a new library for Nørrebro

 

At the beginning of August a new public library opened in the old tram sheds in Nørrebro.

The building is set back from Nørrebrogade with a large square at the front where trams originally turned into the sheds and the original high and narrow openings towards the road have been retained but with new doors that have stylised versions of giant book cases.

Inside, the single huge space of the shed has been retained with arched openings in the brickwork along the east side towards Bragesgade kept as a strong architectural feature and to flood the space with light. The industrial roof has been kept and is now painted black.

Fittings are in pale plywood and divide up the space and there are integral breaks in the shelving with desk spaces and benches that create quiet places to work but also form views through the space.

Across the west side of the library are smaller spaces on two levels with meeting rooms above for meetings and teaching that the community can use and, like all libraries in the city, there is a play area for children to encourage even the youngest to see the library as a fun place to visit.

Further back from the road is a second huge tram shed and that was converted some years ago to a sports hall - Nørrebrohallen - and there is now a large entrance area and large cafe between the two - between the library and the sports halls - as a place where people can meet.

Running back from the road and along the west side of the buildings is the famous city park - Superkilen - with its outdoor play and sports so this area is now a major hub for the community around. It is anticipated that visitor numbers to the library could soon exceed 1,000 a day.

select any image to open the set of photographs as a slide show

sport and space consultancy KEINGART have published a pdf file on line with plans of the library and cafe area

 

Fællesskaber Mellem Murene / Communities Between the Walls

 

 

This exhibition is on the three levels of the staircase gallery at the Danish Architecture Centre and is about art projects that have been used to bring about positive changes in vulnerable residential areas.

People living in these large housing schemes can feel marginalised or can be isolated by poverty and many, newly arrived in Denmark, are separated from the support of family or old friends. Becoming involved in art - or merely being given access to something new and something that is special to where they live - can improve day-to-day life or can stimulate a new interest; create a sense of involvement; bring a new sense of pride to an area and can create a sense of ownership and a sense belonging to a place.

Several of the projects give people an opportunity to tell their own story as an individual rather than being simply an anonymous part of a larger statistic about crime or poverty … statistics that quantify and define problems but can only be a starting point for resolving them.

Projects shown here are in Tingbjerg in Copenhagen; Gellerupplaned, to the west of the city centre in Aarhus, and a projects around Blagværd, a northern suburb of Copenhagen, including Kunst Vild in VærebroPark in Gladsaxe. 

Communities Without Walls
continues at Danish Architecture Centre
until 2 June 2019

Israels Plads - Copenhagen's biggest urban carpet

Life Between Buildings 3

In 2016 there was an exhibition - Our Urban Living Room- Learning from Copenhagen - at the Danish Architecture Centre that looked at the work of Dan Stubbegaard and his architectural office COBE established in 2006. In the catalogue, the work by COBE on redesigning the large public square at Israels Plads - completed in 2014 - is described as “Copenhagen's biggest urban carpet” and there is a sketch of the square with the surface drawn like a giant Persian rug with tiny people on it and the corners rucked up.

These corners of the carpet are now the bold steps rising up across the south-east corner of the square and a prominent V-shape of steep steps at the north-west corner of the square that covers an exit ramp from the underground car park below the square.

Israels Plads has new trees in a bold pattern of circular planting and seating areas; courts for sport; play equipment for children; open space for events like flea markets and plenty of areas where people can sit and watch was is happening here.

With this extensive new work, the square is now closely linked to a large and well-used public park immediately to the west and is adjacent to Torvehallerne - very popular food halls - immediately to the east, that opened in 2011. This is all just a block away from the major transport interchange of the station at Nørreport - an area also remodelled by COBE - so within a few years, and with justification, Israels Plads has become one of the most popular and best-used public spaces in the city.

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Superkilen - a super wedge

Life Between Buildings 4

 

Copenhagen has a number of linear parks of which the largest and most ambitious is Superkilen in the district of Nørrebro just to the north of the city centre. The north section of the park forms a green wedge down from Tagensvej - a major road - and continues through to Nørrebrogade and then, across that main shopping street, the series of parks runs on to link with Nørrebroparken.

