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LNAK10054 Theory & Method in Landscape Architecture

PAPER THREE . 05/04/2013

UNDERSTANDINg mindelunden Site: Mindelunden

Ana Rita Fernandes hpq968

INDEX Introduction


p. 02


p. 03


p. 04

The experience


p. 05


p. 07


p. 09

p. 10


End notes



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p. 11 p. 12


The main objective of this assignment is to give a personal interpretation of the site, in this case Mindelunden, and relate it to a broader context and theoretical concepts and topics that I found interesting to develop my analysis about this memorial. Trough the aid of visual images and descriptions, this paper will provide the reader a good understanding of the elements and experiences that I have come across during the site study. “How the site can be understood?” is the overall question for this assignment, in which I will also mention the observations made throughout the group work and site analysis where we explored how this site was developed from both a physical and emotional standpoint and we also went deep into a more specific understanding of the site and its uses. Once we started analysing Mindelunden as a group, we immediately identified three dominating elements: The Allé, the vegetation wall and the juxtaposition between the geometric and organic shape. These three elements were found very important and contributive to the overall experience of the site, which we described on our first paper, entitled “The Allé to Eternity”. The first element, the Allé, is perceptible when we enter the site by the main entrance, which features a big arch and gives us the “welcomes” to this memorial. Once inside the area, we can quickly perceive a seclusion from the outside world, which is provided by the vast expanse of trees and vegetation that create the second element: the Natural Wall around the site. At last, the third element can be perceived when one does an overall visit trough the site and understands that we have a significant difference between the two poles of the site: one with very straight shapes, and another one with random shapes. This characteristic gives us what we can call the juxtaposition between the controlled and uncontrolled areas.

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“THE ALLÉ TO ETERNITY” Starting with the description of the first impression, as aforementioned, we have three main elements that were relevant for the interpretation of the site: The Allé, the Vegetation Wall and the Controlled vs the uncontrolled areas. The description of the first impression is easily understandable since the reader can follow a logical think that leads us trough the site. As soon as one enters the site, the first observable feature is the Allé that starts at the entrance and continues through the site until reach the opposite pole of the area. The fact that this element is strict and clean informs the visitor about the importance of this memorial, since we get a feeling of “non ending line” when we first look at the Allé. Also this line works as a link between the three different memorials that we can find in the site and it creates an optical device, as mentioned before, regarding the depth of this line (Diagram 1). Once inside the area, one immediately becomes sheltered from the outside world and this is due to the existence of vegetation,

not only within, but also all around the area, which protects the site against the noise and the wind from the surroundings (Diagram 2). The vegetation that we find inside the site can be defined as formal vegetation and informal vegetation. For example, the Allé is considered as formal vegetation since it represents a strict line. On the other hand, on the opposite side of the site we can find a vast forested area, which represents the informal vegetation, where the executions took place. This pattern with formal and informal vegetation provides a further contrast between the nature and the man made elements inside this memorial. Inside Mindelunden we find a transition from a Controlled to an uncontrolled areas. This is due to the fact that when one enters the site, quickly perceives the Allé as a straight, powerful and controlled line, followed by a rectangular meadow and after a transitional area that leads us to the uncontrolled execution area were we find a wild distribution of vegetation (Diagram 3).




