University Post
University of Copenhagen
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Snapshot from the teaching of urban history

City walk — Associate professor in history Jes Fabricius Møller is walking the city with his students. This is about the gentrification of the Islands Brygge district, where "the whole hipster crowd moved in."

Third semester history students receive instruction in urban history 6 hours a week by associate professor Jes Fabricius Møller. The course is called ‘the city’s buildings – the city’s space’, and the indoor classroom experience at South Campus is extended by weekly walks though Copenhagen, where teachers and students ‘read’ buildings, squares and parks from the period 1850-1950 as objects of study.

At the final examination on this course, students give in a piece of communication content, like an article or podcast. Jes Fabricius Møller says that the curriculum is not just a pile of already digested knowledge, but that the students themselves should ‘acquire’ the city.

The path from sense to cognition

Jes Fabricius Møller takes his students to the city archives to lay a foundation, and from then on it is the students’ own ideas and curiosity, and the academic historical skills that they already have that leads them to knowledge, he says.

“When the course is over, I am much, much smarter. I tell you that you can no longer just walk innocently through the city after this course.” Jes Fabricius Møller is planning himself to write a book about Copenhagen inspired by his walks with the students:

“I call it education-based research”

Class notes

“Although the cranes, the coal and the coke have moved out of town, the remains of industry have remained in the cityscape as pure aesthetics,” the instructor says, drawing a line to the brutalism of modern construction, “shoving the raw substance of the concrete into people’s heads.”

It is also about the materials’ substance when the instructor breaks out: “hey check out the quality of this masonry!” Jes Fabricius Møller sets off a ripple of laughter as he presents himself as a brick fetishist. “Notice how you can always see when a piece of the brickwork has been replaced,” he says.

The article continues underneath the picture


The windows’ location is also surprising: “The varying size of the windows lends a particular composition and rhythm to the mass of the building. Why do you always describe buildings with expressions from the world of music?” asks Jes.

The answer is left hanging in the air. The students and their instructor talk about how Copenhagen was very late in waking up to the fact that the harbour area can be used for something else. Jes Fabricius Møller remembers the 80s: “Copenhageners only came to the Amager district if they had to dump rubbish or fly from the airport.”

Today, industry has moved out of town, and the creative class has moved in. The new residents in the harbour warehouses are described by the history professor: “Now it’s all kayaking clubs, design agencies that spell their names with small lettering, and exclusive food importers that sell cheese of goat’s milk to buyers who want to know the goat’s first name.”