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        Showing posts with label the worlds youngest urbanist. Show all posts
        Showing posts with label the worlds youngest urbanist. Show all posts

        13 December 2014

        Street Photography from the World's Youngest Urbanist

        Lulu Street Photography_40
        Everybody sees their city differently. What does the city look like through the eyes of The World's Youngest Urbanist? Lulu-Sophia keeps delivering a solid flow of pure observations about city life. She also grows up in a home filled with cameras and has free access to all of them. What about putting those two things together, I thought.

        Some Canon camera, be it 5 or 7D is usually lying in the window sill at our place. I often find photos on the memory card that Lulu-Sophia had taken of people out on the street in front of our flat. She just started picking up the camera and shooting. A couple of years ago I started handed her the camera when we're riding around on the Bullitt cargo bike.

        I never say what she should take photos of. I just say "take photos if you want". Totally up to her and no big deal if she doesn't. Sometimes I don't notice what she does but when I load the photos onto the computer, I get to see what she sees. And it is quite wonderful.

        I've made a little set of her street photography work on Flickr from when she was five but here are some of her shots from the urban landscape. Both from the flat and from the Bullitt.
        Lulu Street Photography_38
        By and large, she photographs people. Still Life must be like watching paint dry for a five year old. Humans, please. Except, perhaps, for a pretty red bicycle (farther down) that caught her eye.

        Lulu Street Photography_5 Lulu Street Photography_26

        Lulu Street Photography_41 Lulu Street Photography (2)
        People doing things. Transporting themselves, waiting for someone, observing - in their own way - their city. Humans watching humans.

        Lulu Street Photography Lulu Street Photography_20

        Lulu Street Photography_13 Lulu Street Photography_23

        Lulu Street Photography_32

        Lulu Street Photography_9 Lulu Street Photography_14

        Lulu Street Photography_7 Lulu Street Photography_18
        There are many bicycles, mostly because it's like shooting fish in a barrel in Copenhagen. You can't take a shot without a bicycle in it. When shooting from the flat, she shoots cyclists and pedestrians.
        Lulu Street Photography_12

        Lulu Street Photography_42 Lulu Street Photography_17

        Lulu Street Photography_16

        Lulu Street Photography_34 Lulu Street Photography_2

        Lulu Street Photography_11
        And of course, the set wouldn't be complete without a shot of your big brother, Felix.

        28 August 2014

        The Lulu and Neighbourhood Wayfinding

        Quite out of the blue during dinner one evening, I asked my daughter, Lulu, aged 6 almost 7 (you may know her as the world's youngest urbanist...) if she thought she could find her way to the local swimming pool by herself. I was explaining directions to somewhere else to my son, Felix, aged 12, and I realised that all the references were visual. No street addresses or anything, just directions like "go down that street and when you see that shop, turn right...". To which he would reply, "is that the shop with the red door?" or "is that the shop across from that other shop with this or that recognizable feature?"

        It all originates with this earlier article here on the blog: Wayfinding in a Liveable City.

        So I wondered how much Lulu has registered in her daily, frequent journeys around our neighbourhood. So... I laid down the challenge to Lulu. Find your way to the swimming pool on foot. Felix and I would walk behind her but wouldn't offer any help.

        At six, she finds it difficult to describe how to get to places. There is no "go to the end of this street and then turn left...". It is more vague and hard for me, an adult to understand. Try it with your own kids, or other peoples' kids, to see what I mean. 

        So we just set out on her journey, letting her show us the way. I didn't know if she could pull it off. I literally had no idea. When she was younger she was pushed through the neighbourhood in a stroller, we walk and we cycle everywhere... but always with me or her mum leading the way. 

        It was a fascinating exercise. Felix and I watched her finding her way, looking around and using visual references to guide her. Walking up to the end of the street and scouting left and right, remembering visual clues to send her in the next direction.

        A couple of times I asked her, "why did you turn right here?" To which she replied, "Because that shop on the corner is where we turn right. Duh, Daddy..."

        So... indeed... she was remembering visual clues like shops and trees and bushes and what not. She was pleased as punch when we ended up in front of the swimming pool.

        Then I asked her to find our local ice cream shop. It would involved a totally different route than our normal A to B from home to ice cream. Again, she rocked it. Using the most logical way from where were standing, instead of taking us back home and then down to the ice cream. I was impressed.

        Lulu is already looking forward to when she is eight and gets to walk to school alone. It's only 800 metres from our flat. But Felix did it for the first time at eight so Lulu has it in her mind to do it at that age, too. Really, though, there is no reason that she couldn't do it earlier. Now that I've figured out that she knows her way around like a boss.

        Something that we often neglect to think about regarding our kids.

