chair for the Thorvaldsen Museum by Kaare Klint 1923

This chair was designed by Kaare Klint in 1923 for the office of the Thorvaldesn Museum in Copenhagen * and made by N C Jensen Kjær. In style, it looks back to the chair that Klint designed for the museum at Faaborg in 1914. 

Made in burl oak, the frame has a distinct, sharply-curved, and high back support. As with the chairs for the museum in Faaborg, both the front and back legs are continued up to support a curved and horizontal rail for a back rest and there are intermediate rails, half way between the seat and the top rail, but with the upper parts here filled with thin curved panels of wood held in channels in the frame - rather than the cane work of the Faaborg Chair.

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WORKS + WORDS

At KADK on Danneskiod-Sasøes Allé in Copenhagen … an exhibition to show a wide variety of recent experiments and research projects in architecture from architects and teachers from the Royal Academy itself and from the School of Architecture in Aarhus and the School of Architecture and Design in Oslo. 

This is about research into how we can design better buildings now and in the future: “the artistic experiment is … an important cornerstone of KADK's architectural and design education and is a central part of KADK's community commitment as an educational institution. “

This is the first in what will be a biennial event and continues at KADK until 5 May 2017

... of balconies and bays in the 1930s

 
  1. H C Ørsteds Vej by Thorkild Henningsen 1931
  2. Store Mølle Vej by Frode Galatius 1938
  3. Storgården housing scheme by Povl Baumann & Knud Hansen 1935
  4. Ved Volden, Christianshavn by Tyge Hvass and Henning Jørgensen 1938
  5. Sortedams Dossering by Ib Lunding completed in 1938
 

Extensive use of concrete and steel for the construction of buildings in the 20th century - from the late 1920s onwards - meant that the outside walls - the facades of a building - became less crucial for supporting the weight of walls and the upper structure - particularly the weight of the roof - and walls could be broken through and pierced with larger and wider openings until the outside wall can, in some buildings, disappear completely with all the weight of the building taken on piers in steel or concrete that were set within the building or with the structure depending on strong internal cross walls.

Particularly for apartment buildings this meant that wider and wider windows could be constructed, sometimes in metal, often made in a factory - even when they are in wood - and then brought to the site, so standardised and by using reinforced concrete, balconies could be cantilevered out from the facades and became larger and, in many buildings, much larger so that they become a dominant feature.

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Torvegade in Copenhagen ... city planning from the 1930s

 

This post was inspired by a stroll over Knippelsbro - walking back to Christianshavn from the centre of the city in clear but soft late-afternoon sunlight.  

Knippelsbro is the central bridge over the harbour in Copenhagen and I have walked over the bridge dozens and dozens of times - I live just a block back from the bridge - but the sun was relatively low and lighting up the north side of Torvegade - the main street cutting south through Christianshavn from the bridge - and the traffic was light so it seemed like a good opportunity to take a photograph.

It was only then that it really registered, for the first time, that here is a long line of very large apartment buildings and all dating from the 1930s.

Five large apartment blocks in a straight line - two buildings between the wide road sloping down from the bridge and the canal and then three more beyond the canal before the old outer defences of Christianshavn and the causeway to Amager. Five large city blocks over a distance of well over 400 metres and cutting straight through the centre of the planned town laid out by Christian IV in the early 17th century?

Clearly, this is city planning from the 1930s on a massive scale and not something I had seen written about in any of the usual guide books or architectural histories.

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Functionalism - apartment buildings in Copenhagen in the 1930s

Grønne Funkishus Nordre Fasanvej 78-82

 

In Copenhagen, there is a clear change from the apartments buildings that were constructed in the late 19th century and early 20th century and the apartment buildings from the 1920s and 1930s. 

In the 19th century each building was different from the next, often with relatively ornate doorways, carvings and complex mouldings for the street frontage and inside the arrangement of the apartments was often dictated by a narrow plot with existing buildings on either side that determined where and how windows to the back could be arranged. Even within a building, there were often differences between one floor and the next in both ceiling heights and in the quality of fittings. 

By the 1920s, plans of individual apartments became simpler and they were generally more compact and certainly more rational in their arrangement of the rooms and staircases. Because many of these new buildings were on new sites outside the old city, or if they were within the city a whole block could be cleared of old buildings, so there is generally a greater sense of uniformity within larger and larger buildings. 