Superkilen or Super Wedge follows the route of an old railway that cut through the district which explains the long narrow site with much of it behind buildings. There is a mixture of architecture, including some good industrial buildings that have been adapted to new uses, and some apartment buildings look down on the space but, unlike a square or street, it is not enclosed or defined by building facades. 

In strict architectural terms, the shape of the park seems odd and irregular with space leaking out so the opposite of Skydebanehaven or Shooting Gallery Park in the city that is enclosed by housing so that it is almost like a secret garden or secret playground owned by the community.

However, at Superkilen, if space leaks out, that means that the opposite or reverse is true, so spaces run into the park to draw local people in to make it a strong and important part of everyday life in the neighbourhood.

 

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outdoors in the city

the citizens of Copenhagen at Bakken

 

Looking back over the last year or so, one theme seems to stand out for me from looking at new architecture and recent planning in Copenhagen and that is the importance of public urban space … how it is used and how it can be improved and how new developments have to enhance or have to add to the public spaces of the city.  

Last year there was a major exhibition here addressing how we use or could use public space - Reprogramming the City at The Danish Architecture Centre - and their exhibition through this summer was Lets Play, on outdoor leisure in the city. The current exhibition at the Centre, Our Urban Living Room looks at the work of the Copenhagen architects COBE and is primarily about the interaction between buildings and public space and looks at how that relationship either has to reflect and respect recent change in society or the provision of public spaces can be proactive and can change how people appreciate and use open space. 

I've put together a collection of photographs - most taken through this last year - of public events outside, so the outdoor exhibitions and displays of art and sculpture, the popularity of eating outside, the gardens - not just parks but also private gardens planted in public space and the amazing courtyards to apartment buildings that are part private and part public space and of course the water in the city … the harbour, the canals, the inner city swimming areas and the beaches along the Sound are all important. Public areas are used for running, taking exercise and skating - on a number of evenings during the summer roads are closed so thousands of skaters can complete a circuit of the city - and there is actually an organised run where people cut through buildings and gardens on the designated route to show people as much of the city as possible (presumably as quickly as possible). 

 
 

At every opportunity citizens move out of their apartments to sit and talk, to picnic, to play boules on the edge of a city square. Space for exercise and play for children and also adults is important but large areas of open space are not always available at ground level so there is now a roof-top playground above a car park that has amazing views over the harbour and there are gardens and restaurants on roofs.

I've not lived in a city until now where quite so much day-to-day life is outside and where so much of the planning and the design of new buildings is focused on encouraging and enabling even more life to be lived outside.

The seminal study of urban spaces of the city is New City Life by Jan Gehl that was published in 2006. In that book he explains that “Copenhagen is one of the cities that has made the most targeted efforts to mould its space to match developments in society” and he comes to the crucial conclusion that “In the 21st century, designing good city space where people want to be has become an independent and demanding discipline in terms of planning, design and detailing. The time when useable city space arose between buildings by coincidence or as a post-construction afterthought is definitively over.”

photographs and longer text 

for other posts over the year on public space in the city see:

 

 

New City Life, Jan Gehl, Lars Gemzøe, Sia Kirknæs and Britt Sternhagen Søndergaard, The Danish Architectural Press (2006)

Copenhagen Green, 100 green things to see and do in Copenhagen, Susanne Sayers and Poul Årnedal, Foreningen By&Natur (2014)

 

 

Guldberg Byplads - kids play

 

Public space where children can play and good well-designed play equipment can be found all over Copenhagen. Many apartment buildings have courtyards with play areas but all parks, most public squares and many streets have play areas. Public buildings, particularly libraries, will have play equipment in an area outside and, of course, play areas inside.

In some parts of the city, the provision of play areas has had a much wider influence on traffic control and the wider urban landscape of the area and perhaps what is most important is that these areas are not fenced off or locked up but, even when they are part of a school, these play areas will often be open and available for all the local kids in the evening and at weekends.

