The Very Best Of Odense?

The Very Best Of Odense?
Opinions | Written by: Pil Lindgreen | Translated by: Malte Joe Frid-Nielsen | Thursday, November 8, 2018

The award show celebrated Odense landmarks like H&M, Søstrene Grene and Magasin (!). Is that really the best the city has to offer? Hardly. 

Last Thursday there was a gala in Odeon's great green hall. Complete with speeches, cocktail dresses, VIP’s, and thunderous applause. And it wasn’t to celebrate the national music scene, international authors, global media or business moguls, but in honor of our very own Odense: The everyday, down-to-earth Odense with all the working people whose businesses, volunteer initiatives and cultural institutions shape this unique city.

For those who aren’t familiar with the concept or have wondered about the blue stickers that have suddenly sprouted on shop doors these last three years: Best Of Odense is an audience award created and presented by Fynske Medier, or more precisely the weekly newspaper, Ugeavisen Odense, with the stated intention of “celebrating the city’s commercial and cultural life.”

The weekly’s readers decide the outcome through popular vote, but the nominated are selected by a panel of experts in their respective fields.

On a scale from hooting local-patriot to self-hating pre-emigrant, I’m doubtless closer to the former. Not in the sense that I think my hometown is better than every other place on earth – but rather, that my city is an interesting place to live, not despite, but because of all the things that separate it from others. In other words, I’m in the target demographic for a night of Odense back-patting. So why did I go home feeling so alienated and embarrassed about the image of the city we were supposed to be honoring?

Let me start by saying that there were several lovely Odense moments spread over the course of the evening. Not the least of which was two generations of barkeeps from Carlsens Kvarter in a wrinkled wool sweater and T-shirt, respectively, who got the prize for “Best Place To Go Out-On-The-Town” and in lilting Fyn accents invited the evening’s host, Anders Breinholt from the satire show Natholdet, to record his next podcast in their establishment. There was also music by local 15-year old violin prodigy Stefan Burchardt, who blew everyone away, and Per Sahl from Havnens Loppemarked (the Harbor Fleamarket), who recited the full name of every single regular patron from the last 20 years during his thank you speech and had to be loudly played off stage to stem his tide of heartfelt anecdotes. 

Still, the thundercloud above my head grew darker and darker as the nominations ran across the big screen. Which city was it exactly that we were celebrating? Why did the presenter’s words about local pride, passionate innovators, entrepreneurs and the city’s unique environment ring so hollow?

The award show in Odeon. Not pictured: The writer’s nails as they dig furrows in her thighs. Photo: Hasse Frimodt, Ugeavisen

Was it just because my favorite places didn’t get enough awards, that I felt more and more downhearted about the trend that emerged as the night progressed? Sure, I would have clapped more enthusiastically if, for example, Kjærs Bøger, Momentum Musik, Sofar Sounds, my own workplace, Odense International Film Festival, or Restaurant ARO had won their categories, because that’s where I go and the side of the city that I cherish as my own. But even though I don’t often eat at Eydes or Umashi or Kok & Vin, or go to Zoo much, I thought they deserved their victories and determined to visit some time soon.

So what was wrong? The great embarrassment was to be found in the copious names of chain stores that appeared among the locals and totally dominated certain categories. What in the world does celebrating national and multinational franchises, which can be found on street corners in every large Danish or Northern European city, have to do with Odense’s own DNA? Could Mickey D’s at central station be “Odense’s Best” if enough people get their hangover junk food there?  

It shouldn’t be possible to end up with a “Best of Odense” where Magasin, H&M and Søstrene Grene walk home with awards, or where the evening’s culture award goes to Tinderbox, only to have their PR chief John Fogde highlight that the main office in Århus was pleased to be recognized for the third year in a row.

You can think what you want about award shows and the need to show local pride in that specific manner, but if the purpose is to honor the city’s local champions, then I simply don’t understand why you would attempt to do this by inviting the people of Odense to consider their favorite places and bring in all of the city’s commercial and cultural actors to celebrate Odense’s special characteristics, when the nominations, in addition to the aforementioned problematic winners, include franchises like Bahne (a Danish concern from 1956, specializing in gifts and handicrafts with 19 shops nationwide), Jagger (a Copenhagen fast casual concept), Café Vivaldi (a chain from Slagelse with 17 cafés in 12 Danish towns), Georg Jensen Danmark (seven flagship stores in Denmark), Weekday (a Swedish clothing chain with stores in 9 different countries), and Heidis Bier Bar (a Scandinavian after-ski chain)?

Nominated for Best Place To Go Out-On-The-Town: You can really feel you’re in Odense, now! Or Århus, Aalborg, Thisted, Copenhagen, Sønderborg, Svendborg, Oslo, Trondheim, Bergen, Kristiansand, or Helsinki. Photo: Heidis Bier Bar Oslo.

The irony was not lost on Anders Breinholt, who threw a couple of satirical jabs in this direction, and who had done his homework well enough that his own jokes about the Hunderup neighborhood and construction noise in the center of town landed more cleanly than Ugeavisen's own congratulatory speeches. 

This is where the award committee needs to reevaluate their whole concept, if they want to have anything of meaning to say about what separates this patch of dirt from any other. Otherwise, I’d suggest that they rename the award “Best Of Western Retail” and hold the gala in a conference hall close to a random airport next year.

Quality time with a bit of Odense-shopping: Photo Magasin in Rødovre

But – interjects the careful reader – this is an audience award! Ugeavisen can’t help that people love Søstrene Grene. That’s just something the people of Odense have in common with all of humanity. And they’re the ones who voted. But that is a totally flawed conclusion, because an audience award isn’t an objective statement of fact. If the question is “where have you bought the most furniture?” the answer for most Danes is probably IKEA. But that doesn’t mean that a Swedish modular cabinet is the best Danish design has to offer.

If, on the other hand, you ask which local shop you most enjoy visiting and which you would recommend to others, or where your most important cultural experiences have been recently, then Odense has thankfully become a place where there are a ton of varied answers to be found.

This Thursday’s collected Best-Of nominations are even more frustrating, since the city actually does offer a unique shopping and cultural scene, nowadays.

If the awards and nominations are to reflect the city Odense has become – and not be dominated by the habitual paths people carved during the previous century, propped up by a couple of successful imports – then Ugeavisen's central premise needs to be changed. They need to ask better questions if they want to call the resulting answers “The Best Of Odense.”

Winner in the category of “ Best Shopping For Her”: That local upstart clothes pusher, H&M. Photo: Kolding Shopping mall

To help out, I’ve got two suggestions which need to be taken into account in order to make next year’s Best Of award a meaningful recognition of Odense’s unique qualities.

  1. Only shops, groups, institutions and other actors who are founded in/have their base of operations within the geography of Odense can be considered for awards. It’s not a question of passing a citizenship test, and of course new arrivals are welcome, but the physical shop or event has to be planned, run, or organized in Odense.

Result: You avoid ending up with a list of winners that could as easily have been named in Randers, Roskilde, Næstved, or Holstebro. If that means some categories have to go, so be it. The list has to reflect the city. If we don’t have enough homegrown haberdashers to fill a list of nominees, then that points to an intriguing hole in our retail market. It wouldn’t be a problem at all, but a great opportunity for Best Of Odense to frame the debate, rather than simply being a business event where everyone chugs the bubbly and applauds when the safest bets carry the day.

  1. The award categories need to change.

Result: The places that are thriving off the beaten path get a shot at the spotlight. There’s also a strong overrepresentation of shopping and food, compared to cultural categories. Because of this, one-time events like Sommerrevyen (the summer cabaret) and large art institutions like Brandts fight for the same recognition. Just as historical museums, art museums, theaters, music venues and galleries all fall into the same cultural pot. It makes sense to differentiate between brunch, burgers, take-away, cafés, and fine dining in the food category. But we miss out on corresponding nuances like “Best Music Venue”, “Best Theater” and “Best Gallery” or at the very least “Best Large Culture Venue” and “Best Little Culture Venue”. And while we’re at it, ditch the whole “for him/for her” split in the shopping category. What the hell does gender have to do with any of this?