In part, this was because, in this period immediately after the First World War, there was a severe housing shortage and, to a considerable extent, the functionalism and the adoption of new building techniques was driven by a need to build as many apartments as possible and as quickly as possible.

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restoration and inspiration - the mast sheds on Holmen

 

The Masteskure - the mast sheds - close to the new opera house in Copenhagen - are on the south side of Galionsvej at the harbour end. There are seven sheds in a row each about 10 metres wide and just under 40 metres long with the narrow ends to the harbour with wide double doors to each shed. They were built in 1748 and were used to store the masts and spars of the naval ships … the masts and rigging were dismantled and stored and only re-fitted as the ships were prepared for battle. In line to the south is a later taller building now with two floors dating from 1829 and called the Mærshuset. This translates as maiden's house … the maiden apparently being the round look-out platform towards the top of a mast.

The buildings were restored by the architects Frank Maali and Gemma Lalanda and the work was completed in 2009. Land around the buildings had risen over the years so they were raised up by just over 80cm so they do not appear to be in a hollow.

Work included new gullies and drains and roof lights set back so they are not obvious from the quay. The rain water is thrown out from hoppers into a cobble-lined gulley around the building and there are steps and landings in corten at each door.

The restoration is striking and in a typically Danish way introduces innovative and good modern elements to allow the buildings to be used now as offices and showrooms. The architects were nominated for the prestigious Mies van der Rohe Prize for this work.

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Frank Maali and Gemma Lalanda architects

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

From Infrastructure to Public Space*

 

Dronning Louises Bro in the evening from the city side

Our Urban Living Room, is an exhibition at the Danish Architecture Centre about the work of the Copenhagen architectural studio COBE with a book of the same title published to coincide with the exhibition, and both are subtitled Learning from Copenhagen.

A general theme that runs through the exhibition is about the importance of understanding a city as a complex man-made environment to show how good planning and the construction of good buildings, with the support of citizens, can create better public spaces that improve and enhance our lives.

One graphic in the exhibition, in a section about infrastructure, shows Dronning Louises Bro (Queen Louise’s Bridge) as the lanes of traffic were divided in the 1980s and compares that with how the space of the road is now organised.  

The stone bridge, in its present form dating from the late 19th century, crosses an arc of large lakes on the west side of the city centre and is the main way into the centre of Copenhagen from the north so many people have to cross the lakes on their commute into the city in the morning and then again in the evening as they head home. In the 1980s vehicles were given priority with 6 lanes for traffic - two lanes of cars in each direction and in the centre a tram lane in bound and a tram lane heading out - so the pavements on each side were just 3 metres wide and cyclists had to compete for space with cars.  

Now, the width of the lanes given over to vehicles has been narrowed down to just 7 metres in the middle for a single lane for driving into the city and a single lane heading out but on each side there are dedicated bike lanes that are each 4 metres wide and then generous pavements that are 5 metres wide on each side of the bridge for pedestrians. So the space for cars and the space for pedestrians and cyclists has been swapped around. The bridge is just as busy - if not busier - with an almost-unbelievable 36,000 or more cyclists crossing each day and the pavements are actually a popular place for people to meet up … particularly in the summer when the north side of the bridge catches the evening sun so people sit on the parapet or sit on the pavement, leaning back against the warm stonework, legs stretched out, to sunbathe, chat or have a drink.

 

 

graphic showing changes made to the width of the traffic lanes over the bridge ... taken from an information panel for the exhibition Our Urban Living Room at the Danish Architecture Centre

 

the bridge looking towards the Søtorv apartments on the city side

 

* the title of this post is a section heading from the exhibition Our Urban Living Room and a chapter heading in the catalogue

Kids' City Christianshavn

 

the front of the school to Prinsessegade - the yellow box-girder structure is courts for sports over the main entrance and the glass roof structure is a greenhouse over the restaurant

The first stages of Kids’ City - buildings along Princessegade in Christianshavn in Copenhagen - have opened although there is still construction work on part of the site and work on hard landscaping and planting is ongoing but already it is clear that the design of this new school will be innovative and inspiring. 

