a sense of place - the new garden at NOMA

The substantial brick warehouse at Nordatlantens Brygge, on the south side of the Inner Harbour in Copenhagen, dates from 1766. The gable end of the building is towards the harbour but there was wharf and water on both long sides, running back from the main harbour, although the dock on the east side, the side towards the new Opera House, was filled in some time after 1910 … it is shown on a map of that year. Ships tied up alongside these wharves to unload cargoes of fish and salt herring from the North Atlantic and furs from Iceland and Greenland that were stored in the warehouse before being sold and shipped on and the area behind the warehouse is still called Grønlandske Handels Plads.

The fish and the furs have long gone but the area around the warehouse retains the starkness of a working dock with large areas of concrete. That might sound like a criticism but it’s not - in a way, there is more of a problem if these areas of wharves and warehouses become sanitised and loose all vestiges of their original purpose: Copenhagen grew and thrived on the hustle and bustle and dirt of the docks that brought trade and wealth to the city.


Now called Nord Atlantic House, the warehouse is used primarily as a conference centre and cultural centre for exhibitions and events to promote awareness of Iceland, Greenland and the Faroe Islands.

However, also in the warehouse, at the harbour end, is the renowned restaurant NOMA. 

The warehouse is immediately opposite the harbour end of Nyhavn, at times the most densely packed tourist destination in the city, but the two are actually a fairly long walk apart with only a narrow bridge on Strandgade connecting this part of the harbour to the rest of Christianshavn. Even the harbour ferry does not stop at the NOMA wharf so to walk from Skuespilhuset, the national theatre almost opposite Noma and at the harbour end of Nyhaven, is actually two kilometres.

Despite this relative isolation the restaurant has apparently had a problem with curious visitors peering in through the windows so, to give diners at least a little privacy and also to enhance their view out from the dining room, NOMA commissioned work on areas of planting immediately around the building. The scheme was designed by the Copenhagen Architects Polyform.

The garden was completed in the Autumn of 2013 and has a number of irregular polygonal areas immediately around the end of the warehouse that are divided by narrow pathways and are banked up slightly with low, dense planting and rocks, including larva from Iceland, to invoke the natural landscape of the Nordic coastal regions. Each of the areas of the garden reflects the landscape and planting of different Nordic countries. To fulfil a long-held ambition of the owners of the restaurant, there are also several bee hives. 



NOMA has earned their phenomenal reputation through using fresh, local and Scandinavian, ingredients and building on and developing regional dishes, so they have a very strong sense of place - in winemaking called terroir - and that is reflected directly in the landscape architecture they have commissioned immediately outside the restaurant.

A statement on their web site explains that “in an effort to shape our way of cooking, we look to our landscape and delve into our ingredients and culture hoping to rediscover our history and shape our future.”


Note: Unfortunately the subtle and interesting planting may soon not be enough of a barrier as a new foot and cycle bridge over the harbour is due to be completed this year and it will provide an easy route from Nyhavn to the end of Strandgade and from there by other new bridges to the Opera House. The press of tourists walking around the wharf alongside NOMA will increase from the number that get this far now.