        25 November 2013

        Copenhagen Kids Analyse Groningen and Amsterdam

        Groningen Kids
        I had the pleasure to once again visit the G-spot of Bicycle Culture - Groningen in the north of the Netherlands last week. The occasion was to speak at the Let's Gro Festival and to have some meetings with the City. I decided to take my kids with me for the trip south. Because I like bringing my kids with me but also because I was curious. I wanted to see what two Copenhagen kids thought about cycling in a Dutch city or two (we also visited Amsterdam afterwards).

        Regular readers will remember how Lulu-Sophia (now aged six) outed herself as the World's Youngest Urbanist - and again here, as well as describing her wish for a Life-Sized City.

        Felix, at 11 years, is no rookie either when it comes to observing his urban theatre. He was the inspiration for my idea to get his third grade class to redesign the roundabout outside their school - as described in my TED x Talk from Zurich last year. He constantly impresses me with the conversations we have about urban planning and his anthropological observations.

        We spent a brilliant two weeks in Barcelona a couple of summers ago. Riding bicycles all over the place on their infrastructure. It was interesting to see them react to that city, so why not Groningen and Amsterdam, too.

        Danish or Dutch... it's all good. It's all inspiring the world regarding bicycle infrastructure and mainstream bicycle culture. I just wanted to see how two kids from one of the world's best bicycle cities, where they cycle every day, would react to the Bicycle Capital of the World, and to Amsterdam.

        Culturally and socially, Denmark and the Netherlands are cousins. So many aspects of life are so incredibly similar that you often feel that you're in the same country. Indeed, one of the most fundamental differences that I've been able to come up with is that in the Netherlands they cover a slice of bread with chocolate sprinkles, whereas in Denmark we have thin chocolate wafers designed to fit the average slice and lay cleanly on top of it.
        Groningen Kids_3

        We were met at the station by two friends from the City of Groningen - Jeroen and Annet - on a chilly evening. Rental bikes had been arranged from the train station parking facility and we pedalled off to the hotel. It's a small city so it wasn't far. It was around 17:45 so the streets were still lively. Felix rode up front with our hosts while I tailed The Lulu to make sure she had her brain wrapped around her new bike. She did.

        Upon arrival, Felix delivered his first observation.

        "I was a bit nervous riding on the cycle track from the station and then through the city. There were all these pedestrians trying to cross so I had to watch out for them. Oh, and there are loads of ladies bikes."

        It's worth mentioning that I merely asked a question. I never lead the kids on to get them to think too much about such stuff. I only want pure observations. If they don't have any, then they don't have any and I leave it at that. So Felix even noticing the style of bicycles was an added bonus, and an interesting one, too.
        Groningen Fietsers
        In the evening on the second day, after we had been riding a lot more around the city, I asked if there were any more observations.

        Felix had put some thought into it.

        Felix: "It's like I feel more secure cycling in Copenhagen."

        Mikael: "You weren't scared?"

        Felix: "No, no, not at all. I just feel more secure." (Here he used a Danish word "tryg", which doesn't mean safe, but rather indicates a sense of security) "I don't need to worry about pedestrians suddenly crossing the cycle track. And here, the cyclists don't signal when they're turning or stopping like they do in Copenhagen. And the cars don't either."

        Mikael: "The cars don't signal?"

        Felix: "Many didn't".

        Mikael: "Jeroen signalled turns all the time, didn't he?"

        Felix: "That's just because he was at the front and he was showing us that we're turning because we didn't know the way."

        Mikael: "But generally you like it?"

        Felix: "Yeah! It's cool!"

        Mikael: "What do you think, Lulu?"

        Lulu: "I like it because I can look around and see the city and the people."

        Mikael: "Don't you do that in Copenhagen, too?"

        Lulu: "Yeah, but it's different here because it's another city in another country."

        Okay. Good point.

        Lulu: "I don't like those bumpy stones."

        Mikael: "Cobblestones?"

        Lulu: "Yeah."

        Felix had more to offer.

        Felix: "It's like in Copenhagen I know where I'm supposed to be and where everyone else is supposed to be. Here, I don't know who is coming in front of me all of a sudden. At intersections, some people turn on the right side of you and some turn on the left, cutting in front of you. There isn't a lot of... um... structure."

        Lulu: "What's structure?"

        Mikael: "It's like in your room when it's clean and everything is in it's place. The socks are in the socks drawer, your dresses are in your dress drawer and stuff like that."

        Lulu: "That's not often."

        Uh no.

        Felix: "But Copenhagen is a big city. Groningen isn't. Maybe you need more structure in a big city."

        Groningen_1 The Kids enjoying cycling around The G-spot of Bicycle Culture #groningen The Lulu wasn't feeling well this morning. Big brother Felix helped out #groningen
        Mikael: "What about when we were riding on streets with cars and buses? You kept checking back at me and Lulu to make sure we saw the car coming, didn't you? You called out "car!" a couple of times to let us know."