Diagram 1 page 03

The allé directs the visitor through the site

Diagram 2

The natural wall provides a feeling of seclusion

Diagram 3

The transition from geometrical to organic


THE HISTORICAL CONTEXT The site in study, Mindelunden has a rich history dating back to 1893, where the Danish government bought the area and developed it to being a military training area for the Danish troops. During the second World War, german troops occupied the site, and executed members of the Danish resistance movement. When the Danish reclaimed the site after the end of German occupation, it was transformed into a memorial grove during a time known as the welfare period (søberg, 2013). The site was developed in two stages, the first stage occurred between the years of 1946-1950, and the second stage occurred between 1974-1977. During the first stage of development, the architect Kaj Gottlob and the landscape architect Aksel Andersen were responsible for the sites design, and during the second stage landscape architect olenørgård continued the work started in the first stage by making the site connect with the execution place. The statue by the execution memorial is made by Axel poulsen during the first stage and is called “Moderen med den dræbte søn” - the mother with the killed son (Lund, 2000). Mindelunden has been an important place in Danish history. Located in the suburbs of copenhagen, Mindelunden was first surrounded by farmland, open space and summer retreats. As the city developed, the welfare state built up the open space, surrounding the area with housing areas, schools etc (Albertsen&Diken, 2004). The historical maps show this urban development, while the site of Min- delunden only developed in the two stages, the area around the memorial seems to be constantly changing.





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historical maps from Kort- og matrikelstyrelsen


The experience that one can take from this site is perhaps the most important thing regarding this memorial. As we all should know, the feelings and perceives that come from the experience are relevant for the understanding and analysis of a specific site. Thus, we have to agree when Rasmussen says that: “Architecture is not produced simply by adding plans and sections to elevations. It is something else and something more. It is impossible to explain precisely what it is - its elements limits are byconsists no means On the the memorial of 5 well-defined. different whole, art should not be explained; it must elements symbolizing different acts. be experienced!” (Rasmussen, 1959, p. 9) entrance KZ-­graves resistrance And aftergraves this experience, we should be memorial able to wall understand which conditions it proexecution vides to place be considered as a special place

complex then just that. This is explained when, after walking a few meters, a small path through an evergreen condensed wilderness, opens up on the right, enticing the visitor to explore. By following this path we find an enclosed circular grave area surrounded by evergreen vegetation, ivy floor and open to the sky (Diagram 5 and 6). The area is reserved for the grave-stones keeping the men killed in the KZ-camps, and the sky above as a ceiling. The fact that it is open to the sky makes this a light area where in sunny days it becomes highlighted from thethe surrounding vegetation. This entering memorial, one is lead means thatlong Mindelunden is also the prepaired by the allé. when seeing dif-­ to make the visitors enjoy good aspects ferent elements, one isthe drawn away from the allé attracted to takemake of the weather in and this memorial, which path around the memorial. it “A another pleasant place in every aspect” (Gehl, 1971, p. 173).

and how its design and elements lead the visitors to a proper use and understanding entrance of the site. Also this tour around the site is meant to tell us something:


“We thus have the structure of the travel story: KZ-­graves stories of journey’s and actions are marked out by the citation of the places that result from them” (Certeau, 1984, p. 120) resistance graves

memorial wall

Which means that once experiencing Mindelunden, the visitor should be able to tell how to proceed inside the site, which paths to take and how to enter “each room”, and so, tell a travel story. In Mindelunden we can find two opposit poles of experiences: The entrance and the execution area. Starting by the entrance, when entering in Mindelunden, we find a huge arch representing the importance of this site and leading us to the inside, where we encounter executionthe glorious Allé, which we place the most outsanding element, can consider consisted by Acer platanoides. This Allé creates a strong sense that the visitor should follow it until the end, but this site is a bit more page 05

Diagram 5

Interpretation of the circulation at the site


As one continues the tour trough the site we enter on a big open lawn area, defined by stonewalls and the Allé. This area is vast and open to the sky, giving it, once again, the opportunity of being enjoyable in sunny days. On the left is possible to contemplate a large rectangular structure of granite surrounded by an evergreen wall and creating a memorial area for the resistance members killed at the execution square. This area is also open to the sky and ready to get the sunlight, which makes this a more pleasant place to remind the soldiers.

This wall consists of the names of many individuals that took part in the resistance movement whose bodies were never found. Above the wall we have a pergola, which can be seen as a protection to this wall, not only against the sun, but also against the rain. This fact tells us that this memorial should not be as exposed as the others. Below, on Diagram 6, is illustrated the atmosphere of the site while the visitor makes the tour, according to the each area.

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From the time that one dicides to go back around the site, the path to take is again the same glorified Allé that was found at the arrival. While walking back in this Allé we see a memorial wall on the right.



