In recent years, art and culture have been used as a lever in urban development, for example, in the transformation of former industrial areas or the development of new districts. Exhibitions, open studios, and cultural events have brought life and edge to areas such as the Godbanekvarteret in Aarhus and Refshaleøen in Copenhagen. Here and in many other places, artistic communities have helped to fulfill political visions of creating diverse, vibrant, and mixed cities – but primarily in the early stages of development.
Permanent artistic communities with artists’ residences and associated work facilities, however, are a rare sight in the city today. The latest in Copenhagen were built in 1953, and it is difficult to gain access to the few existing artists’ residences, as it is to find good studio conditions. At the same time, the number of affordable housing units in Denmark’s large cities has significantly decreased. Therefore, there is a risk that the creative artistic communities will disappear from the cities – along with the life and identity they provide to an area.
On this background, the Academic Architect Association, the Association of Artist Residences of 1873, UKK Organisation for Artists, Curators and Art Mediators, the Union of Visual Artists, and the Bikuben Foundation have conducted a preliminary study “Artistic Environments – the development of the Diverse city,” carried out by BARK Consulting and supported by the Bikuben Foundation and Dreyers Fund.
Download the study (In Danish) here
“Urban developers and builders are very aware that art and culture contribute to urban development, and they are good at inviting the artists in the early phases. But as soon as the plots are sold and built upon with expensive square meters, the artists are out again. Therefore, there is a need to focus on the need for – and the value of permanent artistic environments, and how they could take shape today. That’s the work we’ve started,” says Lars Autrup, director of the Architect Association and head of the working group behind the study.
Specific wishes and models for future artist environments
The new preliminary study reveals the different needs of artists, their often limited economic leeway, and the value that artistic communities can contribute to a local area. Insights are combined with inspiration and knowledge from existing artistic communities in Denmark and abroad. And based on this, a series of scenarios are presented that can inspire development, organization, and financing of new artistic environments.
For example, the study proposes three models for residences with access to a studio and possible forms of ownership. It also looks at the possibility of establishing artistic communities in some of the urban development areas in the Copenhagen area that are already under development.
The need is great
The need for new initiatives is underlined by the fact that the average income among visual artists is DKK 242,000 a year before tax. 15 percent have an annual income of less than DKK 100,000 before tax, which is below the Danish poverty line. Moreover, the preliminary study shows that 29 percent of artists currently spend over 60 percent of their disposable income on housing and studio expenses.
Varying needs over a lifetime
The preliminary study also shows that artists’ needs change over a lifetime in terms of both the size of the residence and the work-related facilities. Therefore, there is a need for both small and larger residences, which are either linked to private studios or to common work areas and functions.
“The need for more housing and studios in the big cities that match visual artists’ needs and economy is great, and the trend must be reversed, because visual artists are very much a part of creating value and community in the local area. This study provides concrete knowledge and suggestions for possible solutions that could open up for new housing and workspaces and be an inspiration in the continued development in all the country’s large cities,” says chairperson Marie Thams and board member and participant in the working group Hannibal Andersen from the Union of Visual Artists, BKF.
“This study highlights positive impacts artists create across society in spite of ongoing economic and urban housing challenges. Research supports prioritizing artists’ spatial needs through long-term investment in new affordable housing solutions in Danish cities. The study proposes unique architectural scenarios, and with transparent and inclusive (re)development processes, (spatial) conditions for artists can be improved.”
Scott William Raby (chair) and Lawrence Ebelle (board member), UKK
Basis for dialogue and further development
With the preliminary study in hand, the partners behind it hope to initiate a conversation about the value of artist communities for the city – and not least to start a dialogue with politicians, real estate developers, and investors, among others, who are already working to create mixed cities and use art as a strategic tool in the development of new areas.