Hello! Where’s the award for Best “Brunner” (the down-home local pastry, made by every self-respecting baker) or Best Bike Parking!? Why not make the categories specific to our town? You can eat brunch anywhere. And in this vein, there’s nothing wrong with more categories like “Best Service”, which - perhaps as the only exception - could bypass the locally-grounded criteria by rewarding skilled and personable employees, regardless of whether their employer pays taxes in Odense, Ireland, or the Bahamas. What about a “Best Idle Chit-Chat” category, “Best Opening Hours” (a perfect category for pubs and corner pizzerias, which might even encourage someone to finally create the good late-night eatery the city is begging for!) or an award for “Most Indispensable Thread In The Local Fabric”, “Best At Preserving Local History” or “Best Risk-Taker”?

A bonus reason for expanding the categories:

This Thursday a large portion of the winners were up on the stage for the third year in a row. What does that show? That Odense is a predictable town with few great restaurants? That Tinderbox is the best local cultural event? No: Just that Tinderbox is the biggest in terms of audience and publicity and that the award show has so few cultural categories that even the biggest of the “smaller” events disappears when it all comes down to number of tickets sold.

It is the nature of audience awards to highlight the mainstream, but since we already have a Best Of Odense nominating committee, specifically tasked with selecting finalists from among the thousands of reader suggestions, I can’t see why you wouldn’t give the audience the best possible options to vote on.

Maybe I’ve misunderstood entirely. Maybe Best Of Odense isn’t about rewarding the people and places that make Odense a lovely, special place to live and who contribute to all of our quality of life by doing what they love, but rather to boost revenues in the local business association’s ailing shops by talking them up on the retail market. In that case – sorry about all the hubbub and wild demands for integrity, ingenuity and nuance. Keep on keepin’ on.

I just have a feeling that Ugeavisen’s editorial board have greater ambitions and more love for their city than that. Their sister publication, Pindle’s, thorough smart and sensitive portraits of local business owners these last few years bears witness to the fact. And it was what their editor-in-chief clearly expressed at the start of the show last Thursday. Which is why I also dare to believe that they would agree that it would be a great thing if the Odense’s widest-distributed newspaper (80.000+ copies) could live up to the responsibility it is to have the ear of the population and publish a list of nominees that is both diverse and surprising. A list of places and experiences, which only exist here in Odense, and which don’t simply affirm the reader’s old habits, but inspire them to explore more of our homegrown shops, cultural institutions and societies. I’m sure H&M will survive without the pat on the back.

Odense’s Best Interior Design. No, wait, that’s Søstrene Grene in Hamburg.


New buildings for a better city? Grading 18 new buildings

New buildings for a better city? Grading 18 new buildings
Debate | Written by: This Is Odense | Translated by: Francois Picard | Wednesday, March 7, 2018

New buildings are popping up in Odense. And that’s (probably) good. Or is it? People either perceive new constructions as modern-day boxes in concrete, or acclaim them as examples of a booming city, smoothly progressing towards the “big city” dream.

But that’s maybe oversimplifying it too much. The city’s construction landscape is the story of Odense as a city for ourselves and everyone who visits the city. This is the connection between our past and our future. It is ruling how and how much we evolve in it – a simple walk can fill our heads whether with happiness or visions of disaster. It is even ruling how much we talk with our neighbors and how we are together. It is ruling how we live.

First, we’re shaping the city and then it’s shaping us.

Therefore, the city’s construction landscape is actually too important for us to leave it to those who are shaping it. Especially now that it is built so fast that the city we love may be gone before we know it. For better or for worse? There is a high risk that the latter happens, if we don’t talk together about it. Because, that’s what it is about, isn’t it? To evaluate if each single building makes the city better or not.

In this article, This Is Odense is giving grades to 18 new buildings, which are built, almost built or which plans are freshly drawn, and is coming up with some suggestions to improve them. We are not experts, but we believe everyone should be part of the discussions about how to create a good city. So, please read and give your opinion.


Significant changes are happening on Vesterbro. Goodbye to the anarchic atmosphere with small townhouses mixed with high construction blocks, goodbye to the obscure and fun shops, which have lived a preserved low-rent existence. Hello to closeness city. The first step is Sandal properties’ corner building on Vesterbro and Vindegade, which has replaced Dideriksen’s corner.

Pros: This new corner extends the old apartment block, so the section is now high and close and urban, and the building has a scale that fits its surroundings.

Cons: Attempts have been made to make color variations at the facade level, without great success. Balconies - yes, but of low quality, not adapted to the property. The tinted windows until Fakta, a boring staircase tower and a morn facade along Vesterbro create an uninspiring encounter with the street. Finally, the abandonment of the courtyard to these stone desert and parking area is frustrating. Couldn’t it be possible to find just a little room for living space, trees and other green areas?

Overall grade: 2 arrows.


For a long time, this little dark spot in the middle of the city was dedicated to parking on Sankt Gertruds alley and to a small ramshackle building including a second-hand shop on Store Gråbrødre alley. Now the hole is filled out, potentially creating a living area with shops and outdoor seating spots, from Gråbrødre place and down to Store Gråbrødre alley, where the famous beer bar Mikkeler should soon open as well. The building is not finished and there seems to be some significant differences between the initial design from AI and the construction that is on its way, so it is not possible to give a final grade.

Pros: a dead backside can be converted into a living street, now that the hole is filled out, especially if there are shops or restaurants at the street level. It helps a lot as well that the characteristic tree in the Store Gråbrødre alley has still been allowed to stand. The facade’s stones create color alternations, giving a global impression of variation. With a reasonably successful adaptation to the neighboring buildings and a great urban life perspective, this construction is a good example for the many other holes in the city to follow.

Cons: The facade is not completely aligned with the red-brick surroundings. If, instead of shops and restaurants, there are some flats at the street level, this neighborhood will not become advantageous and the surrounding streets will not live up the same way.

Overall grade: (provisionally) 4 arrows. If housing is built instead of shops and restaurants, 2 arrows.


Once, the railroad and the southeastern part of Østre and Vestre Stationsvej constituted one of the city’s borders. On the other side of the road, there were railway buildings and railways. Once the railroad was redirected, a new city border was never built. But it's really on its way now, as new buildings will pop up all the way along the street, and as the tramway will make the street more interesting for pedestrians and inhabitants. Therefore, it is important that it is done properly.

Vestre Port has lived a tremendous life - from the 90's-prestige cinema, then its demolition and to finally a new project of housing, including a Rema 1000, a Lakagehuset, some coffees and restaurants and a fitness center. As the construction is not yet completed, it is not possible to assess the final result.

Pros: Activity in the area with shopping opportunities, coffee life and housing. Parking in the already existing car park.

Cons: Until now, the construction disappoints a bit. There is almost no variation in the facade, and the colors reminds a bit the ones from the Dideriksen’s corner, in other words brown, brown and brown. The corner, which was, at the time of the demolished cinema, maybe not pretty but definitely eccentric, now appears to be boring with this very soft brown curve. But maybe this complex can still be saved with a last-minute wish of a rooftop jungle with trees that can be seen, when driving on Østre Stationsvej.

Overall grade: (provisionally) 3 arrows. A jungle on the roof of the building would allow to reach the double!



Where there was before a train wash plant lie now 3 blocks with a pretty successful attempt to be coherent with the rest of the street’s towers, divided into massive high-rise buildings and now located at the corner, facing Kongens Have. Karré 2 is a funny V-shaped building, made of bright and yellow bricks with some variations. The building is well advanced but not yet finished, so it is not possible to assess the final result.

