Godsbanen and The Institute for X : The mini Christiania that works

If you have ever wondered down behind the Scandinavian Congress Center in Aarhus, you might have spotted something that looks like an abandoned train yard from afar. But do not be mistaken by the number of old containers and graffiti tags you can muster to perceive from a distance. It is far from abandoned.



In fact, its one of the more industrious places of the city! As you get closer, you quickly realize that those big spray-paint covered crates are actually houses planted in a miniature city that serves as a playground for the inhabitants wondrous ideas. Mechanics, blacksmiths, architects, music producers, nightclub owners, and many other people flourish in this utopia of urban culture. It’s like a beautiful painting without the fancy frame, a shanty town you actually want to live in.


So how did this come to be?


Godsbanen and The Institute for X is the result of a collaboration between the municipality and Mads Peter Laursen, roughly 7 years ago. They define themselves as a cultural powerhouse, which purpose is to bring better conditions for art and culture production, in the city of Aarhus. Mads insists that “Godsbanen is about producing culture, not just showing it off. It is important to understand that it is not a static exhibition, but a continuous work in progress.”


And he is right!


Outside one of the houses at Intitute for X


I have been living in Aarhus for about 4 years now, and the place has changed a lot since my first striking encounter. And why shouldn’t it? Like any other city, it evolves, except that here the inhabitants have almost free room to explore their ideas. And the result is charming as hell.




Picture this

As you walk through Godsbanen, you quickly realize that it is not only the inhabitants and contributors that roam the landscape. Many Aarhusians come there to relax, read a book, play various ball games, or simply chat over a sixpack of beers.




Yoga groups stretches out next to the role players, who fight each other with homemade viking weapons in broad daylight. In the background you can hear the faint failure shrieks of skaters practicing tricks relentlessly on homemade modules, to the music of wood saws, hammers, and shaking spray-cans.

Parents also bring their kinds to play on the homemade swings and playgrounds, or to see the rabbit lair which holds a dozen of those cute little rodents ready to be cuddled with. I was even told that 8 newborn kittens roam around free, entertaining the guests and locals.





The locals


Alltough walking around and taking pictures is fun, i didn’t stop there! I had to talk to some of the locals.

Well let’s start with Martin Ritter, owner of Box Creators. His house is almost impossible to miss, and caught my attention and right away!




Amazing, isn’t it?


insideBox creators is a company that makes containers into street kitchens, or whatever you wish to use it for. He probably got the experience from building his own house, but he didn’t build it alone.

I was lucky to get a view inside, after seeking Martin, who proudly showed me everything without hesitating. It was fun to see him tell the story of each add-on, like a poet who knows his poetry by heart.

He showed me the inside of one of his containers, which seemed to be rented out. When asked why he was renting the room out, he replied “because i needed an architect”. He didn’t have to explain that he was helping him build his dreams in exchange for a room, i understood right away. What a great artifact of danish culture in play here.

 A “favor for a favor” scenario, but on a much larger scale.




Next to his house stands a circle of containers, surrounding a small stage with chairs and benches. I have personally been to the parties there, and i can warmly recommend it. They built this setup to accommodate DJ’s and their fans alike, for evenings with live music, cheap beers, and barrel fires.

Just my kind of party




There is also blacksmiths who creates skate modules and help others weld their containers into picture worthy habitations. A large selection of workshops and different machines are available to all for a small renting fee. And to my experience, having the tools at your disposal, can only push you to be creative with them.


garden in godsbanen


But Godsbanen and the Institute for X is not only limited to containers. Many wooden structures sprouts up like nature was doing the work, and if you come here often, you realize no ones is sitting still.





There is also a nightclub made mostly of wood, called Double Rainbow. And no, it’s not a gay club, it’s a club for everyone. They focus on House and Deep House music, and is usually full of Danes and foreigners in equal amounts, all with sore legs the next day. There is even a metal fireplace inside for the cold danish winter nights.

I guaranty you will meet some interesting people there!

I was also lucky enough, to meet a young man renting a room in one of the buildings at The Insitute for X. He let me take a picture of his home studio, where he makes his music and other projects come to life.




A last but not least

All tough everything here could look like a museum exhibition if scaled down, many houses are also covered by spray-paint, for the pleasure of the eye. Legal walls are set up randomly around this graffiti heaven, and sculptures and other weird creations see the daylight here every day.


a chair?

more grafitti


For how long?


Godsbanen and the Institute for X is definitely a place to visit, if you are in Aarhus, and now that it’s also the Capital of European culture, i can only hope that more people will discover this cultural powerhouse just like i did 4 years ago.

But like everything beautiful, it has an end. My many conversations with the people here also left me confused and revolted. It seems the government has, ironically enough, plans to build a school for architecture there. To what extent it will interfere with this place i don’t know, but i hope they can both coexist, because it seems to me like there is ample space for both to flourish.

So hurry up and catch a plane ticket for Europe’s next Capital of Culture! It’s worth it.

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