It is also in this area where we can find an old shooting range, where 196 resistance members where executed. The materials of this area, such as trees and grass, revoke to a calm and serene feeling, but once we get the old purpose of this space, one gets imediatly choky and sorry about the activity that used to take place in this area. The fact that it is surrounded by a wilderness of trees can be understand as a way of hide the activities that were made here, and so it remains on the shadow.



Proceeding with the tour, we find a path on the left of the Resistance grave, that leads us to the other pole of the site. During this path, is possible the identify the differences between a very straight and controled area with geometrical shapes, and a completely distinct one at the end of the area, where we can find a vast forested area with organic shapes. This is also illustrated in the materiality of the path, which switch from being made of brick to gravel and cut grass.




Diagram 6

Interpretation of the atmosphere at the site


Inside this memorial is possibe to find 5 main The third element is the Resistance Grave and distinct elements, each of them con- which is made of solid granite in a strict taining different characteristics and materi- rectangular form. This material symbolizes als that underline their expression. When anstrength and pride, while the layout reminds elements alysing this 5 elements we can still consider top of the cofone of a military funeral. the memorial consists of 5On different four of them as rooms, since they provoque fin-shaped graves there are flower beds full elements symbolizing different acts. stronguer feelings and present such an of purple heather. Purple heather blooms entrance emotional impact to the visitors. This rooms in the spring, producing a bright purple KZ-­graves are the execution area and the three mecolor on the 4th of May, which is considresistrance morials that are set in Mindelunden: The KZ ered thegraves most special day at the memorial graves, the resistance graves and the mememorial wall – the Danish liberation day. morial wall, which will be explained forward execution place in detail. On diagram 7 we have the representation of this 5 elements. The first element is the Entrance, a glorious arch that leads us to the inside. The arch is made of stone and presents monumental dimensions as a symbol of something very important. The material gives us the feeling of a very steady element and the dimensions make us feel small and insignificant in the larger context of the site. This is the reason why this element acquire such a relevant role of respect in Mindelunden. I do not consider this as a room because it is a trasition area, which is only used to get in the site. The second element is the round grave area which we can call the KZ-graves. This can be considered as a room because it is a place to recall and render tribut, where the visitor is supposed to spend some time. The area is surrounded by dense evergreen plantings that create a feeling of protection troughout the year, and so gives a feeling of seclusion for the visitor. Also the fact that the evergreen are used to outline this memorial, it also evokes the feeling that the events which ocurred here are still unresolved. This is highlighted by the fact that evergreens appear timeless. In addition to the use of evergreens to evoke timelessness, the open sky where the gravestones are located also links the heavens to the site, which gives us a calmeless feeling while inside this area.



resistance graves

execution place

Diagram 7

The location of the 5 elements in Mindelunden

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memorial wall


The statue in the middle with the mother and her son, may symbolize the many parties that have been effected from these events. When one man dies, it affects his family, friends, girlfriend, coworkers etc. but the statue might also symbolize the shift in the values of society. During the war, women came forward and began working, changing the dynamics of the workforce in Denmark. Standing in front of this memorial one senses the feelings of unity and national pride. The open lawn in front of this memorial creates a place for many people to gather in memory. The fourth element is the Memorial Wall which is a part of the outline of the site. The wall is covered by a pergola and when we enter this pergola we get immediatly stunned by the stone plates and shelterd from the surroundigs. The pergola is made of dark wood poles and a back wall made of bricks. It offers seating and the benches are situated on the left and right side of the memorial plates so this way, the visitors are neve seated against the memorial. This wall was meant to be protected from the sun and rain, but since the pergola is made of wood, when the sun shines to it, it gives an interesting patterns on the floor with devine lightening which, once again, makes this area be enjoyable when it is sunny, and at the same time, protected from the less good weather of Scandinavia. Also this pergola is only supported by poles, which enhance the oppenes to the garden and allows a greater contact. The memorial plates from the missing persons of the resistance who were never found, are laid out like notes on the wall for missing people. This memorial is not formed as a burial site like the other two, because the fate of the missing persons is unresolved and the wall creates a feeling of “never-ending� because their story has not yet been told.