Pros: Here can be seen more original facades – material variation with the bright and yellow bricks and at the balconies’ level, that, to some extent, create a coherent set with the street. There is a clear attempt to make this corner facing Kongens Have stand out. Here is a building that has a little something. Fortunately, the street and road demarcations have been adapted to the environment and create then a clear urban coherence across Stationsvej. And the underground parking is nice.

Cons: Where are the living areas at ground level? There is nobody, not only on the street but as well facing Byens Bro, where it would have been perfect to have a restaurant, the street being less busy thanks to the upcoming tramway. The place is there, the pedestrians are there. If there is no restaurant, may the place be reserved to food trucks? In addition to that, there are as not too many similar features that can be seen on the towers on the opposite side of Østre Stationsvej, and there is no connection to the rest of the area's red bricks. Finally, was it really necessary to add this metal cladding on the penthouse?

Overall grade: (provisionally) 4 arrows.


HF & VUC Fyn finally ended up in City Campus at the end of the Byens Bro, during a huge moving- and patience-game and a new building finally emerged from that. The area around the building is still almost comically unfinished - awaiting the outcome of the recent trial between Odense Municipality and the company that owns a piece of land between the Byens Bro and VUC. Here is a building that creates mixed impressions. Some are happy with the led-lights that makes an evening walk at the harbor more lively and serve as a demarcation when cycling over the Byens Bro, while others are horrified by the facade cladding, which looks like some metal grills that hide electrical wires in a newer soulless industrial building.

Pros: Attempt to create a building, still living during evenings thanks to the led-lights. Noticeable style. But the building’s interior is actually more exciting – look inside!

Cons: The facade cladding is relatively uninteresting during daytime. The building does not create much connection with the surroundings (however, it can be assumed that it has so far been limited to what it was about). The surrounding outside areas are nonexistent – where are the trees, the green areas and the nice living spaces for the students?

Overall grade: 3 arrows.


When you arrive at the harbor from Åløkkvarteret, you will meet this construction composed of white concrete modules, which is finished and ready for renting, but which should has never been built.

Pros: None.

Cons: The most scratched shape of apartment construction with unworked facades and cheap balconies. The concrete modules look like stacked concrete containers, but without the container's industrial charm. Additionally, the building hides the water and the close harbor. It is hard to see how the surrounding areas will ever become nice places to stay and rest.

Overall grade: 1 arrow (very close to 0).


The initial plan was to build 8 buildings along the northern promenade, each of them having their own architectural style. The first 3 buildings were built before and during the financial crisis, and then it was over. The last buildings found indirectly a new owner and were given a totally different style and a significantly more scratched architecture, dedicated to parents who want to buy a flat for their children.

Pros: Each construction contributes in its own way in creating activity on the harbor.

Cons: Unlike the first 3 buildings, the buildings 4 and 5 represent a much cheaper version with balcony accesses, and here can be noticed the negative differences when building monotonous facades with using monotonous materials. Here as well, white concrete modules are dominant, and the wind conditions around them are probably not the world's most attractive.

Overall grade: 2 arrows.


At the corner of Toldbodgade and Findlandsgade lies the new psychiatric hospital, visible from all who evolves on Lerchesgade, from the Byens Bro and Storms Pakhus towards the harbor. The project consists again in building white concrete modules and gives the impression that it has been designed independently of the surrounding area, and that its location on the harbor has been chosen randomly. It is frustrating – and above ironical, when it becomes gradually clear, how the surrounding landscape and the human psyche are connected.

Pros: Each construction contributes in its own way in creating activity on the harbor, and there are occasional attempts to incorporate organic elements, using light wood at the entrances (but you can’t polish a turd).

Cons: The building seems very scratched and looks like a white box without any particular facade. The overall impression is getting worse from the large parking area facing Tolbodgade, which could have been placed underground or in a p-house. When hiding like that the view over the water and the harbor, one cannot be acknowledged to have such unattractive outdoor areas – and the green area in front of the building surely becomes a muddy passage for people who like shortcuts.

Overall grade: 1 arrow.


Nordatlantisk Hus – a North Atlantic culture house, a Greenlandic house, several North Atlantic associations, student housing, a shop, a restaurant, guiding services to North Atlantic students, several conference and meeting facilities. Excellent constructions can perform many roles, and the Nordatlantisk Hus is an excellent construction. A building that clearly shows what is possible with skilled architects and a desire to give it all. A model for the further development of the Byens Ø wrote the Academic Architecture Association - for the time being, unfortunately, it is far from being the case.

Pros: Several functions mixed together creates activity. Exciting, well-thought and innovative architecture fitting well within Byens Ø. Beautiful facades with great dynamics and use of different materials, especially wood. The opened front facade allows the building to communicate well with its surroundings. Nice sheltered terrace under the afternoon sun.

Cons: None.

Overall grade: 6 arrows.


In a harbor where you fear that it is trendier to tear down than to re-use solid harbor industry constructions, which can tell stories about the past of Odense, here is a rare exception. Even though it is not really visible, Kristiansdal’s student housing is actually a converted old building. The local planning wanted a maritime expression with the preservation of bricks and concrete. Unfortunately, it is so unsuccessful that it would have been better to start over.

Pros: Student housing on the harbor contributes to more activity. 

Cons: No variation in the facade, anonymous and boring bricks, killing repetition and unsuccessful attempt to reuse a former warehouse.

Overall grade: 2 arrows.


Civica’s student housing quality is difficult to evaluate. It is easy to see that the construction is cheap, and that it falls into the category “white concrete”, highly represented in the harbor of Odense. But especially 2 of these buildings, which are facing the outdoor swimming pool of the harbor, are surprisingly dynamic – partly because of these metallic eaves and partly because of this impression of gradual descent into the outdoor swimming pool, giving thus some afternoon light to the summer swimmers. The last building, the closest one on the picture above, looks like however more an airport hotel than a harbor construction.

Pros: Student housing on the harbor creates activity. The shades on the facades and the staircase form facing the outdoor swimming pool draw the attention. From the right angles, the building is greatly coherent with PromenadeByen.

Cons: Staircase or not – it does not save the overall impression of a monstrous white construction. The violent scale of the buildings is not adapted to either a promenade on Stenfiskerkajen, or to the outdoor swimming pool’s reinterpretations of classic harbor pavilions. The elevated parking spots make activity around the buildings even more awkward, and the lack of space outside them does not invite to stay there more than to find the keys in the pocket.

Overall grade: 3 arrows.


“The best foundation in the city”, as this construction on an island on Odense Å, which was once the Munke Mølle’s cloth factory, was promoted. Unfortunately, the execution does not live up to the expectations and the place potential. The architectural style is inspired by monastery constructions and consists of a series of red-brick houses. C. Th. Sørensen's fine yellow walls still separates the building from Eventyrhaven. The construction’s scale and shape work well with the other red-brick constructions on Klosterbakken and gives some nice viewpoints from certain angles. But the execution and the materials are far from good enough and it dramatically decreases the quality of the construction.

Pros: Well-thought construction with a coherent shape with both Eventyrhaven and the neighboring buildings.

Cons: The red brick used in the building is too monotone, giving an overall impression of a really massive construction, especially from the South. The balconies and metal cladding of the walls look like over-polished alien elements from outer space. The masonry is poorly executed in several places and has been already fixed because of moisture-related damages, a few months after the construction. Even the letters chosen to name the construction look terrible. And then, there is this electrical substation facing the river, which has been half hidden. Additionally, the complete absence of green, in other words trees and plants, on the balconies and on the roof terraces is remarkably bad. Nevertheless, it can still be saved.

Overall grade: 3 arrows.