When finished there will be up to 750 children here, ranging in age from babies in the pre-school area through to young adults of 17 or 18 in their last years of schooling so Kids’ City will be the largest ‘pre school and youth club’ in Denmark. 

That presented COBE, the architects, with distinct challenges. On a relatively tight plot of around 11,000 square metres, the buildings have to be extensive but have to allow for as much space as possible outside for sport and play and other activities. As a single unified block it could have been over bearing and even rather daunting for small children but this school also has to provide an appropriate setting and the right facilities for such a broad range of age groups that it could never be a place where a one-class-room-fits-all approach was possible.

The solution has been to link together a number of simple blocks, most of two stories and some with gabled roofs and some set at angles to create groups and small courtyards and to treat the site as a small city with different neighbourhoods and public spaces. The separate parts are even described as if they are the distinct and recognisable elements of a diverse but well-established community so rather than an assembly hall or school hall there is a Town Hall; rather than a dining hall or canteen there is a restaurant,  and there will be a stadium and a library and a museum and even a fire station and a factory.

Play and fun are an incredibly important part of the whole scheme so there will be a beach along a canal where there will be canoes and places to have a bonfire "to roast marsh-mallows." 

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Krøyers Plads

As at the Pakhus by Lundgaard and Tranberg on Langeliniekaj, the development designed by Cobe and Vilhelm Lauritzen Architects at Krøyers Plads takes the historic brick warehouses along the inner harbour in Copenhagen as inspiration but the interpretation could hardly be more different.

Where the starting point for the Langelinie Pakhus was the scale of the earlier warehouses but otherwise the site was open with few other buildings to take into account, the Krøyers Plads site is at the centre of the harbour and within the historic district of Christianshavn and previous designs by a number of different architects for the development have been much more difficult and controversial.

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texture and tone and growing old gracefully

 

warehouses in Christianshavn in Copenhagen - there is a mixture of materials and colours in the building materials but a uniform colour of paint for woodwork helps link the buildings together and the use of stone paving and simple areas of gravel provide a neutral landscape

Generally, until the 19th century, the visual character of towns and cities was determined by the use of relatively local materials unless a building was particularly important and then the cost of importing materials over some distance might be justified.

But today materials can be transported easily and relatively cheaply so one obvious problem now is that new buildings in many cities have lost any specific sense of place.

When choosing materials, rather than understanding the local topography and specific geology, the architect has to consider cost and factors like the sustainability of materials or their insulation properties so, with many new buildings - particularly commercial buildings - there is a feeling that economics or engineering have determined what the building looks like as much as specific aesthetic considerations.

And with some buildings, the design appears to be more influenced by ego … either that of the architect or the client … or at least there appears to be a clear determination to be different or novel rather than having any strong empathy for the location and for neighbouring buildings.

And often there appears to be little consideration for the texture and the tone of materials or for how materials will wear and weather over time.

on the main warehouse the bricks, the stone used for the plinth and the setts used for the road surface all have a mauve or purple/grey tone. The black and white photograph shows that the darkest tones are actually the doors which helps suggest depth to the arcade and, rather surprising, the trees and the water of the harbour basin. Although the clay tiles of the left-hand warehouse looks very different in colour the black and white photograph suggests that actually the depth of colour of the roof is appropriate for the wall of the building below.

copper and Copenhagen buildings

 

Copper and the copper alloys of bronze and brass are amazing metals with a long history of use in Denmark for a wide range of uses including making domestic vessels; for coins; for making weapons, particularly ornate weapons for ceremonial use or to display status, and copper and bronze, because they are relatively easy to work, have been used in jewellery and in the decorative arts, particularly for cast sculpture. From the late medieval period onwards copper and bronze have also been used on a much larger scale in architecture, for covering and protecting the roofs of important buildings and, again, because the metals are durable but relatively easy to work and because they can be used as thin sheets that can be shaped and joined together, copper is particularly good for covering domes and spires where the metal layer can be supported by a strong formwork or framework.

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early modern ... Vesterport, Vesterbrogade, Copenhagen

 

Vesterport on Vesterbrogade in Copenhagen, close to the central railway station, was designed by Ole Falkentorp and Povl Baumann and was completed in 1931. It is surely the first truly modern building in the city but if anyone notices it today then it is probably for the striking green colour of its copper cladding which, with patina, has turned a sharp but acid-pale tone. When new, before the copper changed colour, the building was known as the penny.