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The fifth and last element of this site is the Execution area where the executed men and women were buried by the Germans. In this area we can find three bronze poles where people were tied and shooted. This is the reason why this area is called Execution area and also the reason why it takes place in a very forested area, surrounded by a lot of vegetation, which makes us read this as a way to hide the type of activity that was held here. However, it is included as a preserved area in connection to Mindelunden and was included as a part of the memorial later on. The feelings that invade the hearts of the visitors are very strong in this area, especially because it recalls the act of kill and being killed. Bellow are the pictures of the 5 main elements in Mindelunden.

Entrance KZ-GRAVES




Heritage, referred by one as a concept that “ longer refers excusivelly to buildings and museum pieces, but entire landscape and sections of the urban environment, and in particular to the partly immaterial world of memories, stories, experiences and traditions”. (Kolen 2006, p.51) It refers to a design with history, which is recently seen as a positive and conscious form of expression in Landscape Architecture. This means that the heritage is a concept that, nowadays, is also applied to social history, and it has moved from being a fairly closed concept to an open domain, as Kolen wrote: “Heritage and history have now, more than ever, become social phenomena, and explains why the history of places, landscape and cities is increasingly being embebed in memories and personal experiences”. (Kolen 2006, p.51) When deeply analysing Mindelunden, we can consider it as an Heritage. But an heritage in several aspects: not only historically and emotionally (through the genius loci) but also to provide the emotional contact, which I will explain forward.

He is thus suggesting that he believes genius loci should highlight a sense of place. According to Christian Norberg-Schulz each place has its independent spirit and this spirit gives a unique character to the place and all its visitors. This character was created by the history of the site, which brings a certain sense of place and different emotions. This happens because when we analyse each of the 5 elements in more depth, we begin to develop a deeper understanding of the site and the significance of each individual area, related to what happen at that time and why the reason of the existance of this memorial. This is a way of understanding the “heritage” as historical and emotional recall that enables people to interpret the spirit of the place through genius loci and realize how to use this area and how to feel in this memorial, regarding the events that took place in here. This idea is supported by Kolen when he writes: “Heritage enables groups and indivudials to enter into close relationships with geographically distant or historically profound histories, a past in which they have never participated themselves”. (Kolen 2006, p. 51)

GENIUS LOCI When talking about historical and emotional heritage, we can relate it to the Genius loci. But what is this about Genius loci? It is a concept that recalls the spirit of the place. Many writers had descant about this subject, one being Norberg-Schulz, which says: “When man dwells, he is simultaneously located in space and exposed to a certain environmental character. The two psychological functions evolved, may be called “orientation” and “identification”” (Norberg-Schulz, 1979, p.19). page 09

The “Heritage” in Mindelunden Source: google images of Mindelunden


When talking about the contact between people we can regard Jan Gehl statements about outdoor activities and life between buildings: “A knowledge of senses is a necessary prerequesite also in relation to understanding all other forms of direct communication and the human perception of spatial conditions and dimensions” (Gehl 1971, p. 65) This statemenet suggests that people have to understand the sense of the place to get in relation and contact. Jan Gehl is focused on the contact between people and reports how this contact is provided through the conditions offered in public space.

This memorial is thus prepared to provide strong feelings regarding the events of the history and put together all the necessary conditions to allow us, nowadays, to pay tribute to the soldiers of the Danish resistance and make it a very special place where we can actually develop an emmotional connection. Also because of its design and elements, people are able to use it properly and consider it as an respectful set.

However, in Mindelunden we have a different type of connection between “people”. In this memorial, instead of a social contact, we have an emotional contact that allows the visitors to get in relation with those who rest below the ground and that should be remembered for their acts of courage and loyalty to homeland - Denmark. The day when we best have this connection to the graves is on Denmark’s liberation day that is celebrated every year on the 4th of May. The comrades Help Fund put flowers on all the graves and the Memorial Wall by children from Bispebjerg school. There are wreaths and flowers placed at the various monuments of associations linked to resistance and a big ceremony takes splace at the Great Tomb Field with band, choir, sing and talk from invited guests. On 5 May in the morning resigns representatives from the three services wreaths on the graves, and the execution poles and Memorial Wall. Also the Christmas Eve in this Memorial is marked each year with a ceremony.

