More than 7,000 people attended the Aug. 22 opening of Olafur Eliasson’s Cirkelbroen Bridge last week in Copenhagen, an instant tribute to the stunning work of civic art. Crossing a canal in the Christianshavn neighborhood, the design channels Eliasson’s childhood memories of hop-skipping between boats strung along Icelandic harbors. Five circular platforms orbiting around staggered masts create a jagged route for commuters to cross and pedestrians to ponder, as some 5,000 people are expected to do daily – a meeting place, a vantage point, a conduit and a communion.
In his art, Eliasson harnesses transient natural materials – wind, fog, flowing water – into monumental installations, as he did so deftly in The New York City Waterfalls in 2008. Cirkelbroen finds him applying this approach to urban ephemerality, the “atmosphere of a space,” as he describes in an Arch Daily interview. “Obviously, one cannot plan atmosphere, as it is co-produced by the people who use the space, but it is possible to nurture an atmosphere, to allow it to grow,” he said. “As an artist, I work with abstract and emotional qualities, so this is where, I believe, art can play a role. I’m convinced that politicians, urban planners, and developers need to expand their toolbox by bringing in what I would call creative reality producers – artists, social scientists, sociologists, anthropologists, historians, dancers, poets, environmental activists, and philosophers – to rethink urban spaces.”
Stability amid transience, creative reality amid urban planning: both comforting thoughts in a time of change.