It was the first steel-framed building in Copenhagen with reinforced concrete floors and was built as an office building. The principle tenant was an English insurance company but the open-floor construction meant that it could be subdivided with non-structural partition walls depending on the requirements of any tenants. It is not just the method of construction but the scale of the block with its flat roof line and the grid-like division of the facades with continuous lines of windows above panels of cladding that is distinctly modern.

Vesterport fills a complete city block - although there is a large service courtyard - and at street level there were shops so, again in a modern way, this was very much a commercial building and it was in what was then a new and growing commercial area of the city.

The building has an important place in design history for another reason ... a significant and influential design gallery and furniture shop, Den Permanente, opened here in 1931 but closed in the 1980s.

 
 

copper after Vesterport

government buildings between Christiansborg and the harbour in Copenhagen by Thomas Havning 1962-1967

 

In terms of style, Vesterport can hardly be said to have set a fashion as few buildings copied the use of copper cladding although through the 1930s and well into the 1950s many did have brass window and door frames and brass architectural fittings including handrails for staircases.

Superficially the government buildings in Copenhagen at Slotholmgade and Christians Brygge designed by Sven Eske Kristensen and Thomas Havning and built in the 1960s are reminiscent of Veserport. The blocks have the strong colour tone dominated by green and of course with the continuous lines of windows and very regular lines of panels divided by ribs forming a regular grid but only the roofs and certain fittings are copper or brass … the panels below the windows and vertical divisions between the panels are in a dark green polished stone or slate.

However, more recently, the offices and tower at Pakhusvej near Amerika Plads by Arkitema has facades in copper. It was completed in 2004 and although now darkening in colour there is no sign yet of a surface patina of verdigris which shows how slow the transition can be even though this building, opposite the terminal for ferries from Oslo, is subject to winds off the sea.

 

the main tower and a detail of the copper cladding at Amerika Plads by Arkitema 2004

 

Most recently the Axel Towers in the centre of Copenhagen, close to Tivoli, by Lundgaard and Tranberg and nearing completion have been faced in tombac- a copper zinc alloy -and again it will be interesting to watch as this prominent, building - close to the City Hall and very close to the SAS Hotel by Jacobsen and two blocks from Vesterport, changes the visual dynamics of the area as its colour changes.

 
 

Axel Towers, Copenhagen by Lundgaard and Tranberg ... work nearing complettion

The Silo

 

The Silo in May 2015 - work had been completed on the ground floor and the exhibition space was used for 3daysofdesign

 

The DLG Silo was a prominent and well-known landmark of the commercial docks to the north of the city … clearly visible to everyone coming into the city by train from the north and perhaps the most obvious sign that you were close to arrival for anyone coming into Copenhagen on the ferry from Oslo.

A massive and stark concrete block, the tower was built to store grain but with the decline of the dockyard it had been left in splendid and derelict isolation. With the redevelopment of the area immediately around the grain silo, mainly for housing, the decision was taken to retain the concrete tower but convert it into apartments with a public exhibition space below and the scheme that was proposed by the architects Cobe will now include a public restaurant on a new top level to be encased in glass and with views across the city and across the harbour to the sound. 

The interior spaces of the silo but new windows are being cut through the outer walls and in order to bring the building up to current standards for insulation - grain has to be kept cool and people prefer to be kept warm - insulation has been added to the outside and then a new outer skin added in galvanised steel - pierced sheet metal - that also forms the balconies of the new apartments. This outer metal skin is described by Cobe as "draping it with a new overcoat."

One balcony has been installed on the gable end of the warehouse of the Danish Architecture Centre as part of the current exhibition there on the work of the architects but the recent completion and the opening of a new multi-storey car park next to The Silo means that it was easy to photograph the new balconies on The Silo itself as the work progresses.

COBE

Our Urban Living Room, DAC, Copenhagen until 8th January 2017

 

 

photographs of the balconies that are now being fitted - taken from the roof of the P-Hus Lüders multi-storey car park designed by jaja architects and just completed to the east of the Silo

 
 

model for the remodelling of the tower and one balcony from The Silo installed on the gable end of the warehouse of the Danish Architecture Centre for the current exhibition on the work of Cobe