Denmark joined the World Health Organization Healthy Cities initiative in 1987 and is considered one of the world’s healthiest cities. Most Danes have 37-hour work-weeks and enjoy subsidized childcare services (free for low-income families). Parks like Orsteds park in Copenhagen are easily accessible and offer an opportunity to socialize while exercising and benefiting from access to nature.
Hygge is one of the most defining aspects of the Danish lifestyle, capturing feeling warm, cozy, and content through the simple and small things in life. In a home, hygge can be nourished with candles, fireplaces, warm blankets, small treats, doing something simple that you enjoy alone, and gathering with friends. Aloneness is as important in hygge as togetherness. Research suggests that carving out spaces, such as this window seat in a home, is crucial to well-being for both adults and adolescents. Instead of sadness and loneliness, solitude’s benefits include freedom, creativity, intimacy, and spirituality. Kids who spent 25 to 45 percent of their non-class time alone were found to be better adjusted and tended to have more positive emotions than their more socially active peers, were more successful in school, and were less likely to self-report depression.
Daylight along with electrical lighting are important for people’s mental and physical health, impacting sleep quality, mood, energy, and social interactions. Buildings that maximize access to daylight orient windows toward the south and open-up walls to allow for light to infiltrate deep into a space. Combining daylight with electrical light fixtures that play-off light and disperse it aligns with the Danish’s idea of hygge in both workplaces and residential environments.
Importance of Light
The Danish government’s commitment to grow the design industry and attract international investors translated to reforming design education to ensure that students were learning materials that meet industry standards and expectations along with investments in corporate design activities. In this central plaza in Copenhagen, an exhibit by the The Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts Schools of Architecture, Design and Conservation showcased how Danish design contributes to the UN Sustainable Development goals.
Design as a Form of Economic Development
A Hanover Research report, “School fencing: Benefits and disadvantages,” uses Crime Prevention through Environmental Design (CPTED) methodology to outline the benefits and disadvantages of fencing. On the one hand, it can provide safety, access control, natural surveillance, and establish the school’s perimeter while at the same time, it can limit surveillance, attract graffiti and other vandalism, restrict access so much that students take more hazardous routes to and from school, and create the feeling of ‘imprisonment’ for students. This school in Copenhagen uses a low concrete bench to demarcate the school’s boundaries, creating a border around the school while allowing students to sit and rest, cultivating an inviting and welcoming environment.
Defining the School Perimeter
When older adults contribute to the well-being of youth, it cultivates a sense of purpose and extends benefits both ways, according to a new Stanford report. In this part of Norrebro, one of Copenhagen’s most diverse neighborhoods, a school and senior living are located close to each other. Elderly and youth interact at the petting zoo or the garden, strengthening relationships, ensuring that children and teens receive attention and mentoring while older adults can experience the excitement of seeing the world through a younger perspective.
Bringing The Old and The Young Together
The 8House was designed by Bjarke Ingels Groups as a community-building apartment complex with businesses on the lower floors. There are generous spaces for gardens, a daycare center, community spaces, and a restaurant within the parameters of the building. The building’s shape encourages residents to interact and create connections by for example, access to the units being through a long walkway around the complex. Although this is an upscale community with market-rate housing, it is situated adjacent to an affordable housing complex. This closeness of the residents from different areas of financial background allows the residents to break down stereotypes and learn from each others’ differences.
Open plan offices have been found to trigger withdrawal from face-to-face interaction and the collaborative spirit they were intended to cultivate. Instead, BloxHub, the hub for Nordic sustainable urbanization, provides flexibility in sitting arrangements for different types of work and engagement. For example, long, multi-person tables give employees the choice to sit alone or sit with others while more closed-off spaces encourage deep-thinking conversations and focused-type work.
Sitting Arrangements in the Workplace
Having strong social connections at work can translate to healthier and happier employees. Workplaces that provide opportunities for informal interactions, such as while getting lunch ready, can help foster such connections. This kitchen at BloxHub, the hub for Nordic sustainable urbanization, is located in the center of the space. Its openness, allows people to see each other and serves as an invitation for dialogue. The printer can also be found here, another opportunity to mingle.
Informal Spaces in the Workplace
Factors such as having family in the neighborhood and interaction with neighbors have been found to provide a contextual understanding of why people stay in a neighborhood. But according to a Pew Research Center (2010) study, fewer than half of American adults (43 percent) know most or all of their neighbors. In his book The Vanishing Neighbor, Marc Dunkelman (2014) argues that technology coupled with new routines of everyday life have expanded the breadth of our social landscapes while at the same time, eroding the incidental interactions that have built local communities for centuries. The shared courtyards of Copenhagen’s residential buildings foster an environment that encourages residents to meet each other and build social connections. Playgrounds, barbeque areas, picnic tables, and elevators placed in a central location provide opportunities for residents to pass by one another.
Knowing Your Neighbors