Den Hvide Kødby Lokalplan nr. 562 / The White Meat City - Local Plan - report 562

the Local Plan covers both the White and the Grey markets ... this is the boundary between the Brown Market to the left and the Grey Market to the right


select the image of the cover above and this is a link to a pdf file of the report published on line by the city

the oldest part of the meat market is Denbrone Kødby that was built out over what had been the foreshore with a new quay for ships beyond that marks approximately the line of the present railway as it approaches the main station from Roskilde


At the end of June a local plan - number 562 - was published by the city for Den Hvide Kødby /  the White Meat City district of Copenhagen. 

This is the west part of a large area of market buildings and slaughter houses that developed here from 1879 onwards when the meat market was moved from a site further north, closer to the lakes.

The market, sometimes referred to now as the Meat District, is west of the present central railway station and immediately south of a long open public space called Halmtorvet that continues on west into Sønder Boulevard and forms the north boundary of the site. 

Den Brune Kødby, the Brown Meat market, was the first part of the market to be built and is in brick. The buildings to its west - sometimes referred to as Den Grå Kødby or the Grey Market and included in this plan - were extensive additions to the market from around 1900 in grey or white brick and Den Hvide Kødby or White Meat City - primarily low and mainly flat-roofed buildings in concrete with white facades was a large addition to the meat market dating from the 1930s. 

In part because these are essentially industrial buildings but also because of the clean simple outlines with no decoration, then, in terms of style, this part of the market built in the 1930s is generally described as an important example of Functionalist architecture.

Note that the popular reference to the east part as the Brown Meat market only emerged after the construction of the additions of the 1930s - to distinguish the different parts the names refer to the colour of the buildings and not to the colour of the meat.

The area is owned by the city and this is certainly important for the long-term conservation of this area and for appropriate controls on detrimental development .

Changes to the market began around 2005 as meat processing here - from the sale of animals and their slaughter and on to finished meat preparation before selling on to shops and commercial buyers - declined. It is still an important part of the day-to-day life of the area but creative industries and restaurants and cafes began to move in alongside the whole-sale food markets and as new neighbours for the meat traders.

The plan acknowledges this:

"The local plan area together with Den Brune Kødby has a special atmosphere and authenticity with business, cultural and school and leisure activities in conjunction with the original food-producing wholesale businesses. Market functions, galleries, bars and musicals help create city life 24 hours a day."

The local plan for the brown market (Local Plan 262) was produced at the end of 1995 and this report on the White Meat market area should be read alongside the City of Copenhagen Municipal Plan published in 2015.

In 2014 a planning decision was made to allow the building of some homes on part of the site … up to 25% by area but mostly on upper floors. In 2017 there was a first official proposal to build a new school on land at the south corner and both will mean the demolition of some existing buildings.

This local plan tries to quantify these changes and it indicates that the commercial wholesale food markets and food businesses will be 40% of the usage but the plan specifically acknowledges the potential that the other buildings have for small craft-based industries.


during the summer there are  weekend food markets with stalls set out around the main square



The area is surrounded by parts of the city that are themselves undergoing major re-development with changes or new building on former brown-field sights so a coherent policy statement and a long-term plan for the meat markets was required: any plans for the White Meat market also has to be seen in close relationship to developments on the other side of the railway along, Kalvebod Brygge; radical changes along the north side of the area with work on Halmtorvet and along Sønder Boulevard and long-term changes that will come to this part of the city with the opening of a new line of the metro next year. It was construction work for the metro that was the reason why the central part of Sønder Boulevard for the full length of the street was behind massive green fences for years as engineering works for the new line were completed.

The published plan has extensive maps that identify the historic buildings and the text describes briefly how the different areas and structures were changed or adapted as their use has changed.

An important part of the discussion is about how the squares and open spaces and the roads and paths through the area are laid out and how they are used now and then suggests how they can be improved.

This is because the plan has to be integrated with what are, in some cases, competing access requirements for transport into and through the area … so there will be new bike parking at Dybbølsbro - the railway station to the south - bike routes that are cutting through the area have to be considered - so people coming from one place outside the area and going to somewhere outside - and the requirements for safe road systems around the school. There will be tight and necessary restrictions to protect the new metro line tunnels so weight limits for commercial traffic and very clear controls on nearby excavations for new buildings or underground services.

