Christiania

Project – Copenhagen, Denmark

1971 – 1978

www.christiania.org

Christiania is an autonomous settlement on the site of a former military barracks in Copenhagen. After the military left the site it was fenced off but in 1971 a group of people took over parts of the site to make a children's playground. Soon after Christiania was proclaimed a Freetown with one of the original goals being to 'build up a society from scratch'. It is one of the largest 'slum communes' and was set up in direct response to the lack of affordable housing and social facilities, and as an antidote to stressful city life. The legal status of Christiania has been the source of much conflict with the Danish government and the fate of the settlement was a party political issue throughout the 1970s. However, Christiania was granted semi-legal status in 1972, following an agreement to pay a collective tax in return for water and electricity. Since then, the government's attempts to 'normalise' the settlement seem to be driven by a desire for private development, something completely at odds with the community's founding principles of collective rights to land.

Although Christiania is still considered a 'Free State', the first decade of its existence was the most radical, both politically and socially. An interesting experiment in self-governance, the community devised its own rules and regulations with decisions being made collectively on the basis of unanimity; forums for the whole community discussed larger issues, whilst neighbourhood meetings were for day-to-day concerns. Social structures were also put in place at this time, such as the setting up of childcare centres and a free planning and advice service, as well as two free newspapers and Radio Christiania which served to supplement the informal communication and support systems of the community. During this time Christiania was also well known for its gay activism, parties and theatre, using performances, actions and the carnivalesque as modes of social experimentation and interaction. The context of the commune thus became a breeding ground for new social and political movements as well as functioning as a support system for those struggling in regular society such as the homeless, the unemployed and drug addicts, whom Christiania welcomed and supported.

References About

Christa S. Amouroux, "Conflict In Copenhagen: Urban Reconfigurations, Disciplining the Unruly," in The Rights to the City and the Politics of Space (presented at the Breslauer Graduate Student Conference, University of California, Berkeley, 2006), http://www.escholarship. org/uc/item/9cb3f8t8.

Adam Conroy, Christiania: The Evolution of a Commune (London: A. Conroy, 1994).

Mark Edwards, Christiania: A Personal View of Europe's Freetown (Copenhagen: Information Forlag, 1979).

Martin Parker, Valérie Fournier, and Patrick Reedy, The Dictionary of Alternatives. Utopianism and Organization. (London & New York: Zed Books, 2007).

Wikipedia, "Freetown Christiania," 2009, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Freetown_Christiania.

Quotes

'The aim of Christiania is to build a self-ruling society, where each individual can help him- or herself freely while remaining responsible to the community as a whole. The society is to be economically self-sufficient, and the common goal must always be to try to show that mental and physical pollution can be prevented.'
- Christiania's mission statement, 1971; http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Freetown_Christiania

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