For further information, contact:
Sussi Heimburger, tel.: 24 46 81 61, email@example.com
Communications and Press Manager, The Danish Association of Architects
Jeppe Bo Rasmussen, tel.: 24 40 18 97, firstname.lastname@example.org
Head of Public Affairs and Communications in the field of art, The Bikuben Foundation
Overview – contents of the preliminary study
The preliminary study “Artistic Environments – Development of the Mixed City” is based on existing knowledge and new studies, including an online survey with 276 responses and 11 interviews with artists of different ages and artistic practices.
The preliminary study uncovers the following:
The artists’ economic leeway
Key figures from the study show that the average income among visual artists is 242,000 DKK per year before tax. 50 percent have an income of under 200,000 DKK per year before tax. 15 percent have an annual income of under 100,000 DKK before tax, which is below the Danish poverty line. 29 percent of artists spend over 60 percent of their disposable income on housing and studio expenses. (Page 6)
The varying needs of artists
Artists seek studio space of at least 10 m² and preferably over 20 m². New working methods and more interdisciplinary artistic practices mean that needs vary over time. There may be a need for a few square meters at the start of a project and access to larger spaces and facilities later in the process. Therefore, some see an advantage in studio collectives. (Page 8)
Screening of Danish and international artist environments
The preliminary study includes a screening of three existing artist environments in Copenhagen and its surroundings: The Association of Artists’ Housing in Copenhagen of 1873, an apartment building in Borgergade in Copenhagen; The Atelier Houses, Copenhagen 1843, which are 21 non-profit row houses in Grønnemose; and The Artist Town in Birkerød, a non-profit housing association with studio houses and writers’ houses. In addition, two international cases are examined: A draft project in Oslo that has sparked a political debate on how to maintain artists’ housing in the city, and an artists’ house in London with 12 apartments and communal facilities. (Pages 10-11)
Four development principles for artist environments
The preliminary study presents four development principles described in concepts and with examples: 1) Create affordable housing and studios, 2) Vary housing types for different life stages and needs, 3) Open up the ground floor and strengthen creative expression, 4) Utilize art and competencies to lower rent. (Page 13)
Three models for artist environments
Based on the other materials, three models for artist environments have been developed with respectively 12, 22, and 44 apartments of varying sizes, offering different types of housing and studio collectives. (Page 19)
Organization and financing
The artist environments are proposed within the framework of a non-profit housing association (by a non-profit developer), foundation-owned property (by a private developer – a new foundation), and private rental property (by a private developer), along with the opportunities and challenges associated with the respective scenarios. (Pages 22 – 31)
Screening of existing urban development areas
Finally, the potential for artist environments in four ongoing development areas in the Copenhagen area at different stages has been examined: Jernbanebyen, Frederiksberg Hospital, Vridsløse, and Nyholm. All of them work strategically with art to create a mixed city. (Page 33 and following)
The preliminary study was prepared for and in close cooperation with The Danish Association of Architects, The Bikuben Foundation, The Association of Artists’ Housing of 1873, UKK Organization for Artists, Curators and Art Mediators, and The Danish Association of Visual Artists (BKF) and has been continuously qualified by the working group. The preliminary study is supported by The Bikuben Foundation and Dreyers Fond and was carried out by BARK Rådgivning from December 2022 – June 2023. Launched in November 2023.
Lars Autrup, director, The Danish Association of Architects
Mette Marcus, entrepreneur and board member
Dina Vester Feilberg, director of arts, The Bikuben Foundation
Klaus Ib Jørgensen, senior development partner, The Bikuben Foundation
Jeppe Bo Rasmussen, head of public affairs and communications – arts, The Bikuben Foundation
Jeanne Cleemann Betak, chairwoman, The Association of Artists’ Housing of 1873
Michala Paludan, former chairperson, UKK Organization for Artists, Curators and Art Mediators
Hannibal Andersen, former vice-chairperson, The Danish Association of Visual Artists (BKF)
Lars Pehrsson, advisor to the executive board, Merkur Cooperative Bank
Leif Djurhuus, lawyer and partner, Klar Lawyers."