This Copenhagen festival highlights how architecture can shape our future
”Our purpose is to open up the discussion about the past, present, and future of our cities to a larger public,” tells Josephine Michau, co-founder and director of Copenhagen Architecture Festival (CAFx).
6 Oct 2021

Copenhagen Architecture Festival (CAFx) is a platform born in 2014 with the aim of rethinking architecture’s representation and engaging a wider public in the discussion about the impact of architecture and urban planning on everyday life, communities, and the planet.

— We started in 2014 as a film festival, tells co-founder and director Josephine Michau, because we thought film was the perfect intermediary of architecture and urbanism to a larger public. We wanted to include the wider public in discussions on those matters as they are so influential in our lives from cradle to grave. The festival quickly evolved into including other formats as well, but film remains a strong part of the festival’s DNA.

— Our ambition is to create new encounters between disciplines, people, and ideas, generating novel insights and broadening our understanding of the potential of architecture to shape our future. The peculiarity of the festival is that our outreach is not limited to architects, planners, or expert practitioners: through a very broad range of cultural events, we really strive to — and succeed at — make the debate about the urban condition relevant to anyone who wants to take part in it. Every year we organize an 11 day festival in Denmark; every summer we hold an international Summer School for film and architecture, and all year round we run an online Journal addressing topical questions in urbanism and more.

This year’s edition kicks off tomorrow. What are the highlights?

— We chose the title Landscapes of Care, because we wanted to encompass all the spatial contexts and practices that bridge architecture and urban planning with care, meaning consideration, affect, interest, and empathy. The three realms in which we unpack the overarching theme are Health and Architecture, Diversity and Community, and From climate sinner to climate agent, tells Michau. She continues:

— The first subcategory of events focuses on the relation between health, care, and the built environment, looking back at the history of our cities and foreseeing post-pandemic urban futures. This will be the subject of the October 14 roundtable we organize in collaboration with a number of institutions, including the WHO.

— The second sub-theme explores the social relevance of care for the well-being of urban communities. The question underlying Diversity and Community is: how do we create a city that cares for the most vulnerable, where we care for each other despite our differences, and where everybody can feel safe and welcomed? Among the many engaging events tackling these topics, I can mention the full-day program about gender and architecture at Louisiana Museum of Modern Art, and the Literary Salon on openness and inclusivity in urban space at Thorvaldsens Museum. 

— In light of the current climate crisis, a third cluster of events focuses on the relation between architecture and the environment: how can the building industry transition from being one of the biggest culprits of climate change, to being a driver of sustainable thinking? Can architecture care for our planet and its depleting resources? We address these questions through lectures, film screenings, and a series of six debates on climate care and architecture taking place at the research lab Space10.

— The festival also includes a special section dedicated to portraits and practices of architects and artists whose work is relevant to the conversation about space. Noteworthy are the world premiere of the new portrait film about Dorte Mandrup, with which we are opening the festival, and the special focus on David Lynch’s filmic universe through screenings, exhibitions, and performative gastronomic experiences.

The event lineup is really broad, covering many different topics. All according to plan, tells Josephine Michau.

— The festival’s purpose is to open up the discussion about the past, present, and future of our cities to a larger public; to bring the most current questions in architecture and urbanism to public attention. When it comes to format, the idea behind the events is that a wide and diversified selection of media and setups, from film screenings to symposiums, from lectures to art performances, can include and speak to a greater audience, instead of restricting the conversation to experts. In terms of content, the overarching theme, Landscapes of Care, ought to be thought of as a lens through which we approach the most significant themes in architecture and urban planning. Thus, ‘care’ becomes an analytical category through which we explore how we take care of ourselves, care for and about each other, and the environment in urban settings.

What else do you have coming?

— In 2022 we’ll move into a new project space where we can address urban and architectural questions all year round in a physical space parallel to our digital Journal. We have just started a democratic co-creative urban project in Gellerup in Aarhus under the title ”We co-create our city”, together with teenagers in the socially stigmatized area of Gellerup. Furthermore, we are building up to the World Capital of Architecture and the 2023 UIA World Congress happening in Copenhagen in 2023 with two exciting projects: In collaboration with local institutions all around the world, we are putting together a Film Mosaic comprising short films produced by amateurs and professionals about real non-discriminatory architecture and design solutions. We are also putting out an invited call for manifestos addressing the 17 UN SDGs, which will be collected and published in an International Manifesto Relay, Michau concludes.

Josephine Michau

CAFx runs in Copenhagen and Aarhus October 7-17. All of the festival’s events, from indoor exhibitions to outdoor city walks, will be held physically, in accordance with the most recent covid-19 regulations laid down by the Danish government. The opening evening can be followed online and will be live-streamed by other partner institutions around the world. Furthermore, the festival will develop some digital content documenting lectures and debates, which will then be uploaded to their mentioned, open-access Journal.