Thick Photographic Descriptions

Another Way of Telling Danish Welfare Landscapes


  • Kristen Van Haeren



welfare landscape, thick description, photography, housing estates.


This paper explores how ‘nature’ – in the form of the landscapes of two housing estates in Copenhagen – was a central part of the vision of establishing a good life for every citizen: nature was being valued as an essential amenity and common ground for the creation of the new welfare vision for all.

Through an analysis of, and engagement with, historical documents – as well as situated photographic modes of inquiry – this investigation into welfare landscapes focuses on the less-acknowledged but vital forces that shape the green outdoor areas of the housing estates, framing details to emphasize the specificity of place and depicting a landscape for living where humans were central. This way of working can offer insights into multifarious spatial grounds, diverse interpretations of green spaces, and the construction of humane living environments designed for access to nature – but also provide civic opportunities and affordances for gathering, play, community, privacy, personal development and the like – all within these welfare landscapes.

Author Biography

Kristen Van Haeren

Kristen Van Haeren has recently completed her PhD at the University of Copenhagen within the Landscape Architecture and Planning department as part of the research project Reconfiguring Welfare Landscapes, which investigated the future of the green open spaces of the post-war Danish social housing estates, funded by the Danish Council for Independent Research. Kristen’s research aims to investigate ideas, atmospheres and perceptions of everyday green surroundings through modes of photographic and textual description as a means of discovering alternative ways of reading and imagining our everyday spatial surroundings. Kristen has taught in theory and design studios and contributed to international research publications in areas of architecture, landscape architecture, cultural studies, and visual media. Kristen is originally from Canada and is educated as an architect from Carleton University (BArch) in Canada and Delft University of Technology in the Netherlands (MSc) and has practiced in offices in both Canada and Europe.


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How to Cite

Van Haeren, K. (2021). Thick Photographic Descriptions: Another Way of Telling Danish Welfare Landscapes. Writingplace, (5), 30–48.