It is implied that demolition of some buildings within the area may be allowed for what is considered to be appropriate new buildings so overuse and density of use might become more of an issue … part of the attraction of the area is that it is often empty of people and is an amazing place to explore but that is difficult to maintain or justify in terms of sustainability. There could be a problem with overshadowing and sight lines through and out of the area being compromised by new buildings immediately outside the area. The present sense of large and open spaces are crucial to the character of the area and a serious mistake is being made now with the overdevelopment of the Carlsberg site, where important historic industrial buildings have been swamped by new development, and that should not be repeated here.

The report spotlights issues about dealing with potential pollution on land that had heavy industrial use - there was a gas works here and a large cooling plant using large quantities of ammonia - and there will be ongoing problems with bringing more people and a school into an area that is used for industrial processes that means some heavy commercial traffic.

There are very clear recommendations for controls for a wider area that is primarily domestic but with social and entertainment uses so premises here can be shops and cafes but not banks or estate agents.

The implication is that if an existing building is demolished then the new building must be of the same overall height and number of floors above ground and have the same roof form and have similar facing materials.

There are some general points about the protection and conservation of important historic buildings that apply throughout the historic city but this report also points out problems specific to this district so roofs can be green - sown with moss and so on - but not with gardens or living spaces and roof-top service features like ventilation and lift turrets will generally not be allowed to maintain an appropriate silhouette or outline for the buildings in the west part that gain much of their character from having flat roofs.

Existing trees, several of which are what are called specimen examples, will be preserved but there are suggestions for planting new trees. For the city as a whole this is clearly a good policy but in this part of the city it was and still is a working area that has practical and often stark urban features and there is a problem if planting, however desirable from an ecological point of view, could make the streetscape here softer and more domesticated and polite than it has ever been.

The plan recommends keeping original windows and original glazed doors - in part because of the intrinsic high quality of some of these fittings - that should mean a long potential period of use - but also recommends keeping original glass for the quality of the light and the quality of the external appearance that is rarely matched by modern industrially-produced glass.

When discussing architecture in terms of style, or even when setting out the history of a complicated group of buildings like this, it is much too easy to describe a design as say Functionalism without then actually considering what that means. The meat markets were essentially an amazing and highly efficient factory system so if you want to understand why these buildings were designed and built in this particular form then look at the film made of the working market in 1936 but be warned that it is not a film to watch if you don't like to think about what happened to your meat before it went into the plastic tray for the supermarket. The film also raises interesting questions about architecture used to create an impression that wasn't true in its reality - so here Functionalist architecture implying clean, hygienic and efficient design for a process that was far from that. How can a local conservation plan limit the extent to which any important historic building becomes sanitised and divorced from its original function ... the very reasons it was built like that and looks like that? 

Strategy for Den Hvide Kødby 

Den Hvide Kødby - Lokalplan Nr.562

history and old photographs

film of the market in 1936

select any image and the photographs will open in a high-resolution slide show




People from other cities and other countries will easily and quickly understand planning policies that talk about creating a green city but it is fascinating that in Copenhagen the planning policies now talk automatically about developing a green and blue city. Open water is now seen as a very positive resource in an urban landscape. If you live in Copenhagen that is hardly surprising … the removal of pollution from the harbour - so people can and do swim anywhere - the long beach front of Amager and Hellerup and now Nordhavn have all been and are continuing to be much appreciated as a public asset and the lakes on the west side of the city are really important in terms of their ecology, in terms of their visual contribution to the streetscape and as a place to walk and relax and socialise so it is hardly surprising that water is now included in all planning assessments but of course this also tallies with the need for detailed planning to cope with climate change and cope with storm rain that often means the construction of new urban water features. Here, in this local plan for the meat markets, controls are outlined for protecting services and plant in buildings if there is a storm and drainage will have to be designed so that in the event of a major storm - often described as a once in a hundred years storm - then the surface water of any flood should be less than 10cm deep.