This is a renovation, that creates mixed feelings. The goal was to draw attention, and it obviously succeeded, with this golden facade, shining under the afternoon sun. For some, this construction is another nail in the coffin for a desperate provincial town with minority complexes. For others, this is a facade that wants something, and a building that has a bit freed the focus on what others think. The fact that it has become the Citizen’s house, as it was planned from the beginning, and the fact that the golden facade, when it is clean, looks good, do not prevent us to have some reservations. We shall see!

Pros: Significant and brave attempt to change the train station complex’s horrible facade. Attempt to gather several functions under the same roof (library, Center for Civil Society, Citizen’s Service and Volunteer Center of Odense). No attempt to anonymity.

Cons: The building execution doesn’t live up to the initial visual designs – for example, the balconies have disappeared along the way. Gold side by side with a pale hotel nuance of yellow, mixed with a 90s nuance of dark yellow, is not a win-win combination.

Overall grade: 3 arrows.


Gorgeous and Nordic. Exclusive quality. Luxury and down to earth. High-end without being snobbish. The upcoming Hotel Odeon, from OS&E itself, is always more praised. However, until now, this construction on Thomas B. Thriges Gade still looks desperately ordinary and anonymous, and does not live up to its initial design. The building is not yet finished, so it is not possible to assess the final result.

Pros: 234 hotel rooms in the city center is one of the best ways to create more urban life and activity. Active area at street level facing the upcoming tramway, which must drive right past here. And the urban area on TBT-Gade is the highest class.

Cons: A boring red brick, with no variation nor nuance, has been chosen, as well as even more boring and uninspiring window frames in a massive block. And here’s one of the really great unexploited possibilities for green facades.

Overall grade: (provisionally) 2 arrows.


The housing construction from 5E was potentially the one with the less exciting design, that the different buildings on the northern part of Thomas B. Thriges Gade could present. But the execution is such that it has actually become one of the best. And, even if it is not a master-class construction, it is obvious to see anyway, that it has been finely worked. From the light-yellow brick with good variations, to the fine dynamism of the facade, as shown on the picture above.

Pros: Beautiful variation, both with the brick and the levels in the facade. A discrete and meaningful re-interpretation of both the materials, the colors and the round gable of the neighboring Fyns Grafiske Værksted. The shops at ground level create activity, and the form of the construction links nicely the Hans Jensens alley with TBT-Gade. Hopefully, there will be added some greenery in the plant boxes lying along the facade.

Cons: The window part could be more exciting. In some places, the masonry at the wall level appears to be too quickly executed, with defects and moisture damages.

Overall grade: 4,5 arrows.


Ok, let’s admit it. There’s a long way to go before this construction is finished. And we are only talking about it to show that it is possible to build with ingenuity, variety, quality and good interpretation of Odense’s DNA (and, let’s add it, without profit-maximization wishes). The new H.C. Andersen’s house, designed by one of the best architects – Kengo Kuma – becomes a construction icon, without unnecessary flash. The most international construction in the city, and maybe at the same time the construction, which best manages to interpret Odense’s quality: beautiful, green and unpretentious.

Here’s a construction that binds together the past and the future in both function and shape. Here are stories from the most famous author of the city conveyed by one of the most modern story concepts from Northern Irish Event Communications. And thus, a future building with soft forms is created through a reinterpretation of the area's timber framing. And then, most of the museum is built underground, for 2 reasons: to make room to re-create the Lotzes garden, over the former TBT-Gade, with greenery all the way down to the upcoming parking basement access; and to avoid creating radical differences in height with the H.C. Andersen’s neighborhood.

If the project is realized according to the initial design, the construction will become one of the finest in town.

Pros: A mixed of materials and use of wood. Beautiful re-interpretation of the area’s timber framing. Extension of the area’s height and Odense’s unpretentious and green DNA. Re-creation of the Lotzes garden as public park. Coffee near the tramway. Green access from the parking basement… (we could go on).

Cons: None.

Overall grade: (provisionally) 6 arrows.


The building on the right of the picture is part of a modern shared accommodation that the high school teacher Janus won the right to build (beating various building behemoths), right in the city’s center, to him and his fellow roommates. The project is designed by award-winning Praksis Arkitekter from Svenborg and serves as a transition from TBT-Gade’s high brick buildings to the H.C. Andersen’s neighborhood’s low houses with shiny facades.

The building has a fine and modern shape, but it requires a lot relatively to the final execution, and here for example the window frames look a bit shabby, and the balconies facing Rosenhave may give the building a monotonous touch, if they don’t add greenery.

The construction is not finished. Greenery should be added, and the bike path, from where this picture is taken, should be finished, as well as a new Rosenhave on the other side. So, it is not possible to assess the final result.

Pros: Fine dialogue between the big constructions on TBT-Gade and the polished town houses in the HCA neighborhood. Exciting minimalist-modernistic shape. Really great to have shared accommodations in the city’s center. And really nice as well with this public park behind.

Cons: The window frames and the balconies may give a sloppy impression. Greenery on the balconies and trees on the roof terraces can make the difference.

Overall grade: (provisionally) 4 arrows.


When it has incomprehensibly been decided that the Industripalæ had to make way for the 80ies progression, the compromise was that the public access to a huge indoor garden should be ensured in the new financial institution. Unfortunately, Danske Bank never wanted people to wander nearby them, and so few knew that there was a garden in there.

Now the garden has fallen and the red-brick building is being replaced by a black building, where all Danske Bank's local activities are gathered and which, according to the bank itself, must represent “openness” and “gratitude”. And, moreover, the architecture is almost a true copy of the bank's two new buildings in Kolding and Århus. New Normal. One might think the irony was over, but although very bad, it could actually have been worse. The building present a certain variation and Eventyrhaven will invite the passers-by a little, even if you do not feel that it is actually the intention to go inside.

Pros: The facade is simple but reasonably varied and the active living areas facing Eventyrhaven are good.

Cons: There is no dialogue with the area’s red-brick buildings and not so much “openness” with respect to the public access suppression to the garden inside the building.

Overall grade: (provisionally) 3 arrows.


What could be better?

As the grades demonstrate it, there are both good and bad construction in Odense. But our overall conclusion is that it is not good enough, and it could be so much better – especially on the Odense’s harbor, about which the harbor’s director, Carsten Aa himself, admitted that the sales of most of the constructions have actually been driven by how quick money should be earned. And even if we know that many things come into play, when deciding about the quality of a building, we would like to give anyway some examples of how it could be if builders, architects and the municipality pulled it together.

We think Odense's opportunity is to find its own way and to avoid committing the mistakes that have been made in Ørestaden and on the port of Aarhus. But if we do not build staying inspired by the city's soul, Odense will never become special.


Misunderstood debate about concrete

Recently, there has been a debate in Fyens Stiftstidende about whether "concrete" is a nice or ugly material. But is it the right question to ask? Whether concrete is good depends on how it is used and where it is built. Let's compare some examples. One from the Odense harbor and a Japanese and an English examples. The first boring and unambitious, the others with each their interesting expressions and with variation in the facade:


More variations in the materials

In the 18 previously-presented examples, we shout again and again for variation. A construction in Odense (Denmark) is in 95 out of 100 cases built according to the same formula: a concrete wall and eventually a cladding with bricks and without any façade detail work. But it does not have to be. All over the world, we are using for instance more and more wood, which is more sustainable, organic and beautiful. There is a whole word of materials to use, and variations create life and quality.

Mieczysław Karłowicz Philharmonic Hall, Szczecin, Poland


Use of wood int a construction in Zaragoza, Spanien 


Variation in the facade, rather than extra profit in the pocket

Every ripple added to a cubic concrete box is in the short term a kroner less in earnings for an investor who buys and sells quickly and does not care about the city he is building in. And money is to be earned. Therefore, there is often not so much variation in the facades. But variation can be created in tons of ways - using the right materials, using bricks with nuances in, creating dynamism in the facades, etc.

