Living Better Lives exhibition at the DAC in Copenhagen


Christian Hoyer,

Copenhagen, Denmark,



With the "Living Better Lives" exhibition at the DAC – Danish Architecture Centre in Copenhagen –, the Vandkunsten architecture studio shows us how we can live better and more sustainably in the future. There are many questions to shed light on, including can architecture create new communities in a changing world? And can we do it without giving up quality of life?

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Living Better Lives exhibition at the DAC in Copenhagen
We are all aware that, if we truly care about our survival as a species, we need to change the way we live. The climate crisis, social change, all of this requires changes on our part that clearly include the way we live. Following the conclusion of the Architecture Biennale, where we got the chance to see many different approaches, the exhibition entitled "Living Better Lives", created by the Danish architecture firm Vandkunsten, first for the Utzon Centre in Aalborg (Denmark) and now open to visitors and extended to the DAC in Copenhagen, offers a number of possible answers to these questions.
Not surprisingly, Living Better Lives invites visitors to experience the architectural firm’s values and visions for themselves. Vandkunsten thus translated its design ideas for a future house in a one to one scale, proposing a form of co-housing where we find a family dwelling measuring just 37 square metres, with a greenhouse, a clubhouse and a playground.
Søren Nielsen, architect and partner of the studio, explains the concept that inspired and animated the exhibition: "Throughout the modernist period, architects cultivated abstraction, coolness and iconicism. Often contrary to the body’s need for sensory experiences and shapes that are decodable and meaningful to users. We want to make more room for cosiness and well-being in modern architecture and urban planning. With compact home architecture in climate-friendly materials, we want to inspire others to embrace a less greedy and gentler building culture.".
Architects from the Vandkunsten studio, originally founded in 1970, are well aware that a strong community is synonymous with quality of life and believe that the best architecture is designed and built cooperatively. In a series of projects ranging from large urban plans to small basic homes, Vandkunsten has already demonstrated how the "minimal house" can boost neighbourhoods and how resource sharing can help redefine the meaning of luxury and improve the quality of people’s lives. Not by chance, in the exhibition’s clubhouse, guests meet the residents of three different buildings designed by the Vandkunsten studio: Jystrup Savværk, BBB Kvistgård and Tinggården. Here, the residents of these co-housings share their practical experiences with visitors.
What we really like about "Living Better Lives" is the respect for children, who are actively involved in exploring new forms of living. They are encouraged to explore the micro community and experience for themselves what it would be like to live with their family in a small home. Is it really necessary for every child to have their own bedroom to have a good and happy childhood? What would the children think if instead of being alone with their parents, they dine together with other families? Thanks to the exhibition and the full-scale model of the house measuring just 37 square metres, children and adults can discuss a new way of living, not only in terms of spaces, but also as a community at a time of great dynamism. Where, in fact, having a social reality that can make up for the lack of brothers, uncles or grandparents becomes essential to live a better life, for young and old alike.
As a new addition to the exhibition with respect to the first edition created for the Utzon Centre, visitors can now explore one of Vandkunsten's most recent projects, Fællesbyg Køge Kyst. The project offers an alternative approach to construction, where the residents form a housing cooperative thus assume responsibility for their own urban development, as well as for the dwellings themselves. Living better and more sustainably in the future is, indeed, possible.

Christane Bürklein

Living Better Lives Exhibition
at the DAC (Danish Architecture Centre), Copenhagen
from November 20, 2021 to April 18, 2022
The exhibition has been organised in collaboration with Vandkunsten, the Danish Architecture Centre and the Utzon Centre with the contribution of Bo Bedre.
The exhibition is financed by Realdania.
Images: courtesy of the DAC, see legends
For more information: https://dac.dk/en/exhibitions/living-better-lives/


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