recipe sorted?

Copenhagen – looking back

It’s been a busy few days and I have only just got round to putting my thoughts together on Copenhagen.

I have had a few days to reflect on our visit to Copenhagen last week. Although I had been to the airport before this was the first time I had ventured into this Danish city.

Putting the rain to one side (they had two months worth in two hours) I really enjoyed the City. My overriding impression of the place is good; it is a very cosmopolitan place. Although it’s hard to pin down such a label, you will know what I mean!

There is something about the pavement cafe culture, the canals and water inlets and stunning architecture. The Danish Royal family base is here. Some of the buildings are fantastic – both modern and old.

Sadly we didn’t get time to get to Tivoli Gardens; I had wanted to if only to see where Walt Disney got his inspiration for what has subsequently been one of the most iconic visitor attractions on the planet! Apparently Walt went there when his early attempts at theme parks were failing.

The Nyhaven harbour has had a chequered history, but is now home to some great outdoor bars. Cobbled pavements, colourful buildings and boats in the harbour almost guarantee the areas success.

The paved, car-free shopping street (Strojet) houses some very high-end shops – even if they are rather expensive.

Your money doesn’t go far in Copenhagen – it is much like most Capital Cities. I don’t think it was as expensive as Paris – but it was a close run race! Beer at £8 a go helps in the abstention stakes?

On balance – it’s a great place and if you haven’t been I would recommend it. But if you get the chance to go I would encourage a trip across the water to Sweden and Malmo…

Copenhagen – part 2

As anticipated we went to Malmo in Sweden yesterday. Malmo is a 35 minute train journey from Copenhagen – you venture across the Oresund Bridge (which is like the baby version of the bridge linging Shanghai to Ningbo I went on last year).

The Turning Torso - Malmo

I especially like the Vastra Hamnen district – the harbour area. This is where you can see, actually you can’t miss, Santiago Calatrava‘s “Turning Torso” building. It stands out from miles around and is the centre-piece of this area of urban renewal. The whole place has fantastic public open spaces – water features run through the houses and shops.

What I noticed most was the massive development taking place – tower cranes and new roads are plentiful. It has really changed a lot since I was there 3 years ago. It is good to see – and the oprices of some of the hosuing stock was not as expensive as I imagined. A floating hosue boat (that description doesn’t do it justice) was £360,000?

We found an excellent coffee shop on the southern tip of the area – Espresso House – cappucino and cup cakes went down well.

The town is also really nice – an ecelctic mix of old and new – some buildings dating back to the 1500′s, other modern glass efforts. Public squares feauture too – the Eurpoeans do squares much better than us?

And that was it – we headed back across the water to Copenhagen – and an evening around the Tivoli Gardens. We started with dinner at that quintisentially Danish restaurant – The Hard Rock Cafe. We can’t be accused of not being immersed in the local culture? It took so long we ran out of time to look around Tivoli – we are hoping to go back…

Since Tivoli was a place we considered on our Sheriff of Nottingham tour a few years ago, I think we need to see it.

But, today was really about Malmo. I love the place. The Harbour area is, in my opinion, how buildings should sit in their environment. 10/10 Malmo.

Blogging from Copenhagen

It’s one of our friends 50th Birthday – he wants to keep it quiet, so we are heading out of the Country today to Copenhagen. My blog should add to the anonimity?

Bill Ebbesen's view of Copenhagen at night

I have (sort of) been to Copenhagen before. I have been to the airport – en-route to Malmo in Sweden. But this time we are going proper. The 50th Birthday boy gets to choose the location and this is it.

So my next few days will be based here in Denmark – in a city of over 1 million folks. I have checked on Wikipedia and it seems that we are in the 10th most expensive City in the world. A coke can’t be more than I paid in Paris last year – £6… or can it?

Alan Price was born half a century ago. He has worn pretty well. After a life-time at Siemens he ‘found’ gymnastics – coaching not doing! We met him at Nottingham Hospitals Radio back in 1979 – we all joined at the same time. That seems like a lifetime ago! The gang of us who all met at NHR are here in Denmark  - 8 of us have remained really close friends ever since. Even our various kids (8 of them) all get along – they have grown up together.

So the weekend begins here – I’m not sure what is on the agenda. The Tivoli Gardens was something mentioned when I was looking at World Class Attractions with the Sheriff of Nottingham. But I also fancy going back to Malmo – to see the Harbour and Calatrava’s Turning Torso building…one of my favourites.

I’ll keep you posted – assuming I can get some wi-fi in the foreign land? And assuming that there is not strike at the airport? There had better not be…

PS – in case you were wondering – I am not even close to being 50!

Teaching Sustainability?

A couple of years ago I gave some advice to Castle College in Nottingham about a potential new teaching Centre.

Smartlife Centre Hamburg

The idea was to add to an existing teaching set of courses. The College had (and still have) popular courses in building – bricklaying, plastering, plumbing etc.

As the College were becoming involved in new builds at Highfields Science Park and the main Centre in Chilwell we started to think about how the College could learn from these real life projects. The College always make sure that any building contracts have an ability for their own students to see progress formally during the build.

We also started to see in increase in the use of new technology for carbon reduction. We were being encouraged to look at Photo-Voltaic cells, Ground Source Heat Pumps, high levels of insulation, double and triple glazing, rainwater harvesting, biomass boilers and the like. But what was evident was that although these new technologies were being specified by Architects, the operatives fitting them were often struggling. Or you had to employ specialist sub-contactors (some of whom travelled miles thus negating some of the green credentials?).

We went to see two Smartlife centres -one in Malmo, the other in Hamburg. These centres were way ahead of the UK – and were brilliant showcases for some of the technology.

I was delighted to see that a Centre in the UK has been opened. It has been built by Wolseley – the worlds largest heating and plumbing supplier. It is known as the Sustainable Building Centre. It is a showcase for around 170 products – with information on a total of 7,000 – all under one roof.

Like the Genesis Project in Taunton, the centre uses the technology in it’s own construction. But there is a subtle difference. I visited Taunton and we saw quite specialised construction – including rammed earth and straw bales. This hasn’t found its way in to the Wolseley centre – it isn’t scalable enough to be distributed.

So, although the centre is pushing new technology – it is with a very close eye on commerciality. And for this reason, I think it an excellent project. Sometimes, I think we fall too easily for the green technology on the basis that it sounds sexy. The reality is that some of it is not really commercially viable – payback times can sometimes go beyond the life of the building!

In a recent report to Government the easiest and cheapest way of achieving a substantial CO2 reduction was highlighted as turning down room thermostats by 1 deg C. This is estimated to reduce, in the UK, emissions by 5.5 million tonnes of CO2 annually!

Sadly, the LSC funding for College schemes like the Sustainable Building Project pretty much dried up before we were able to get a centre built in Nottingham. Maybe one day someone will realise we need this sort of centre – for future builders!