        Felix: "Yeah, but they weren't going very fast. I was just making sure Lulu was on the right side."

        Good big brother.

        The kids loved it. It was a brilliant visit with lovely hosts. The kids even survived my keynote speech and the meetings. They're observations were interesting to me. They come from an orderly bicycle structure with emphasis on space for each mode - like a cleanly designed chocolate wafer that fits the bread and they got to experience random chocolate sprinkles all over the place. It all tastes good, but it's different.
        Amsterdam Kids_1
        On the Saturday morning we headed to Amsterdam to visit friends. We got bikes from our friends at Black Bikes (best place to rent a bike in Amsterdam unless you want to look like a tourist). Felix had his own bike and Lulu and I rode an Onderwater tandem for an adult and a kid. We rode around the city and visited the science museum, Nemo. In the evening, I asked them for their impressions.

        Felix: "It's kind of like a mix of Copenhagen and Groningen. Copenhagen feels more like a big city. Amsterdam is like a village, but still a bit like a city. I guess Amsterdam is like 60% Copenhagen and 40% Groningen, or something."

        Mikael: "What else did you notice?"

        Felix: "Why did we have to push buttons to cross streets on bikes?"

        Mikael: "Good question."

        Felix: "We had to watch out for lots of pedestrians, like in Groningen. Oh, and nobody signals here, either. And nobody rings bells here."

        Amsterdam Kids

        17 July 2013

        Lulu and the Life-Sized City

        Some of you may remember the article about The World's Youngest Urbanist - Lulu-Sophia - a couple of years back. Since then, Lulu-Sophia continues to fire off brilliant, simple and rational observations about her life in Copenhagen. Many of them are simple observations.

        We were riding down the cycle track along a busy street once and then turned off onto a bike path through a park. "Ooh, Daddy! Listen to how quiet it is all of a sudden!"

        Always simple but poignant. Noticing things on her urban landscape that often go unnoticed.

        A few months ago, Lulu-Sophia took it to the next level. We were walking and had stopped at a pedestrian crossing, waiting to cross.

        We were quiet at the moment. Lulu-Sophia's urbanist mind was, however, in full swing.

        She looked up at me and said, quite simply, "When will my city fit me, Daddy?"

        Fantastic. And of course, life as a child in a city is spent staring at the asses of grown ups. Garbage cans are as tall as you. The distance when crossing a street is magnified when you're that short and your legs are that small.

        "Don't worry. You'll keep growing and pretty soon your city will fit you perfectly."

        She was content with this answer, nodding and saying, "yeah" as she turned back to look around the streets.

        As always with Lulu-Sophia's observations, she makes me think. Right then and there I started a longer thought process, wondering if my city fits ME. A process that has become constant as I move about my city and all the other cities I visit and work in.

        It's an interesting way of thinking. Does my city fit me? Am I at scale on the urban landscape?

        Spring Sunshine 05
        If I think about Copenhagen, there are certainly places where my city fits me hand in glove. Riding along the busiest bicycle street in the world - N?rrebrogade - and crossing Dronning Louises Bridge on 5 metre wide cycle tracks, wide sidewalks and only a single car lane in each direction... I feel like my city fits me.

        In the medieval city centre - like all medieval city centres... my city fits me. Cities were designed to fit us for 7000 years, after all. Things, however, are different now. Ever since we discarded all rationality and started engineering streets for automobiles.

        Even in Copenhagen there are far too many places where my city doesn't fit or makes any attempt to. Consider Hans Christian Andersen Boulevard, that vast expanse of political and engineering arrogance with eight lanes of crap slicing through the heart of the capital. Even on the wide cycle tracks on this stretch, I am not at scale.

        Big City Nature Intersection My Town Morning Rush Hour
        Top left: Hans Christian Andersen Blvd is the place where flowers die, thanks to the emissions of over 50,000 cars a day. Top right: Looking down at an intersection, from above, you lose all sense of city and realise that the engineering Matrix is firmly in control. Bottom left: This should be the ultimate central geographic and liveable point in the city. City Hall Square. Instead, the boulevard roars through like an angry, swollen river, cutting the city in two.
        Bottom right: I count around 22 individuals in motor vehicles (excluding the 60 or so on the bus). Look at the space allocated to them, compared to the 50 odd bicycle users.

        Vintage Copenhagen - HC Andersens Blvd 1907 Copenhagen Rush Hour Traffic ca. 1950
        It used to be different. At left is the boulevard in 1907 - read more about that here - and at right is the late 1940s/early 1950s, with wide medians.

