Previous stateDan Turèll loved Copenhagen, its sounds, its stories, and its out-of-the-way places, as is clearly reflected in the work of this poet, writer and essayist who was born and raised in Vangede, a suburb which was then a long way from the city centre and still surrounded by fields. Indeed it was thanks to his autobiographical novel Vangede Billeder (Images of Vangede) that he made his appearance on the literary map of Denmark. Defiant, prolific and unclassifiable, Turèll’s writing flirted with Beat counterculture and the poetic vein of decadence as he also kept working and amassing knowledge in fields as diverse as the crime novel or political criticism.
He died in 1993 at the early age of forty-seven but it was almost another twenty years before Copenhagen was to devote a public space to him in recognition of his value and returning his love. This could only be in the neighbourhood of Vangede, and an unconventional space that would be difficult to describe as a square provided a good opportunity. It was tucked away between two roads meeting at an oblique angle and very different in nature: one, to the east, is curved and full of small businesses, while the other, to the west, is straight with little activity. Surrounded by worn cobblestone paving, a neglected parterre and a few battered benches, an impressive linden tree dominated the space as if challenging its irrelevance.
Aim of the interventionThe space, of course, was to be named after the writer. It had to be renovated, not so much in honour of Turèll ─who might have appreciated it as it was─ as to make it recognisable and comfortable. After all it had to be made worthy of the name of “square”. Moreover, everyday use of the place could mingle with its symbolic function. More than being an explicit tribute to Dan Turèll, it could also create its own implicit magic which would then convey the spirit of his work to people who did not know it.
DescriptionAlthough it is quite low-key, Dan Turèlls Plads cannot go unnoticed. A sculpture that is about three and a half metres high has been installed next to the linden tree. This is a three-dimensional representation in weathering steel of the twenty-eight letters of the Danish alphabet and some punctuation signs, an explicit monument consisting of the different elements of the means of expression of the man from Vangede.
The implicit tribute is in the form of a long bench which, following the angled contours of the square, embraces the statue. Consisting of two rectilinear arms converging in a rounded point, it is exactly forty-seven metres long in allusion to Turèll’s short but productive life. It is made of strips of pale green wood shaping a gracefully curving surface like the benches of Paris, a city that Turèll often visited and that had an influence in different aspects of his work. At the same time, the bench makes a democratic statement, inviting passersby, known or unknown and independently of their age, origins or social status, to sit down together to chat and share the space.
The eastern length of the bench is backed by a row of pre-existing chestnut trees, while a new line of rowan trees and park lights that re-create the mysterious atmosphere of the crime novel are lined up behind the western arm. The pavement, in grey concrete slabs with a ligneous texture, provides a neutral background for the allegorical elements although it is also crossed through by a pattern of strips of weathering steel thus evoking the parallel lines that make up any text.
AssessmentBringing together the two layers of use value and symbolic value, Dan Turèlls Plads has a beauty that touches both savants and newcomers to this writer’s work. Without either showiness or detachment, it situates the writer’s legacy on the map of the city he loved so much. Its discretion is captivating and the unsuspecting visitor is soon bewitched by this poetic construction that is so in tune with the spirit of Turèll’s work.
David Bravo Bordas, architect.
[Last update: 02/05/2018]