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The tribute in Mindelunden Source: google images of Mindelunden


DISCUSSION AND CONCLUSION When experiencing Mindelunden is possible to perceive how the materials support the experience of each area inside this memorial. The fact that we find a mix of hard/soft, vertical/horizontal and light/dark materials all over the site is extremelly relevant and responsible for creating contrasts that will create different feelings and emotions to the visitors. Also the fact that there is a mix between straight shapes and organic shapes, gives Mindelunden a special identity. While experiencing Mindelunden is also possible to identify a climate protection all over the site. Because this memorial presents features that combat against the wind and rain, and because at the same time it provides pleasant open areas to enjoy the sun, I can say that Mindelunden is prepared to protect visitors from the bad weather and, at the same time, allow the people to enjoy the best of the good weather, while inside this memorial. Gehl mentioned: “In scandinavia the main problem has always been the wind” (Gehl 1971, p. 179), but because Mindeluden is outlined by a vegetation wall, this is not a problem that affects this site. Also this memorial includes all the features that are need to work against the bad weather, according to what Gehl wrote: “Efforts should be made on the small scale to help the situation by providing wind breaks, tree and hedges, and covered areas precisilly where they are needed” (Gehl 1971, p. 180). This fact makes Mindelunden to be a pleasant place in every aspects. When deeply analysing Mundelunden is also possible to understand that it has remained unchanged since it was built and so its character and design is original, which means that its preservation is vital. Thus, I can conclude that the design of this memorial was made for a successful intentional purpose and so Mindelunden is prepaired to make people use it properly - the structure helps the function. Because of this fact, the memorial never loses it sense and its genius loci remains strong. But when talking about the future, how can we see the future of this site? Mindelunden has a really strong purpose in both historical and emmotional aspects. Regardless of one’s stance on making this area into a park, the discussion is still a vital one to entertain because as time goes on, the intimacy between the visitors and those remembered in the memorial becomes more distant. This distance could potentially discourage people from still visiting the memorial. However, if one were to convert this area into a park, the memorial will still be present, and the space would always be used, and the history would be preserved. A good example of this can be found in Assistentens Kirkegård in Nørrebro, where a cemetery was made into a public park, making the area have a role in the everyday life of Copenhageners. This should be an open discussion that should be considered over time to find a fair future for this memorial where we use architecture to memorize people. We did not find this people, but they are still here “looking for us” and being memorable, so they deserve a respectful treatment and future.

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REFERENCES TEXTS Certeau, M., (1984) “The practice of everyday life” Universiy of California Press, pp. 91-223. Gehl, J., (1971) “Life between buildings” The Danish Architectural Press, pp. 11-184. Kolen, J., (2006) “Rejuvenation of the heritage” ‘scape, The Internation magazine for landscape architecture and urbanism 2006/2, pp. 50-53. Lund, A., (2000) “Guide til dansk havekunst - år 1000-2000“ Arkitektens Forlag. Norberg-Schulz, C., (1979) “Genius Loci: Towards a Phenomenology of Architecture.” New York: Rizzoli, 1979, pp. 5-23. Rasmussen, S., E., (1959) “Experiencing Architecture”. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 1959, pp. 9-55. 5. György Kepes, The New Landscape in Art and Science. Chicago: Paul Theobald, 1956, pp. 100-109, 204-215. WEB LECTURES Søberg, M., (2013) “Theme and period“, lecture Rolighedsvej 23, feb. 5th 2013 in LNAK10054 Theory & Method in Landscape Architecture

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Understanding Mindelunden  

This publication is a study about a memorial in Copenhagen, Denmark. The main goal is to understand the site by making analysis and interpre...

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