green and open space in Vesterbro

Halmtorvet looking west towards Sønder Boulevard with the Meat Market area immediately to the left

In a densely built up residential area like Vesterbro, natural planting of grass and trees is important, not just in larger open spaces for recreation and relaxation but in smaller areas to break up visually the mass of masonry, brick and tarmac.

At the centre of the area is Skydebanehaven, a large rectangular space surrounded by the backs of buildings so that it is more like a large courtyard. It is on the site of what was a private shooting range so presumably it was originally open ground with gravel or grass but now has a large number of mature trees. At the south-west corner it has been opened out to adjoining streets with the demolition of some rows of slum housing but it still seems like a well-kept local secret that is hidden away behind apartment buildings and, from the Istedgade side, is entered through a doorway in a forbidding high blank brick wall that closes off a short street of apartment buildings.

Enghave Park

The other large area of grass and trees is Enghave Park at the far west end of Vesterbro laid out in 1929 specifically as an open area with large apartment buildings of that period on the north, west and south sides.

More recent is Saxopark - a long strip of garden created when slum houses to the west of Skydebanehaven were demolished, courtyards cleared of tightly-packed infill and a line of new apartment buildings were constructed.

Saxopark

Sønder Boulevard

Halmtorvet and Sønder Boulevard, its extension west, which run across the south edge of the area was a major road for traffic in and out of the city. As part of a concerted plan to improve Vesterbro, the far end of the road was closed to traffic and the roads, now restricted to local traffic have been reduced in width and the central area of grass widened for space for seating, picnic tables, sports equipment and new play areas for children. The city end has extensive areas of water with fountains, areas for seating and cobbled and gravelled areas used for flea markets, food fairs and other events. Close to the Meat Market area, also being improved, the remodelling of the street has encouraged new restaurants and cafes to the area and most now move seats and table outside to the pavement. 

Litauens Plads and Knoldens Plads

There are also relatively small squares through Vesterbro with mature trees in front of major churches - including the Eliaskirken facing onto Vesterbrogade, the church at the east end of Litauens Plads, almost in the centre of the area, and Kristkirken on Enghave Plads on the east side of the park.

Towards the west end of the area the cross streets are wider and several are set at an angle so they create triangular areas at the junctions with the main roads which are now also being used for outdoor seating for cafes and for some planting.

Of course, as with other parts of the city, courtyards behind the apartment buildings, provide important enclosed, private areas of garden but in this part of the city the courtyards within the blocks tend to be narrower and smaller although the east courtyard of the Skydebanegade apartments is almost as large as Saxopark and there are some larger courtyards in the blocks along the south edge of the area close to the main railway tracks.

 

For more photographs of the open spaces in Vesterbro see the post on the Copenhagen site

Skydebanehaven - The Shooting Gallery Park

 

The children's play ground at the south end of the shooting gallery with the screen wall beyond that was built in 1887 ... apparently to protect people walking along the street beyond being hit by stray bullets

 

Vesterbro in 1879. Istedgade was still only open in sections. The line of the brick screen wall can be seen but it was not constructed until 1887. The railway, marked as ‘Nedlagt Jernbane’ was still then on the line of what is now Sønder Boulevard and the first areas of new land out into the sound had been claimed and a new gasworks and the first buildings of the meat market constructed.

There is an impressive 18th century building onto Vesterbrogade, set back beyond a forecourt. Most people walking along the street would be hard pressed to guess what its function might have been although it was actually built in 1787 for the Royal Copenhagen Shooting Society. Until this summer it was the Museum of Copenhagen which has now closed pending a move to a building close to the City Hall.

The shooting range itself was a broad strip of open ground behind the building that ran down to the sea shore and can be seen clearly on 19th century maps. Then, the south approach to the harbour was much wider and the sea shore was on the line what is now Sønder Boulevard. First a railway into the city was constructed along the shore and then through the late 19th century more and more land and beyond was claimed from the sea and built over so the shooting gallery became rather cut off and in 1887 a large screen wall in brick was constructed across the south end of the gallery to prevent stray bullets injuring citizens on Istedgade. This is the screen wall that still stands at the end of a short street of houses with a gateway at the centre that now provides a partially-hidden access to the gardens and play area on the site of the shooting gallery. 

After the construction of the screen wall, work began on the Skydebanegade apartments that were built over the south part of the shooting range, on the south side of Istedgade and completed in 1893. 

Skydebanehaven is now an important green space in Vesterbro with a very popular playground for children at the south end. Several blocks of slum houses at the south end on the west side were demolished in the 1950s and 1960s as part of an extensive slum clearance programme and the space was opened up to link through to streets beyond. The space is open but not completely successful … the north part of the shooting gallery feels much more like a large Copenhagen courtyard but, at the south end, the space seem to leach out and break down on the west side creating odd chopped off rows of houses and odd views of the backs of houses that were not designed to be seen.

Even so this is an amazingly important and much used green space.

For more photographs of the park see the Copenhagen site