Within a few years, robots may process all building materials in the desired shapes. And, nowadays, what is it, Odense is sharp working with? Well, yes, robots! And there are even local robotics companies that produce building materials! Maybe we have a solution? Here is an example of what robots can already do today:

Brick facade built by robots, Shanghai Arts center, China


Before then, we can definitely enjoy what can be done if you do your best and give the facade of a building some variations:

Library in Barcelona, Spain


Apartment building, Tehran, Iran


Could we forget dead housing areas and create life at ground level?

Can you imagine a big city, where the area, where there are tall buildings, consists in housing alone? No, right? When homes are mixed with workplaces, cultural functions, shops, restaurants and much more, so we create an exciting city, where there is life at all times. Especially at ground level, it is important to add interesting things to look at – it creates activity in the street and makes it more interesting to live in.

Therefore, it is important that all new constructions built nearby the city center are not only housing, even if housing may be the only way today to earn money the most.


Where is it green?

Today, there are tons of ways to use nature in the design of a new construction. Green facades, green roofs, green terraces and balconies, plant boxes, city gardens and parks, trees. But even if Odense is a green city, it is unfortunately very rare that green is used in new buildings. And when it happens, it is usually a thin green roof nobody can see. Not everything can grow in Denmark, but much can be done anyway.

Anything green, when added in the right way, can make a construction really brilliant, and then it can compensate for a poor architecture. There is a reason why the plant is called the architect’s comfort. Should green really always be what we are sparing?

One of the most famous green facade - Quai Branly Museum, Paris, France


Equally famous Bosco Verticale, Milano, Italy


Transforming rather than tearing down - and creating a city with history

Odense was for a long-time Denmark's second largest industrial city, and has left an enormous legacy from these times around the city center. Once the traditional industrial sites have disappeared, all these areas are transformed at full speed: Havnen, Østerbro, Vesterbro. Unfortunately, it often happens without reusing the edifices that have quality. In this way, you can remove an entire area's history in a very short time.

On the harbor, a part of history has already disappeared. A crane disappeared overnight, the concrete silos, which Aalborg Portland relocates, seems to disappear. And there have been rumors about the fact that the Odense harbor is eager to demolish the fantastic building environment on Siloøen. But maybe Siloøen is the last opportunity to make room for a creative environment on the harbor, which is otherwise at risk of becoming a virtually clean housing area. Here's how to reuse industrial buildings elsewhere in the world:

Re-use of silo construction, Zetz Museum of Contemporary Art, Cape Town, South Africa


From sugar mill to hotel, Guilin, China


A local architect education and competent architecture firms

The lack of quality in the construction industry can be partly explained by the fact that Odense, contrary to the 3 other big cities in Denmark, does not offer some education programs, that in some ways deal with architecture. It means, that there is no ground for debate and there are virtually no new, innovative architectural firms in the city. All the more reason for changing that.

Join the debate!

The last advice could be a call for everyone to join the debate. Over and over again, builders are allowed to qualify the most rubbish buildings as of the highest quality, without anyone contradicting them. Perhaps they think so as well themselves, so there is all the more reason for helping them on the way.

If the city’s construction landscape must become better, it requires that people from Odense speak their minds!


- We have selected 18 constructions that represent both good and less good constructions in or nearby the city center. This is not representative for all new constructions in the city, but it gives a good overall picture. Should we miss something important, so please send us a picture or post it on our Facebook page and share your opinion and evaluation.
- We have graded the areas, which are publicly accessible or which can be seen from the street. The grades go from 1 (the worse possible) to 6 (the best possible).
- As it can be difficult to compare the designs and the unfinished constructions with the finished ones, provisional grades have been given to unfinished constructions. It is easy to cheat with visual designs, as they are embellished or because there may be some savings on the way.


Odense is moving fast. But where are we going?

Odense is moving fast. But where are we going?
Debate | Written by: This Is Odense | Translated by: Pil Lindgreen | Tuesday, November 14, 2017

ELECTION DEBATE: More things are happening in Odense than ever before. But what direction is the cultural scene going in? And more importantly, where do we want it to go?

In a series of articles leading up to the local elections, we will be asking questions about the city’s culture and providing our best answers, helped by some of the people involved in arts and culture in Odense. Read along, voice your opinion and show up on Saturday at the pre-election debate organized by Kulturklyngen at Storms Pakhus at 6 pm. Central figures in the election will be there to answer for themselves.


Photo: Theatre Momentum, 2016


This Is Odense’s aim has always been to show that the city has more to offer than you might think. Today, this is truer than ever before, and our job of looking through Odense’s events and selecting the best is getting more and more difficult each week. But as exciting as this new multitude is, all new things are not good merely on account of being new.
And what do we mean by that?  

No matter how much we might differ in opinion within the group in This Is Odense, we all share a dream of culture that challenges us; arts that do not merely aim to please, but strive to provoke and change.   

A cultural scene that does not begin and end with audience numbers, but cares to move its audiences. A cultural scene that is open to the world, but does not rely on tried and true cultural package-deals passing through town. A cultural scene that allows artists not only to survive but to live and play in Odense.

A cultural scene that causes a stir throughout Denmark, but is as real and present to an Odensian on a Tuesday night in some muggy attic as it is in the crowd in front of the stage on a June evening in Tusindårsskoven.

A cultural scene supported by a free and open discussion about its own merits and direction.

In other words, culture with courage. And there is still some way to go before we get there.


The cultural scene in Odense is small enough that most people in it are connected somehow, depending on support from each other and often from the City itself. This kind of close network often means fruitful conditions for collaborations, but also sometimes that necessary critiques and critical questions are only posed in private conversations. And we should not forget that at This Is Odense we too are part of this network.

But the questions have to be asked, so the starting point for our series of articles is to bring some of these difficult questions to light.



Photo: Odeon’s main venue, Store Sal. Credit: Klaus Knakkergaard

ODEON has been long in the making - from the initial plan to place a cultural centre in the former Thrige factory, to a political decision to establish a centre for music and theatre at its present-day location back in 2005 that stranded during the financial crisis and went through two consecutive adaptations before it reached its final form. The question is: has ODEON become what we hoped it would? And is it what Odense needs today?

A political decision in 2005 allotted DKK 90 m to a projected new centre for music and theatre. The project was called a cultural beacon for the city and both Venstre and Socialdemokraterne were eager to stress the importance of smaller, non-commercial cultural initiatives being invited to join this new centre.

When the sketch for the ODEON project was unveiled in 2008, it was accompanied by the story of building a “cultural powerhouse”. Then-mayor Anker Boye (A) called the centre “the beating heart of the city”, and predicted it would finally put Odense on the cultural map. Jan Boye (K) pointed out that ODEON would allow the city to attract performers of a whole new calibre, while Jane Jegind (V) called it a “cultural beacon that will make the citizens of Odense proud of their hometown”. Meanwhile, urbanist Lars Engberg commented that a cultural centre will only become a landmark when it provides content of unique quality.

What followed was a lowering of both price and quality, especially for the main venue, in order to make a profit on student housing, a supermarket, and conference facilities at the centre. A more realistic project for the post-2008 market, some might say. Meanwhile, the City increased its share of the investment. Jan Boye (K) maintained that the centre would be of high quality. The Danish National School of Performing Arts and the Danish National Academy of Music argued that this was their chance to make a mark on the city and create new synergies by settling their activities in the building. Steen Møller, who replaced Jan Boye, called it a possible “international dynamo”, and both S and DF expressed enthusiasm.

Cut to late 2017. ODEON has been open and running for about eight months now, and what do we have on our hands? The city has gained an acclaimed communal restaurant and a much critized supermarket.
We have not seen much of the non-commercial initiatives so far, contrary to the original intent. And whether such performers would be able to carve out a meaningful space for themselves in the building remains to be seen. It is still too early to judge what has been gained by moving the schools of music and performance to their new location.