One of the most extensive and most interesting schemes is around Guldberg Byplads north of the city centre. This was and is not the most affluent part of Copenhagen and relatively rapid and relatively cheap development in the late 19th and early 20th century has meant that historically the area has not had as many open or green spaces as other parts of the city.

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Hal C Arsenaløen - Christianshavn sports hall

 

from Værftbroen - looking along the canal towards the sports hall

On the opposite bank of the canal to Kids' City in Copenhagen - the school designed by COBE - is a local sports hall called Hal C that was designed by the architects Christensen & Co and completed 2013.

There is a large sports hall open to the roof at the east end that is lit by large tall windows on both sides - to the canal and towards the playing field to the north - arranged in pairs. All these opening have large plain shutters that open outwards and these and the deep red timber cladding are inspired by the 18th-century mast sheds nearby.

The west end of the sports hall is on two floors with an entrance lobby at the corner, glazed on two sides, and offices and changing rooms on the ground floor and a small hall or meeting room on the first floor.

In keeping with the beautifully simple exterior the interior has large area of plain panels much pierced and a very simple straight staircase with a plain solid side panel but the railings of the landings are rather more complicated open grill.

The building makes really good use of natural lighting inside. The sports hall has areas of top lighting. On both sides of the sports hall are wide wood step where spectators can sit and on the canal side there are steps along the length of the building where people sit and a series of landings down to the canal.

 

Christensen & Co

a new bridge across the canal from Kids' City

the windows and shutters of the main sports hall from the other side of the canal

entrance at the south-west corner

large windows to the sports hall on the side towards the canal with pairs of shutters

windows and shutters of the main sports hall from the playing field to the east

P-Hus Lüders - Parking House Lüders - Nordhavn Copenhagen

P-Hus Lüders from the east

looking down the north staircase with the harbour and the sound and in the distance the Swedish coast

 

Copenhagen is the city of bikes. There are said to be more bikes than people … five bikes for every four people … and the statistics are mind boggling. Each day people in the city cycle 1.27 million kilometres. I’m not sure how that was calculated but if it was organised as a relay race it would be the equivalent of team Copenhagen riding around the World 1,000 times EVERY DAY.

There are five times more bikes than cars in the city but of course that doesn’t mean that there are no cars in Copenhagen … you can pile all your shopping plus all the kids and an elderly relative onto a cargo bike without any problems but how else could you get that lot out to the summerhouse without a car?

So for maybe 20 years, with many of the new apartment buildings constructed along the harbour and around the city, a common solution is to excavate first and build underground parking below the block.

The other planning imperative in the city is for open space where children can play and adults exercise … despite all that cycling an amazing number in the city run and then insist on adding a few pull ups and squats. This means that many larger apartment buildings have a courtyard with play or exercise equipment or apartment buildings are set around a public square or open space with play and exercise equipment. This seems to resolve several problems. Apartments in Copenhagen are generally larger than in cities like London or New York or Hong Kong - many are over 100 square metres and some over 200 - but even with balconies that does not stop people getting stir crazy and needing open space but also, of course, attractive space, used in a practical way, means that public space is appreciated and well used public space is much less likely to be vandalised.

In the new development in Nordhavn a slightly different approach to the problem of parking cars and getting exercise is being tried. The density of housing that is being built on former dock yards is higher than that of many recent developments and presumably excavation of deep car parks, on what has only been solid land reclaimed from the sea about 100 years ago, would be a challenge so here at Helsinkigade the solution is to build a large well-equipped public square and then hoik it up into the air by 24 metres and slip a multi-storey car park underneath.

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model for the extensive new development around Århusgade in Nordhavn that is currently part of the exhibition at the Danish Architecture Centre on the work of the architectural studio of COBE. P-Hus Lüders is at the centre of the three buildings - on the far side of the canal - with the pronounced angle of the east end following the alignment of the canal. There are apartment buildings on either side and shows clearly the proximity of the Silo - just to the right - to the north - but set further back and there is the distinct shape of the two giant cylinders of the former concrete silo to the left - to the south - and set back slightly from the wharf of the Nordhavn basin. 

 

when the lights come on ........

