The reason why the Danes are the happiest in Europe
In their homes it always looks like Christmas and the secret of Danes’ happiness lies in the way of living urban and domestic spaces: light, sharing and harmony are the three pillars of architecture made in Denmark
If the Danes have been crowned as the happiest people in Europe there is a reason and to find it just look in their homes. In the homes of our northern cousins there always seems to be Christmas air and, it is not a secret, at Christmas we are all happier.
The key word of the philosophy of living to which they gave life is light, a fundamental element to be able to recreate the atmosphere of the most beloved party of the year. This comes above all from a climate need. In Denmark, in fact, the long winters and the scarce or almost total absence of sunlight for many months have meant that we had to resort to solutions that would allow us to make the most of it or rely on alternative light sources.
However, if, on the one hand, the lack of natural light – as science has shown – can cause the alteration of mood, up to seasonal depression ( Seasonal Affective Disorder ), on the other, prolonged exposure in artificial light, precisely because it is “fake”, it can stress the body.
Here then is that it is no longer just a question of climate, but also of personal well-being and respect for the environment because, as the architect Richard Rogers maintains, “one cannot think of architecture without thinking about the people” and the Danes in this field they have proven to be number one.
The “made in Denmark” solutions are varied. The use of candles, above all, even better if made of soy. They create a warm, intimate and welcoming atmosphere and for this reason they are lit even in offices and schools. They are a piece of furniture that warms the home and the heart (and it is no coincidence that the Danes are among the largest consumers of candles in the world).
Alternatively, lamps can be used to hide the light source, such as the PH 5 by the designer Poul Henningsen: they are suspension lamps designed at the end of the 1950s, allowing only a soft light to be filtered laterally and downwards, 100% free of glare, thus casting a pleasant shadow on the objects.
Another answer to this kind of need came from architecture. The Danes have in fact tried to increase the glass surfaces in buildings, both for reasons of lighting and microclimate. Just think of the so-called Black Diamond of Copenhagen, home of the royal library, and of the University of Kolding, the greenest in the country. Or the cottages immersed in the sand dunes in the northern area of Rabjerg Mile, which with their crystalline transparencies seem to merge with the seamless landscape.
This is a kind of architecture called biophile that produces a minimal impact on the surrounding environment, even on a visual level, triggering a virtuous exchange between man and nature with positive outcomes on our mind. The most incredible example is the Wave of Vejle, whose shape is inspired by the surrounding hilly landscape or even the ripples of the sea. It is a true tribute to Mother Nature and the style is all Danish: soft colors and large windows overlooking a fjord.
If the Danes are happy it is also thanks to sharing, space and food. Just like Christmas. The Danish lesson teaches that just a few ingredients are needed to create a relaxed atmosphere and reconcile with the world after a tiring day. Simply enter a coffee shop, order a slice of walnut cake, sip a steaming coffee and have a chat with friends or strangers.
For this reason sociable tables are very common in Denmark, both in restaurants and in cafes, ie those long tables of 4, 6 or 12 people that encourage socialization with others. The important thing is to avoid topics that could generate tension, such as politics.
As for private homes, if the need for sharing calls, architecture responds. Is it perhaps a coincidence then if they, the inventors of the most famous toy bricks in the world, are also the creators of cohousing?
In the 1960s, the Danish architect Jan Gødmand-Høyer invented this housing model based on the idea that one could choose to cohabit in the same structure with a group of friends, in which each tenant has private spaces while others are placed in common to avoid wasting resources. His experiment in the town of Vaerlose may seem like a utopia, but it is more real than ever. Furthermore, the green logic underlying this type of urban organization fights stress – no more condominium disputes – and the feeling of widespread alienation in big cities.
Danish architecture is also essentially harmony: in colors, in shapes but above all in respect for the environment. Therefore, if you want to take the Nordic path of happiness, it is good to hang up the car keys and get on your bike.
Denmark is crossed by hundreds of kilometers of cycle paths that connect towns and villages with coastal areas, castles, forests and have been designed to reduce CO2 emissions with physical and psychological benefits that have a huge impact on quality of the life of its inhabitants. And we’re not just talking about small urban realities, because even in the heart of the capital you can find demonstrations of respectful and conscious landscape architecture.
An example is the Superkilen Park, designed by the artistic group Superflex, which has given back to the citizens a large cycling area favoring nature. Not to mention the island of Samso, the first in the world completely echoed, also from the energy point of view.
In short, Denmark teaches us that with small functional and sustainable choices, which from the microcosm of our home, expand to the next level of the urban community, up to an entire nation, it is possible to build one’s own happiness. A happiness that is luminous and in harmony with the world, as in the true spirit of Christmas.