Completed in 1893, according to a plaque on a parapet, Skydebanegade is an ambitious and theatrical housing scheme with a complicated plan for apartments in buildings on both sides of a cross street that runs between Sønder Boulevard and Istedgade in Vesterbro. The development was presumably speculative, by a builder called Victor Jensen with the design from an architect called Oscar Kramp.
The street is only about 180 metres long but by pushing back deep narrow open courtyards running back from the street into the facade, with three set backs on each side, the entrance frontages are increased significantly in length- from 180 to 375 metres on the west side. This is not a unique arrangement in the city - deep open courtyards are used as a form of planning in several buildings in Jægersborggade - but nowhere else is it used in such a coherent and dramatic way.
If that was not complicated enough, the plot is not actually rectangular because the main streets in this area fan out at different angles, from the centre of the city and the street is aligned on the gate into the Shooting Gallery Park, rather than being set down the centre of the plot, so to maintain the appearance of symmetry from the street on the city, or east side, at the Sønder Boulevard end, there is a curious return frontage to a wider set back, that creates an oddly-shaped courtyard enclosed with fronts on three and a half sides. This is what might be described as a very clever bit of design fudging - not an official architectural term but a fairly common practice because in buildings on this scale, the human eye can rarely take in what is at an angle or what is exactly the same width on opposite sides of a street. What it does show is a clever design mind in the 1890s where apparent symmetry and apparent grandeur were overriding considerations for the final scheme.
At both ends of the street, the facades return and run for a short distance along the main roads, along both Sønder Boulevard and along Istedgade, in both directions. Again each of these ranges is different in length - reflecting the skewed trapezoid shape of the plot. Fronts onto the main roads have the same architectural treatment as the facades facing the cross street.
The insets on the east side of the street are 23 metres deep while those on the west side are all different - the inset closest to Istedgade is about 27 metres deep, the central recess 33 metres deep and the south inset before Sønder Boulevard 36 metres - reflecting the different depths of the plot on each side of the street. As a consequence, the courtyards behind the apartments on each side of the street are very different. Those courtyards are entered through archways at the centre of each main element along the street frontage.
Strong polychrome is used effectively in the grand design of the street facades with a dark grey ashlar for a ‘base’ on the ground floor; bricks laid to imitate ashlar on the first floor; a giant order of fluted pilasters through the second and third floors and the order continues, above an intermediate cornice, through the fourth floor. There are decorative terracotta panels, between the windows of the third and fourth floors, and throughout good decorative plasterwork.
External angles of the open courtyards and the ends of the ranges where they return along the main roads are angled, rather than square and at the centre of the street are treated like pavilions with faceted spires at the four corners to form a centre to the composition, creating what are read as pavilions externally but internally, in the arrangement and plans of the apartments, are no different.
This is theatre-set architecture at its very best.
Such grand architecture implies grand apartments although, in fact, the apartments here are relatively small. There are doorways from the street and in the recessed courts, 48 separate entrances in all, including entrance doors on Istedgade and Sønder Boulevard, and each gives access to a lobby and staircase with apartments on each side and all the apartments have back service stairs down to the courtyard from the narrow back rooms, originally the kitchens. Apartments facing into the recessed bay elements are small with a single room to the front and two narrow rooms towards the courtyard, presumably a bedroom and a kitchen and there are larger apartments in the ranges directly along the street and in the angles. When first constructed the apartments would have had toilets and washhouses in the courtyards.
In line with Skydebanegade, on the far side of Istedgade, is a short street that ends in the high, brick, screen wall of the Shooting Gallery - the Skydebanen that gives the apartments their name and on whose land the apartments were built.
The buildings were restored and upgraded in the early 1990s with new heating and some apartments were amalgamated to form larger units. The large courtyards behind were cleared of buildings and new gardens planted. What should also be noted is the high quality of the hard landscaping of the street and the good lighting installed. This has ensured that a major architectural feature of the area has been retained in the housing stock in the most positive way. Small shop units along the street, including a launderette and very pleasant cafe, all contribute to give the street a very strong sense of community.