Copenhagen blue II

Torvegade and Christians Kirke from Overgaden Over Vandet

 

Having said that for me blue is the colour in the urban landscape of Copenhagen that seems to be strong and reflect how I see the city, there are very few buildings that are actually painted blue. 

There are several reasons for this and not least it’s that early blue pigments derived from lapis lazuli for ultramarine were incredibly expensive and the cheaper Prussian blues that were available from the early 18th century onwards were fugitive so they not only faded but could decompose in the air. Although Cobalt blue, an industrially produced blue pigment, was stable and lime proof, even that paint was considered to be too expensive for use across a facade.

Also, I have read somewhere that Danish architects and painters considered blue to be a very strong and dominant colour … ‘stronger’ than red … so to be used carefully.

Some historic buildings in the city are now painted blue in shades that vary from cornflower blue to blues that are much closer to purple and they certainly lift and brighten a line of buildings but there really should be a rule that one blue house in a street is fantastic but two is too much so once one owner has gone for blue that should be it.

 

Det Blå Hjørne / The Blue Corner

The infill building in Christianshavn by the architectural studio Vandkunsten known as Det Blå Hjørne or The Blue Corner (bottom right) dates from 1989.

This is - as the name implies - a corner plot which can be difficult for both the plan of a building and for the design of the facades but here the corner is not even a right angle as Dronningsgade and the side road of Store Søndervoldstræde meet at an angle of about 120 degrees.

In addition, making the commission for a new apartment building here more difficult, this is a part of Christianshavn where relatively modest historic houses have survived so it gives an important impression of what domestic areas of the inner city must have been like in the 17th and 18th centuries before ordinary houses were replaced with grander or more commercial buildings. The building is at the quiet end of a beautiful and complex courtyard that retains more old courtyard buildings than in many blocks. 

But Vandkunsten were bold, dividing the new apartments between two buildings to leave a narrow view into the courtyard at the corner and played with all the rules so the roofs are mono-pitch - the older buildings have pitched roofs with a ridge - and the choice for wall finish is metal sheet so it almost feels like a final parry with convention, that the cladding is deep blue. The total effect works well as it gives the building a semi-industrial feel and if there is any single aspect of the historic centre of the city that has been lost or changed with too little appreciation of the consequences it is that Copenhagen has lost far too many of the workshops and early industrial buildings that once filled many of the back streets and courtyards.

 

is it all in the concept …..

 

 

For any design - a design for a building, a chair or a teapot - the starting point has to be the idea, the concept. It is that first attempt to imagine the what and then think about the how. 

If you are cynical or pedantic or just being realistic - in this tough world - you could argue that a commercial design actually starts with the commission and the contract but for me what is fascinating about looking at a great design is to try and understand that initial concept and to see how it was realised.

My apartment is about 200 metres from Cirkelbroen - The Circle Bridge - that was designed by Olafur Eliasson and completed in 2015. So whenever I walk into the city I either see the bridge at the end of the canal or I actually cross over the bridge to get to Islands Brygge or get to the west part of the city centre. 

When it first opened I thought it was stunning … and to be honest also rather useful as it made it possible for the first time to walk from Christianshavn on south along the harbour … but mainly I thought that it was stunning. 

Unique as well. Elegant and curiously delicate, almost ephemeral, when seen in sunlight but particularly if it is misty or the light is failing at the end of the day - but at night stronger and much more dramatic.

read more

all in the detail

 

 

There have been several posts on this site about the stone cobbles or setts used for roads and pavements in the city. This is obviously far from being a cheap option but it is hard wearing and it is practical … unless you are wearing stiletto heels or you are trying to control a suitcase on wheels … and almost impossible if you are doing both. 

The first photograph is of the old meat market just to the west of the central station. There are no longer carts with metal hoops on their wheels clattering and bumping over these lanes and they no longer get covered with blood and gore - or at least not often - but the cobbles form a fantastic foil for the buildings.

Cobbles in the city range in colour through greys and dull purples and form an appropriate base for the buildings and create a texture that concrete paving or tarmac really cannot match.

The cobbles are laid with blocks of stone and together they form pathways that are used to direct the walker and cobbles can also be used on more prominent features to form embankments or gullies for drainage - as in front of the warehouses on Holmen. Cobbles are laid with considerable skill - part of the cost - for changes of level or to direct away water as in the example shown here which is at Højbro - the bridge over the canal from Christiansborg - where the curve of stone steps and the slope of the cobbles are necessary where the levels change dropping down from the bridge and round to the lower level of the quay at Ved Stranden.

At the top, two photographs show the corner of a street in Christianshavn … not an old surface - because until the 1990s this was the site of industrial buildings of a large engineering works - but cobbles have been used to respect the importance of this historic quarter of the city.

A trench was dug across part of the road fairly recently but with the cobbles back there is now no trace of the work so not just stylish but also practical … as long as you don’t insist on wearing those stiletto heels.

 

Art of Many and the Right to Space

 

 

This is the exhibition that was the Danish contribution to the Venice Biennale of Architecture last year. The main section is an extensive display of architectural models from major architects and design partnerships in the country and the aim is to illustrate the importance of high-quality architecture in Denmark and, in a broader sense, the contribution of architecture to the community as a whole.

There is an important audio visual show by Jan Gehl about the work of their planning office in Copenhagen.

at the Danish Architecture Centre in Copenhagen until 1 October 2017