        Another place that I don't feel like my city fits is right outside my flat in the City of Frederiksberg. It's an intersection in Denmark's most densely-populated city and yet the city allows over 26,000 "parasites" to drive through. It's a dead intersection, only used for transport. It's unique in that it's the point where north-south and east-west streets meet. It's also the intersection we used for our Choreography of an Urban Intersection anthropological study.

        I use this intersection several times a day and yet I certainly don't feel like my city fits me. My city doesn't seem to give a shit. They are keen to prioritize the cars and their parasties by doing things like this. The street in front of my flat used to be so much nicer. And even during my lifetime.

        Ved et kryds med over 26,000 fucking biler dagligt. #ffrederiksberg #dkpol #l?gn
        But they still have the nerve to put up this poster at the intersection. "Frederiksberg - the healthy, pulsing, green heart of the Capital."

        Thinking about other cities, there are some where I feel at scale. Amsterdam, for example. A lot of smaller cities in Denmark and the Netherlands, too. But I'm a city boy so I focus on bigger cities. Most cities have pockets where you feel like you fit, but sadly they are often few and far between.

        What about your city? Do you feel like it fits you?

        Lulu-Sophia, as ever, inspired me. She instigated a new way of thinking for me. A new goal.

        The Life-Sized City. We used to be so good at nurturing life-sized cities. We did it for 7000 years. Now it's time to do it again. With human observation and design principles.

        If you follow me, Mikael, on Instagram (@colvilleandersen), you'll often see The Lulu going about her daily business. Often on bikes.

        03 January 2013

        World's Youngest Urbanist Again

        Pepper Street. #copenhagen #crosswalk #lost
        Lulu-Sophia, who I called the World's Youngest Urbanist last year and who features in my recent TED x talk from Zurich constantly fires off simple and logical observations from the urban theatre.

        Yesterday we were out shopping on our cargo bike and we spotted these two red peppers that had presumably fallen off a bicycle. We chatted about them and then off we went. Lulu-Sophia was quiet for a moment and then said:

        "Daddy, I bet they'll get run over and squished."

        "I'm sure they will."

        "I think it'll be a car that runs them over."


        "Because cars can't see them. Cyclists can see them but the people in cars can't."

        Ah, yes. Indeed.

        The interaction with the urban landscape is heightened on a bicycle or on foot. And motorists can't see shit.

        Lulu-Sophia's observations are always out of the blue, simple and poignant. Wonderful to see how she notices what goes on around her. Not long ago we turned off the cycle track parallel to the street onto a bicycle path through a housing development.

        "Ooh! NOW it's quiet all of a sudden!"

        04 September 2012

        Lulu Interpreting Bicycles

        Cargo Bike by Lulu
        So, Lulu - aged 4 (the world's youngest urbanist) - says to me, "Daddy, what should I draw?"

        I said, "How about a cargo bike?"

        Off she went.

        Here's her interpretation. How she regards our cargo bike and its role in our daily lives. Love it. Says it all.

        Lulu Bicycle Drawing
        Here was her first interpretation of a bicycle. Danish design minimalism. Deconstructing a bicycle to its basic ingredients. Well... except for pedals.

        Lulu Bicycle Drawing
        Here was her first interpretation of herself with her bicycle.

        Lulu Bicycle Drawing
        And this was her first interpretation of a cargo bike - using our Bullitt as inspiration.

        15 April 2011

        The World's Youngest Urbanist

        Lulu Hardware Store Trip
        Ah, out of the mouths of babes. Last Sunday I dropped Felix off at football training and then headed to a hardware store with Lulu-Sophia in the Bullitt. She's three and half. We talked as we rolled along, as we always do.

        At a red light she looked over at a motorcyclist with a passenger on the back. She commented on it.

        "Daddy... look. There's a motorcycle with TWO people on it!"

        Daddy replied with "Yeah! I guess they're friends or something, aren't they?"

        "Yeah." She thought about this for a moment.

        "We're two people on this bicycle, too!"

        "Yes, we are. We're friends, too."


        The light changed green and we rolled onwards. What then came out of her little mouth and clever mind amazed me. She must have been looking around at the traffic after making her observations.

        "When people are in cars, you can't see them, can you?"

        "No, you can't", said Daddy. But you can see people on bicycles, can't you? And people walking and those people on that motorbike."

        "Yeah... cars are silly, aren't they, Daddy? You can't see the people in them. That's silly..."

        That made my heart sing. The world's youngest Urbanist. Right there on my bike. She's only three and a half so I haven't had chats with her about why bicycles are cool and safe and good or why too much car traffic is a bad thing for cities and safety and the public health - like I have with my 9 year old son. Although the time she has spent in cars in her three and a half years totals no more than five or six hours.

        This was pure observation on her part. And a pure, logical, innocent and human conclusion.

        Being able to see people around you in your city is... a good thing.

        Cars are silly.