What we can judge is the cultural landmark, the “beacon” itself; ODEON’s own bookings and visiting events of the past eight months. This is where projection and reality differ the most. A cross-section of the programme so far includes: City Singler, Tina Dickow, Chippendales, Linie 3, The Bootleg Beatles, Kim Larsen, Stine Bramsen, Caroline Henderson, Svend Brinkmann, Midt Om Natten-musical, Cliff Richard, and of course productions by Odense Teater and Odense Symphony Orchestra.

It is very hard to see a beacon taking shape from that. Nothing on that list does not already feature on every major venue across the country and most of the performers could have been booked at Odense’s existing venues. And though the acoustics might be better at ODEON, other venues might have offered a more fitting setting for several names. Worst case scenario: because of ODEON, Odense is left with a lesser culture and the new venue could be said to cannibalize the bookings of other, existing venues.
We might be so bold as to ask: Has Odense gained anything culturally by ODEON that the city did not already have?

And does it have to be that way? The special merit of ODEON must lie in its size and in the quality of its events. So what happened to the ambitions for its bookings? Where is the courage to be a cultural beacon? Could it really be that there are still people who doubt that Odensians are ready to step out of their comfort zone? And what role does the City play in challenging this tendency?



Photo: Black Rebel Motorcycle Club at their almost sold-out show at Posten last week

Posten is the regional venue in Odense - one of 18 across the country - and is comparable in size to Radar, Train and Global/Jazzhouse in Copenhagen and Århus.

It is furthermore a venue with a solid economic record and a strong network of sponsors. Comparing Posten’s finances to the accounts for Vega, the two receive roughly the same state funding (Vega DKK 6.1 m, Posten/Dexter DKK 6.2 m), and have roughly the same income from sponsors (Vega DKK 1.8 m, Posten/Dexter DKK 1.4 m). The big difference lies in their turnover. Ticket income at Posten/Dexter amounts to DKK 10.3 m; Vega DKK 56 m.

Posten states its strategy as follows: offering audiences “high-quality live music” and big international names, and in later years have also expressed ambition to support upcoming local bands and underground acts. After its extension in 2007, Posten has a capacity of 900 at its main stage. In comparison, the count at Vega is 1,550, at Radar 300 and at Train 1,000.

All things considered, Posten should be able to offer Odensians a combination of high quality upcoming bands and midsize international acts, on top of those classic Danish acts touring the nation.

Between now and April next year, Vega has (among many other) the following acts scheduled that would easily fit the bill at Posten too: Joey BadaSS, Destroyer, Alex Cameron, Sun Kill Moon, The Kooks, Mastodon, Mando Diao, Thomas Dybdahl, Iron and Wine, Niels Frahm, First Aid Kit and Editors. Hiphop, singer-songwriting, indie rock, folk rock, pop rock, heavy, alternative rock, modern classic and electronic music.

Posten, in that same period, presents a list of cover bands, well-known Danish touring bands and a handful of lesser known international acts, that are not unknown because they are on the verge of a breakthrough.

Is it not possible to improve this booking profile? Shouldn’t Posten be Odenses main venue for medium-sized international acts? And what about the ambience? Why don’t audiences tend to stay and hang out at Posten after a concert? Why is there no sense of a creative environment when you enter through its doors? Why is it that one tends to feel more like a number being handled in wardrobe than a valued guest?



Photo: Kenneth Danielsen, Odense Offentlige Slagtehuse

This leads us to the next question - does Odense lack a true alternative upcoming venue surrounded by production facilities and rehearsal space for off-off centre arts with less obvious commercial potential? A creative hub without a neat and orderly municipal ambience? In a central location? Where bookers do not have to end concerts early, and where artists and organizers can shape everything from start to finish?

Is the lack of such a place not one of the main reasons why the city’s creative talent is so hard to find, even though it is growing in numbers? Kansas City is trying its best to be that place on the music scene, but its efforts have so far been held back by its location far from the city centre and its small following.

Kulturklyngen is on it; several cultural and educational institutions are talking about it, and initiatives such as Røde Himmel and other talented people from Ungdomshuset and Flow HF have been looking for an inclusive home for a while now.

How will we get there - what will it take? What is the ideal location? Could the last remnant of pristine industrial history on Siloøen be an option? Not every bit of industrial history has yet been developed into apartments, but we are getting there, and fast. That is not the recipe for a big city. What role should the city play in establishing such a project? And how do we ensure that it does not end up another temporary space, fertilizing an area for investment and development?



Photo: Disney exhibition at Brandts

The new Brandts is big, shiny, and ready to position itself as an ever-larger-looming figure in Odensian culture. Central to this ambition is (mostly) pop(ular) art. Soon the fourth floor that hosts the Funen Art Academy will be cleared and included in Brandts. The Media Museum will also have to go. More room - bigger exhibitions - more visitors.

Brandts has since its relaunch in 2014 exhibited tattoos, fashion, air travel, the sea, Walt Disney (with hands tied and no creative input) and, currently, the work of Lars von Trier. All no doubt with the admirable aim of getting more people to visit, and to establish itself among the big players in Danish cultural institutions.

The question is: What do we lose along the way? Is it really in a serious museum’s best interest to purchase a readymade (by Disney) exhibition on Disney? Is it desirable to fill the museum bookstore with assorted bric-a-brac instead of art books and make a visitor’s first impression that of a Bed, Bath and Beyond? Exit through the giftshop, please. And buy your identity here.

The rebranding of Brandts has included a satellite in Brandts 13; home to every risk and chance the museum has taken in the past 3-4 years, and as a result, often the most interesting exhibition space in Odense. Now it too faces closure. Brandts 13 has played the part of the empire’s frontrunner; pushing forward, moving ahead with installatons, photography and contemporary artist from Funen, Denmark and the world. Every exhibition has met an impressive still- higher standard.

What will happen to these ambitions when Brandts 13 closes its doors? Will the ambition and cultural courage move to a different site in the Brandts empire? And what will happen to the building - the former Funen Art Museum? Might a clever investor eye an opportunity to develop luxury apartments with a desirable tint of culture?


Photo: Funen Art Academy at Brandts

This is one question that has already been raised and discussed in the past few years - it usually comes up whenever the city council is negotiating their next budget, and there are rarely any visions for solutions beyond balancing the accounts.

Instead of discussing whether the City is allowed to fund an institute of higher education, we should be talking about why it is important to have an art academy in our city. Could the art academy anchor a new creative scene on the harbour? What kind of art might arise from establishing a alternative cultural centre? Could it create an enviromnent attractive to more people than the art students themselves?

Might it challenge the mentality of headless progress that has lead to a massive billboard lighting up the city with commercials for the airport canteen and Svendborg, day and night? And what is the Art Academy itself currently doing to ensure its future existence?


Photo: Odense Kommune - the new “Borgernes Hus”

The city’s libraries receive DKK 70 mio.  in yearly funding, and, seen together, as a result, they could be called one of the largest cultural institution in Odense. The institution also distinguishes itself by having branches located all over the city; a potential to cater to and interact with a very broad spectrum of citizens.

Running a library in 2017 must be somewhat similar to planning a city of self-driving cars: the possibilites are revolutionary, but no one knows what the future holds and there is a danger of destroying something that already works in favour of something uncertain.

That doesn’t necessarily mean that the best option is to continue shelving books and just wait for time to make the choice for you. Næsby Library started the Harry Potter Festival in a back room 15 years ago and now service 15,000 visitors for that event alone each year.

The Music Library was hosting and creating some of the most interesting and challenging cultural events in the city before they were given the unwelcome task of being the main library while Borgernes Hus was underway. What will become of their energetic ideas in their new, gilded setting at the central station?

And why is there not a handful of other examples of libraries breaking the mould? The money is there. What might happen at the new Borgernes Hus? Will it finally become a place where people will want to create, hang out, play? Or will it be “yet another library”?


