Editor's Note

Stephanie Stroud 

As the winter landscape in Washington becomes stark and chilled, with prolonged dark nights, we retreat indoors to the comforts of warmth, good food and interior light. To combat winter blues, especially under thick cloud cover in western Washington, I find one successful technique is adopting and embracing what the Danish refer to as hygge (pronounced hyoo-ga). Which, is a challenging word to say, and even more challenging to understand. What Ive learned from researching the idea and from studying in Denmark, it resembles the Englihs meaning for cozy, and abstractly its like the feeling you get from biking with a furry winter coat to a quaint tea shop where you sit in plush chairs with your friends and family, surrounded by candles and delicious treats. The Danish, who enjoy the most happiness of any other country, fully embrace this idea. They celebrate hygge year-round, but the prime hygge time is around the holidays. From my own independent research, employing the concept of hygge to your own environment increases winter happiness in Seattle by about 85%. As landscape architects, we can see how a Danish landscape embodies the idea of hygge: take Tivoli Gardens. This open space in Copenhagen is both an amusement park and lush garden, with twinkling lanterns high in the trees and warm glowing shops, offering music and theatre performances that you can view from lounge chairs from a green lawn. When I visited in Spring, the flowers created colorful swaths of fragrance, and purple lollipop-shaped alliums waved merrily down the curved walkways. It's friendly and cozy, offering a place of joy and happiness even in the often bleak Scandinavian winter. Using the idea of hygge, we can draw inspiration from the Danes, especially around the holidays, and adopt their approach to create places that evoke a feeling of warmth and light. Landscape architects can offer soothing comfort to those who use our spaces, even when winter months each feel a year long.

Do you have a particular landscape that you find embodies the idea of “hygge?” If so, please send it my way, and we’ll get through this dark winter together. 

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