A generalisation I know, but historic buildings in traditional materials are usually best seen during the day because that is when you can appreciate ornate decoration or amazing stone work or complicated brickwork or a beautiful landscape setting of trees and planting. At night those same buildings become much simpler solids and details are flattened and, particularly if they are large buildings, they can be dark and ominous. Walk past a fantastic medieval church or an 18th-century house at night and what might impress is the glow of light and the sense of an internal life from the bright windows but the design of the building, its massing and the design of it's facades and the quality of the external architecture become softened or lost completely in shadow.

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Ofelia Plads Copenhagen

 

 

Work on Ofelia Plads - a large, new public space in Copenhagen - has just been completed. 

To the north of Skuespilhuset (the Royal Danish Theatre or Playhouse) is a 19th-century staithe or pier that was constructed parallel to the shore with a basin, Kvæsthusbassinet, and a wharf with a large brick warehouse, now the Admiral Hotel, on the west side and the main channel of the harbour to its east and most recently it was used as the dock for ferries to and from Oslo and to and from the Baltic islands and ports. In an ambitious and extensive engineering project that has just been completed, the pier has been excavated or hollowed out to create a large car park that has three levels below ground (or, perhaps it’s more important to point out, there are three levels below water level in the harbour) and the surface then reinstated with a number of simple, small, low, new, metal clad structures for staircase entrances to the parking levels and ventilation systems.

 
 

a photograph from about 1900 showing just how busy the pier was when ships docked on both sides were loaded and unloaded

 
 

This hardly sounds devastating or dramatic in terms of city architecture but it actually shows Danish engineering design and urban planning at its very best - very, very well thought through; carefully and efficiently executed and with no attempt or need to show, in any flashy way, just how much money was spent. In fact the project was a gift to the city through a collaboration between the Ministry of Culture and Realdania.

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Realdania Kvæsthusprojektet

Lundgaard & Tranberg Arkitekter

 
 

the buildings in Klampenborg by Arne Jacobsen

 

This amazing group of buildings in Klampenborg, within a relatively small area along the beach or set back immediately behind the coast road, were designed by Arne Jacobsen in the 1930s, with some houses added in the 1950s that includes the house where Jacobsen lived and had his own studio and drawing office. These are buildings by a major architect exploring a number of construction systems and experimenting with the use of new materials, including concrete, and working on an astonishing range of building types and with a significant influence on the landscape setting.

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SAS Royal Hotel Copenhagen by Arne Jacobsen

 

The SAS Royal Hotel in Copenhagen - designed by Arne Jacobsen and completed in 1961 - is perhaps the best known and the most widely published building from the Classic period of Danish design.

So, it is not really necessary to go back over the history and the design of the building here but I took a few photographs for a recent post about high buildings in the city for the web site and one thing struck me that, rather stupidly, I had not appreciated before and that is that it is built out over the top of the main railway tracks running into the central station from the north … or at least the lower north part of the hotel and the car park to the west is built across the tracks.

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a new landscape for Arken Museum of Modern Art

 

The trip out to Bronsby Strand to take photographs of the housing scheme was also the opportunity to revisit the art gallery at Arken to look at how new work on its landscape has progressed over the winter.

Back in 1988 a competition was held to select an architect to design a new art gallery in Ishøj to the west of Copenhagen. A design by the young architect Søren Robert Lund won and the new buildings opened in 1996. Initially, the hope had been to construct the gallery on the beach to look out over the bay but for conservation reasons it was set back behind low sand dunes between a lagoon and the Strand. The setting was stark, little more than a rather exposed and uneven area of car park.

That has all changed and in the most dramatic way with the excavation of extensive areas around the gallery which has allowed water to flow around the building and link through to an extensive area of lagoon to the west to create a new island for the gallery that can now only be reached by three new bridges or causeways. Car parking has been spread out with some along the public road to the north, where public buses also stop, some to the east and, more between the gallery and the sea and reached by a new causeway but with the cars hidden by low dunes.

Only just completed, there has been no time for sedges, grasses and trees to become established but already the transformation is little less than miraculous. Where the building looked rather stark and rather temporary, more like a boat yard than an international exhibition space, light off the water now creates shaper shadows and throws texture into relief and the structure of the restaurant across the south side, with its ribs reminiscent of the hull of a raised and stranded boat, now seems to make sense.