Foto: Robbie Williams, Tinderbox

Odense has made a name for itself as a site for big events in recent years, thanks to funds from Odense & Co. Events sponsored by this fund have been well-executed on an unprecedented large scale.

This justifiably excites a lot people, but has also raised some eyebrows. Who is these events catering to? Are they for the benefit of current Odensians or do they serve to attract new citizens - and if the latter is true; are these the best events, then, strategically?

How do we strike a balance between buying events from professional Danish/ international event organizers and supporting local organizers who may not have the same ressources, financial or otherwise, but who could anchor the profits as wells as the experience in local talent?

It is a difficult queston. Could local forces have organized Tinderbox on the same scale and with equal success? No, probably not. And the same could be said for a number of smaller events in the same category. There IS a difference when it comes to skill, experience and turnover. Yet what happens to all of that when the organizers move on and go back where they came from; when the money leaves?

It has been integral to the strategy to ground know-how locally, but has it been successfully done? There is no doubt that the local commercial event organizers are frustrated. Are they right to be?


S o. What do our future representatives in public office think about all this? Do they even have an opinion? Who and what do the arts serve? What are the hidden possibilites in Odense? Which cultural institutions have the potential to do better, and how do we foster a distinct cultural scene, whose influence reaches across Danish borders while maintaining a clear Odensian spirit? Is there room for dreams of more than counting pennies in next year’s political plans? Do arts and culture mainly serve to create growth and attract new citizens or is there inherent value in this field?

These are some of our concerns and questions for the future. What do you think? Are we far off? What is the most urgent thing for politicians to discuss before the elections? And what do we need to talk about when the elections are over?


Why do they leave? And what can we do about it?

Why do they leave? And what can we do about it?
Debate | Written by: Kristian Bang Hansen | Translated by: Kristian Bang Hansen | Thursday, June 29, 2017

It happens on a regular basis. Often it's not a surprise to me. Nevertheless, it hits hard on the morale. Whenever one of Odense's great artistic talents moves to Copenhagen I am reminded that Odense as a metropolis is still a fragile size.

In a moment of resignation, it feels like building sand castles, while the everlasting waves of the ocean suck out the foundation under the towers. That's how I felt when almost the whole music collective behind "Under Livet" and "Vellness Plader" chose to pack their suitcases 1-2 years ago. So sad and at the same time so perfectly understandable.

But could it be different? Even Hans Christian Andersen jumped on the same carriage to Copenhagen and only returned when the city was illuminated in his honor. We have a number of well-known musicians who live here in the fall of their career. Let's get some more to settle down while they're on top.

It should be possible to work full time with music in Odense - even if you do not play in TipToe Big Band, in the Symphony Orchestra or teach at the Music Conservatorium, music school, etc. I wonder, if just one large band was signed AND chose to stay here...

The number of festivals and concerts i Odense just continue rising. There are now more than one hundred organizer groups, associations and venues that cultivate music in Odense and serve ever more wild music experiences for the odenseanans. Many of the new and especially young artists in the city have a level of ambition and creative energy we have rarely seen.

But still every year there is an unbearable number of Funen's most talented musicians and singers who pack up their guitars and move to Copenhagen. Still, Odense is not seen as an attractive place to pursue the dream of a professional career in the music industry - in spite of a flourishing music scene.

It is clear that continuity has been lacking. With continuity, the creative music communities and collectives grow with strong identities and attractiveness and with roots spreading out to venues, pubs, indie labels, concert halls, record stores, etc.

Odense has been a training course for the talents - organizers and musicians - but neither their plan nor their dream in the long run. The creative music communities have come and gone. The stories about the 90's electronic scene and the 00's metal scene could easily be mistaken as myths for newcomers to Odense. The story of the city's music life has been centered around the guys that stayed - Rock Nalle and Kim Larsen.

But that's not because we do not create these talents on Funen. There are just not many of them who have seen a future here. So what does it take? It didn't take many months after MØ or Malte Ebert moved to Copenhagen before they got their breakthrough.

How do we create continuity so the young creative talents can grow in concert with the established artists, and music environments and collectives can put down their roots and become part of the identity of both the city and the island?

Klub Golem is probably the only example (and an excellent one!) of a music scene that has grown a strong identity and attractiveness through many years of continuity. Some key individuals have simply chosen to stay here in the city. Imagine if the same had been the case with the Fallos Concerts, Leaves Festival and Off The Hook?

Before the folk education was moved to Esbjerg, the Music Conservatory helped to build a sparkling folk scene in Odense. Today, Folk DMA (Danish Music Awards) is typically filled with prize winners from Funen - but the pubs and venues in Odense are not.

Right now it is exciting to follow the attempt of Anders Mogensen and the other great people in Odense's jazz scene to establishing Odense as a true jazz city with a food chain from one of Europe's best jazz educations (as the Music Conservatorium in Odense actually is) through venues and festivals to professional careers in local ensembles and orchestras.

Odense also has a great geographical advantage if you want to tour around the country. There is a huge cultural momentum on Funen, represented by new ambitious festivals such as Heartland and Tinderbox, award-winning theaters and flourishing creative communities at the ports of Odense and Svendborg. Now we've even got the Music Days-festival to the island.

Could it just be because everyone else does it? And that everyone before them also did? Is it just a "fear of missing out"? Help me understand it - maybe we can do something about it together.

think if they were still here…

A selection of Funen's musical diaspora:

Claus Hempler / Folkeklubben / Gulddreng / Lucy Love / Moses: "Andreas" / Master Fatman / MØ / Niels Skousen / Reptile Youth / Sebastian Lind / The Eclectic Moniker / THE WHITE ALBUM / TÅRN

Adi Zukanović / AKSGLÆDE / Christian Juncker / FRANSKE PIGER / FRIBYTTERDRØMME / Geolo Gee / Jesper Mechlenburg / Julie Bertelsen / Jullie Hjetland (Lukkif) / Keith Canisius (Rumskib) / Sylle Struck

BLACK HORSE / DE HØJE HÆLE / DEN FJERDE VÆG / ETAGEN UNDER / FLER FARVER / FIRST FLUSH / FOR AKIA / JØRCK / Kasper Tagel / Keld Lauritsen / Kiki Brandt / onkel ond band / PLÖK / THE LOVE COFFIN / Time Masters / Uffe Steen

Anja Kickbusch / Anna Mose (Gerda Monroe & IKI) / DIET / EKSIL / Gottschalk / GULDIMUND / Juju Me / Karen Mose (Phønix) / KEINE FEAR FOR FLANGEr / La Cuchina Som Sistema / Paper Cranes / Sille Nilsson / Sjæl i Flammer  / SON OF CAESAR / The Folk Factory


The false rumour about the death of the city center

The false rumour about the death of the city center
Debate | Written by: Bo Jessen | Translated by: Laura Malahovska | Wednesday, May 3, 2017

"Odense city center is dead!"

- possibly the most common statement in the local debate in recent years. A quick search in the comment sections of local media outlets confirms that this is a common conception. Often street closures, tram building and the lack of parking spaces are blamed. There is just one problem - the fundamental premise is not true. And we are asking the wrong questions: there are other and far more important things to be discussed. 

Let’s start by debunking the statement. Here are some facts you can use the next time conversation turns to that topic: 

1. The city center attracts more and more people

According to Odense Municipality’s annual statistics, the number of pedestrians on weekdays in the city has risen from 64.500 in 2015 to 73.326 counted in one week in 2016. With the increasing number of housing units that are being built in the city center, the number of urban dwellers will increase in the coming years and bring even more people to the streets.  

2. The number of empty sTORE fronts is not high

I have have counted (March 28th-30th - a good 8-hour walk) that out of 732 store fronts in the city center*, 68 are empty/for rent and out of these 68, there are only 45 that have either not been re-rented or are under reconstruction, or temporarily rented out for shops. Furthermore, a lot of empty stores are newly built, or recently vacated by shops moving to other locations.

