Dokk1: Public Library As A Right And An Export

The multifunctional complex Dokk1 is one of my favorite, if not the most favorite, piece of architecture that I’ve ever been to. Located in Aarhus – the second city of Denmark, Dokk1 charms the city’s up-and-coming harbor and provides everyone a dynamic space to work, to hangout, to engage with municipal services, or simply to stay. The place is also very children-friendly and accessible by different means of transportation. Moreover, the cafeteria makes quality environmentally and socially conscious products, which is always a plus. (But where to find bad bakery stuff in Denmark anyway? – actually a few).

A glimpse to the interior of Dokk1. A very flexible space, indeed.

I doubt there is any other municipal complex elsewhere in Denmark that can rival Dokk1. Not even in Copenhagen, although I was a loyal patron of the Københavns Hovedbiblioteket, which also has a very good café called Democratic Coffee, which has probably the best almond croissant in the world.

Anyway, back to the (more) serious stuff. So it is very common to find a public library in Denmark. It’s just that when it comes to big cities, public library can also become a city icon as well. While that definitely is an interesting topic, what intrigues me is the investment in architecture to create an environment that would foster a knowledge-based society.

A public space for knowledge engagement.

An institutional desire for an aesthetically pleasing and thoughtfully facilitating built environment.

Honestly, Denmark should not think twice and start exporting these two elements abroad, especially to my hometown. Here in Ho Chi Minh City, there is not much of a public realm, let alone different kinds of public space. I can’t think of a place where I could come in and out during normal office hours to work on my laptop – including public library and higher education institutions, where they fence their areas away from the public.

It’s not merely a matter of me complaining a first-world problem: not having a space like Dokk1 or Hovedbiblioteket is an issue of inaccessibility. Because a place is a container of activities and people are in places to both engage in and produce activities. Hence, having a choice to be in places means having the right to belong, especially when it comes to public places.

And I cannot wait to have a place in the city center where I could come to work on my writing, without having to really pay the place. Because, getting coffee and tea, they can always be a necessary option.

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