Inside the gallery, the entrance area to the west is flooded with reflected light from the large area of water on that side and light is reflected up into the restaurant. Now all that might be left to do, apart from allowing the natural vegetation to grow, would be to consider breaking through just a few more window openings to bring more light into the gallery spaces.

 

The partnership of Møller & Grønborg are the landscape architects for the new work.

above a view of the gallery before excavation work for the new areas of water from the gallery web site and (below) drawings of the entrance and of the site by Møller and Gronborg 

Bella Sky Hotel Copenhagen

To build hotels in high towers seems odd if there is not a real shortage of land - unless of course a certain type of frequent traveller demands rooms as high above the street and its life as possible as a sort of mark of status. And even then that seems curious when presumably during the day most hotel guests spend their time in a city and not in their room looking down on it. It can’t be a need to get away from noise as sound insulation from efficient glazing works in much the same way on the first floor as it does on the 20th.

Last year, some friends stopping briefly in Copenhagen in transit booked a night at the Bella Sky Hotel, more out of curiosity than anything, and attached a snap of their view in an email to say they had arrived safely and it showed that if Copenhagen, one of the most beautiful cities in the World, can look ugly, or at least oddly flat and dull, then it is the view across the city from very high up.

The Bella Sky Hotel was designed by 3XN and opened in 2011. There are 814 rooms in the two towers that are just over 76 metres high but twist and lean out by 20 metres at the top.

 

Surely, if Copenhagen needs another luxury hotel, what might fill a gap in the market is something rather more like a modern version of the Angleterre but possibly on the inner harbour or overlooking the Øresund.

progress on major projects along the inner harbour in Copenhagen

Amager Bakke

The incinerator plant designed by the Bjarke Ingels Group is still not up to its final height of 90 metres but much of the framework is in place. It is at least possible now to see just how high and how steep the ski slope will be on this man-made mountain.


 

Papirøen - Paper Island 

It has just been announced that the architectural company COBE has won the competition to produce the master plan for Paper Island, an important area on the south side of the harbour, opposite the National Theatre, that was originally part of the naval dockyards and then warehousing where Danish newspapers stored paper for their printers, hence the popular name for the island, and more recently those warehouses have been the venue for a very successful food hall, Copenhagen Street Food, and the science centre for children, Experimentarium, along with covered car parking, offices, studios and display space for designers including Henrik Vibskov, &Tradition and the offices of COBE themselves.

Initial proposals for the island include a large central square, a swimming pool, apartments, a gallery with the island ringed by a public boardwalk or promenade.

illustrations of the proposed development from COBE and Luxigon 


 

 

Kroyers Plads

Some of the apartments in the south block at Kroyers Plads are now occupied and the other blocks are being fitted out. Designed by Vilhelm Lautitzen and COBE the overall design appears to be a reinterpretation of the historic warehouses along the harbour.

A large, 18th-century, light-coloured brick warehouse to the east includes the restaurant NOMA although they are about to move further back into Christianshavn. 

Originally to have been completed in 2013, but delayed by technical problems, the new cycle and foot bridge - Inderhavnsbroen - appears ostensibly to be finished but is not yet open - or rather it is permanently open and not opening and closing. Extensive new areas of landscaping are being completed on the quays on both sides. This is the first ‘retractable’ bridge in Europe … rather than swinging or lifting out of the way, the two sides will slide apart to let taller shipping through. 


 

Bryghusprojektet 

Bryghusprojektet by Rem Koolhaas bridges a main road and one function is to link the city and the quayside. To be faced with large areas of green and clear glass, when completed it will provide exhibition and conference spaces for the Danish Architecture Centre, now in a warehouse on the other side of the harbour and there will also be shops, a restaurant and apartments in the building.


It might not look like it but all the photographs were taken on the same afternoon this week on a stroll down the harbour … in the late afternoon the cloud began to break up and by the time I got down to Islands Brygge there was at least some blue in the sky.