Overall, only 7 % of the spaces are empty and ready to be occupied. Contrary to popular belief, most of the empty store fronts are located on the main pedestrian streets (where the prices are highest), while there are few empty shops on the outskirts of the city center. Nedergade, Skt. Knuds Kirkestræde and Brandts Passage are fully rented out and there hardly any available shop fronts on Vesterbro or Nørregade.

3. Odense’s restaurant revolution continues

The number of restaurants in the city center has grown from 114 in May 2014 to 175 in February 2017 according to Statistics Denmark. That is partly because of new restaurants, and because of existing places that have begun serving food. A quick peek at the streets also reveals that the number of restaurants with outdoor service has risen considerably in the last couple of years.

4. The city center can offer things that you could not imagine were possible three years ago

Today you can find wine bars, coffee shops and restaurants galore, three dedicated record stores and more and more galleries. And you can experience more events and festivals than ever before, as we previously wrote about in this blog article.

Lalour Vinbar

There is every reason to be positive about city’s development. Especially when you consider that none of the construction work that has been bothering the city center is even completed yet.

Now that the myth has been debunked, is it not time to discuss what the city center needs? Because while we talk about whether the city center is dead or not, the development is going ahead at full speed without us. And if we do not consider what it is bringing along, my best bet is that there is a big risk that we will not like the outcome.

The city center counting resulted in the following statistic:

- Restaurants,cafes, fast food etc.: 142
- Clothing, shoes and accessories: 110
- Hairdresser, tattoo artists, solariums etc.: 66
Service, banking, copy-shops, administration etc.: 50
Home furnishings, furniture, recycling, kitchenware etc.: 49
Health, fitness and cosmetics: 46
Groceries and specialties: 40
Culture, entertainment and galleries: 38
Electronics, music, toys, hobbies etc.: 36
Bars, nightclubs, wine bars, pubs: 34
Jewellery, watches, glasses: 25
Bike, sports and outdoors: 12
Hotels: 8
Books etc.: 7
Greengrocer: 1 (Odense Fødevare Fællesskab)
Department stores: 1

Is it the right ratio and is the quality good enough? What do you want to see on this list that is not already there?

I still miss a lot of things. Things I am convinced could be a great success if only there were skilled people who had the courage and landlords who saw the value in it. The big challenge of the city center is not the last empty spaces, nor the number of inhabitants or lack of demand. It is not the way people from Odense and Funen are, even though many like to say that.

It is on the other hand our lack of courage. Lack of courage among all of us who talk about opening just the place we dream about, but have not done it yet. Too few are saying: “If I cannot get it, I will make it myself”. There are way too few spaces for those with good ideas, but do not have a chain business that would finance their ideas. In the future what is special will make the city center survive. Something we can taste, smell, feel, hear and experience. The city center needs to be a meeting ground and framework for the communities that thrive when the city is developed the way it should be. The people that open a store, not to make money, but because they need express their passion.

Let’s share our ideas about what we want more of. I’ll start…

I am missing an independent bookstore that cultivates literature and does not rhyme on Jan Magnussen and crime novels. A place that hosts writers' events and book clubs. Our university produces lots of literature graduates that are hungry for books, that eventually move away from the city. Why don’t any of you open a place like that instead of becoming a small part of a similar scene in another city?

Brattle Book Shop, Boston
Librairie Ptyx, Bruxelles

I am missing a bicycle dealer who does not sell Chinese factory-produced bikes with aluminum frames, but instead is building their own steel frames here in Odense. Odense is a world-renowned bicycle city and the amount of cyclists is unmatched when taking into account the city’s flat structure.

As long as the bicycle has existed, there have always been bicycle manufacturers in Odense. More than a 100 years ago, bicycles were produced in at H. Demant's and Thomas B. Thrige’s. In 30’s, Smith & Co was Denmark's largest bicycle manufacturer with 35,000 bicycles. Bicycles have also been produced in Frue Kirkestræde, in Slotsgade and in Dronningensgade. Kildemoes was produced in Sct. Jørgensgade, Everton on Rugårdsvej and Redux on Grønlandsgade and Østerbro. And what about Skandsen and Vitesse on Skibhusvej and Læssøegade?

Odense’s bicycles are rusting in basements all around the world, but today there is not a single quality handmade bicycle business, even though such stores a popping up everywhere.

Rapha Cycle Club, London

I am missing a music venue that is created by up-and-coming musicians who want to fulfil their dream of Odense becoming the next noise rock, techno or jazz metropole. A place where there is life all day long and that can offer a stage for the city’s many young talents that therefore are not required to escape to Copenhagen.

And where is the venue that books international upcoming artists and medium-sized musicians? Those who not only work to bring names that Odense already know? Vega, a venue in Copenhagen, presents the following names during the coming year: Tinariwen, Ásgeir, Ryan Adams, Clap Your Hands Say Yeah, Mogwai, Little Dragon, Sun Kil Moon. All names that I would buy the ticket for without thinking if they played in Odense. Big Vega has 1500 places and Posten 900. Is that the only reason? It cannot be true.

One of many DIY venues in Leipzig.

I am missing non-commercial exhibition rooms where the city’s artists can exhibit and seek funding from the National Art Foundation in order to produce and exhibit their works. It could help to hold on some of the artists that graduate The Funen Art Academy and give the city more of the creative spaces that we have always needed.

Galleri Yvont Lambert, Paris

I am missing a clothing store where fashion-hungry city boys can get the latest men’s fashion. Who sell Acne, Marni, Rick Owens og Lemaire. Or who have the right connections to buy the right type of second-hand clothing for he, she, and whatever is in between.

Christopher Lemaire, Paris

I am missing a workshop where I can come and build stuff and get expert advice. A bookcase, a table, a bicycle or anything else. A place driven by craftsmanship and where there is time to do the right things right.

Carpentry workshop, New York

I am missing beautiful and welcoming storefronts that create a space to hang around and that tell stories about people behind the facade that have real passions and wants to share them with all of us.

In Praise of Shadows, Stockholm
Café in Kyoto, Japan
Native, Antwerpen

The restaurant scene is flourishing, but where are the high quality restaurants serving Middle-Eastern, South-American or African cuisine? That don't just produce funen-french cuisine, but challenge our taste buds and do it well? Virtually all of the world’s nationalities are represented in Odense, but you do not see this diversity in the restaurants.

Restaurant Tegui, Buenos Aires

Odense is Denmark’s greenest big city and is located on the middle of an island that is often called The Garden of Denmark, but where is the nature in the city center? The green facades, the beautiful trees? The wild balconies and rooftop terraces, you would gladly break a front door to access? Places that you would carry a grill, a couple of table, some incandescent light bulbs and a handful of friends to? Places one can hide away from the city buzz and enjoy a cup of coffee? Places where you are not required to buy anything? Maybe in some of the city center’s many amazing backyards, that sit quiet and lonely decorated in pigeon sh*t?

Hugues Peuvergne, backyard design
Rooftop terrace in Brooklyn, New York
Vertical garden, Paris
Dinner time in Brooklyn, New York

And where are the immigrant greengrocers who give color to every street corner all around the world, the type that has always been in the city center? The kind of place where vegetables that shouldn’t be refrigerated, aren’t. Where you can buy a single piece of fruit on your way to you next appointment, without having to go through some supermarket maz. Maybe it is not so easy to make money with groceries, but it should be possible to think of a sustainable concept.

Greengrocer, Buenos Aires

What do you think? What are you missing? Please post your ideas and photos. And tell us how we get what we want? Are any of the things suggested above impossible to do or are we just waiting for someone to do it? Or maybe some of them already exist and I have not noticed?

* All storefronts on street level or in raised basements have been counted. Adjacent spaces that have the same owner and function are only counted once. See the definition of a city center here.


This Is Odense