Seventeen years ago, I stood in the same place on the Knippelsbro bridge in Copenhagen, taking a photo of the same scene below. But no scene is the same 17 years later. Neither is the person taking the photo.
So much of Copenhagen has changed since that photo was taken. The waterfront in the distance is almost unrecognizable. Grand changes have transformed large swaths of the city. The only change that interests me at the moment is one no bigger than my hand.
Seventeen years ago the words “we love” were attached to the edge of the half circle protruding from the Niels Juels Gade roadway barrier wall below. Small, proud bronze capital letters: WE LOVE. The letters are gone now. Just the faint trace of adhesive remains as a ghostly reminder of their presence.
The original photo sat at the periphery of my desk for so long its details were shortened to simply the “We Love” bridge in my memory. When I was invited by the Danish Centre for Architecture to return to Copenhagen and create a new version of my Reprogramming the City exhibition series, my first thought was satisfaction that the project was growing. My second thought was of revisiting the “We Love” bridge.
Now, standing on the Knippelsbro and viewing the half circle wall below where the letters once appeared, I am aware of more factors than the simplicity of the letters. The half circle area holds a small seating space. It offers an uninterrupted view of the Copenhagen waterfront – if you dare. Stone benches are there for visitors to collect themselves after they cross a lane of traffic, a bike lane, and jump the guardrail to visit the viewing area.
I remember the traffic below being much worse years ago, which became part of the charm of the We Love letters and their precise location. Each car coming up from beneath the Knippelsbro had no choice but to look straight at the letters as they navigated the sharp curve. Thousands of people each day, each catching a quick glimpse of two words in caps: WE LOVE. That is why I kept the photo nearby for so many years afterwards, and one reason why I have such a fondness for this city.
I give a nod of appreciation to the site below and continue on to the Danish Architecture Centre to get to work. I realize that their building was at the edge of the original photo – an old warehouse then. No location is the same 17 years later.
Stepping off the Knippelsbro, I’m pleased that the bridge is so celebrated. One of its iconic control towers is on the front of the Danish 200 Kroner note. I now have that on my desk, held in a slot on top of an award from the Hong Kong Contemporary Art Biennial. A dog-eared photo of the We Love bridge used to sit where the banknote and award now do. No person is the same 17 years later.