Christiania was founded shortly after a band of disenfranchised activists squatted in a disused Army Barracks in what was then, the periphery of Copenhagen, bordering Christianhaven, a working class neighbourhood in 1971.
It is in some senses, a government sanctioned social experiment in alternative living.
Here are some of the founding principles of Christiania;
Objective Goals of Christiania
To build up a self-ruled society,
where every single individual can freely develop themselves
under responsibility for the community.
That this society shall rest economically in itself,
and the common strife must still be to go out and show
that psychological and physical pollution can be prevented.
13/11 – 1971 (Source Christiania.org)
Today, the city of Copenhagen actively promotes Christiania as a tourist attraction, with a tour starts every thirty minutes every day of the week. Tourism is a mixed blessing with day trippers arriving from all over the world: German tourists, Architecture buffs, city hopping pot tourists providing a substantial income for the residents. The site is also a popular cycle thoroughfare with local commuters since additional cycle paths and access points have been added.
Monday is the Sunday of Christiania, most of the businesses are closed after a busy weekend, it is when the common meetings that govern the activities of Christiania occur. The site and community is divided into small self governing geographical segments. Overall, this works as a governing structure, but it does mean that it is difficult to organise anything that requires consensus from all of the areas. The municipal garden group and the Free Nature group have often experienced tension because of their differences in perspective, although this has improved over the past few years with better communication between the two groups.
Christiania now sits on incredibly valuable land, and the government wishes to transform the area bordering the fortifications into various heritage grade mixed use developments. I talked with Jorgen about the visions that he, and a few other Christianian’s set out in the Green Plan document in 1991. Jorgen is part of what I like to call Christianian’s Old Guard, by that I mean, one of the original inhabitants who have lived on the site since it’s inception. He is in his late Sixties but is like most of the Old Guard, incredibly active and youthful.
He led us on a bicycle/walk tour of the site and showed us how they had worked to transform their green plan into a reality. Floating reed and gravel sewage filtration systems for the floating homes upstream on the river bank which ensure that sewage from the houses are adequately filtered before entering the water system, composting loos, solar panels, collective recycling, all things that were considered to be laughable or too radical when the Green Plan was authored in the 1990’s. Looking at the Green Plan on the commune’s website, a great deal of the points outlined are now seen widely accepted as sensible responsible alternatives.
The Nature group runs a number of public engagement activities, mostly focused with younger age groups, like a hedgehog awareness day, or a more general collective action day. I asked Jorgen about his opinions about the younger people’s perspective on biodiversity and the ecology of the area, and it seems like there is tension between the old guard and some of the younger inhabitants with regards to the future vision of Christiania. Jorgen said that ‘they don’t care whether there is one type of bird, or a hundred types, they are scared of the dark, and they want new houses.’
I tried to arrange an interview with the gardening group to hear their perspective, but I’ve been unsuccessful so far. I’ve arranged a community mapping session tomorrow and I’m hoping that some younger people who are ecologically minded will turn up so that they can offer an counter perspective.