Søren Ulrich - Christmas market Saturday 16th December


Christmas market ... in Esromgade so just across the park from Jægersborggade.

Bowls, ladles, spoons in wood plus furniture and of course the amazing selection of woodwork tools. There will be stalls for food and drink - including, I was told, 'warm vermouth' - in the courtyard and works from other artists. 

Tools, books and work can also be ordered online through the new web site ... follow link below

Søren Ulrich Esromgade 15, Copenhagen


Christmas market at Designmuseum Danmark


This weekend - the 1st 2nd and 3rd December - is the Christmas market for crafts in the courtyard garden of the museum with stalls selling ceramics, textiles, jewellery and more with traditional drinks for this time of the year including hot chocolate and of course glög 

The marquee and market will also be open next weekend so on the 8th, 9th and 10th December

Back over Knippelsbro

from the bridge over the canal looking towards Christiansborg ... the white railings cutting across the front of Børsen - the 17th-century exchange - are the ramp up to Knippelsbro

the view across to Børsen and Christiansborg in the early 19th century



On the walk around the inner harbour, I headed down Havnepromengade, on the city side, and over the canal to cross back to Christianshavn over Knippelsbro.

From the bridge over the canal you can see some of the most important historic buildings in the city including the National Bank by Arne Jacobsen, the 17th-century Børse, the naval church Holmens Kirke, major government buildings and, of course, the parliament building Christiansborg that is built over the remains of the medieval castle and incorporates the much-rebuilt royal palace. But this is also one of the oddest and perhaps least satisfactory parts of the city in terms of planning.

It isn’t incompetence or lack of trying but simply that it all happened over time - a very long time - and was and still is perhaps too big a problem to sort out.

Don’t get me wrong … the weird interchange of roads and railways that links the old town and the island of Södermalm in Stockholm is, though perhaps not for much longer, much much more messy and ugly but the arrangement of main roads in this central part of Copenhagen does not do these major buildings justice.

The topography of this part of the city is well understood but basically much of the land around the castle and on either side, to the east and west, was claimed from the sea as was the land for Christianshavn as the channel between the old part of the city and the island of Amager was drained and built over.

Even in the late 18th and early 19th century the water running up to the front of the castle was more like an inlet rather than a canal and the land to the east of canal was ship building yards and rope works and there were more basins and inlets on the Christianshavn side. There were lots of commercial wharves and warehouses but essentially the posher parts of the city either looked away from the harbour or looked inwards. 

The harbour in 1860


Major historic monuments:  A Christiansborg B The quay of the Arsenal now the gardens behind the national library C the Brewhouse of Christian IV D Holmens Kirke and E Nyhavn

Modern: 1 Knippelsbro 2 The National Bank 3 The National Library and 4 The National Theatre

The red line is a main route from Amager and Christianshavn into the city and the green route is the 02


The big changes were in the late 19th century as the commercial wharves became larger and more industrial and were extended on down the harbour. The bridge over the canal had a predecessor that was actually a rail bridge for the track along the harbour that carried goods to and from the ships moored along these quays.

When the bridge over the harbour - Knipplesbro - was rebuilt in the 1930s it was made considerably wider to take two lanes of traffic each way with tram tracks down the centre for all the workers and goods travelling in and out of the city as housing, industry and the airport on Amager all developed rapidly. It was also taken up … the earlier bridges had crossed the harbour at the level of the quay … so smaller boats could pass underneath without having to raise and lower the bridge and so commercial traffic could go backwards and forwards along the quay under the bridge without disturbing the more polite traffic going in and out of the city. The bridge is actually a phenomenal design but could hardly be described as circumspect or subtle in its relationship to earlier buildings - particularly as the much higher deck meant much much longer approach ramps.

from Knipplesbro looking towards the city with the National Bank by Arne Jacobsen

Perhaps the final part of the problem, in terms of planning, is that what was the level of the railway and service roads along the quay became the route for the main road - the 02 - into and through the city so that the rail bridge was rebuilt to take two lanes of traffic in each direction and the National Bank has ended up on a traffic island.

I’m not clever enough to suggest a real solution but toning down the white railings on the approach to the bridge might help and perhaps making the bridge over the canal one way for traffic heading out with wider pavements on the harbour side of the bridge to provide a pedestrian and bike route down to the National Library with traffic heading in on the 02 discouraged and what is necessary made to turn up along the south side of Børsen but that is probably just fiddling at the edges of the problem.

the view over the bridge ... over Knippelsbro from the city side looking towards Christianshavn ... spire of Christians Kirke is the only constant to the two views


Proposals for Dokøen - the area around the Opera House

The Opera House from the north west


Designed by Henning Larsen Architects and completed in 2005, the Opera House dominates the central harbour in Copenhagen … in part because, obviously, it is a very very large building but the scale is exaggerated by the open areas to either side with lawn to the south - over an area about 140 metres by 140 metres - and on the north side an even larger space 160 metres by 160 metres that is now mostly car park but divided by a dock running back from the harbour and with a historic brick pumping house that dates from the 19th century along with massive gantries of two harbour cranes that were kept when this part of the dock was cleared.


The original scheme included large apartment buildings that were to have flanked the Opera House but with the onset of the economic recession that phase of the development was put on hold. 

New proposals, under discussion, are to proceed with building the apartments planned for the north side of the Opera House around the dock - retaining the cranes and the pump house - but for the area to the south the new plan is to construct a large underground car park and then reinstate the area of grass for a new park with landscaping. 

It has been suggested that the quay facing across towards the harbour - facing towards Ofelia Plads but now set back and at an angle - could be pulled forward to line up with the edge of Papirøen to the south. Would that be a gain? It might make the harbour too regular - too much like a wide canal - and there is another potential ‘loss’ because any development and even more dense planting will in part hide and will reduce the visual impact and impressive scale of the two long historic blocks along the canal to the east that were warehouses but are now converted into homes.

looking down the harbour


Walking over the new bridge from the Christianshavn or Opera House side of the harbour to Nyhavn, on Sunday afternoon, this was the view down the harbour looking towards Knippelsbro.

It was mid afternoon so the light was dropping and the buildings were reduced to silhouettes - almost to a series of planes - as if they were the scenery flats of a giant theatre. 

It is curious to see which buildings are obvious and which are not. On the left is the warehouse that for now is the home of the Danish Architecture Centre. The outline of the towers of the bridge - of Knippelsbro itself - has been lost against the scale of the more recent buildings that are set on either side beyond but the beautiful curve of the bridge arch stands out. The distinct mass of the Black Diamond - the national library just beyond the bridge on the right  - has been lost in the gloom but the bright fractured cubes of the new BLOX building beyond, almost in the centre of the view, is caught in the sun reflected up off the water. This will be the new home of DAC from next Spring. The red-brick apartment building in front of the bridge - between the harbour and the 17th-century Bourse - is oddly a distraction and even from this distance the superstructure on top of the hotel tower looks a mess.

Perhaps most people crossing over the harbour do little more than glance at the view but that does not make it any less important to make sure that new buildings do not intrude or distract … new developments should not be dramatic or iconic or challenging or brave … just simply a good neighbour that slots into the view down the harbour rather than dominating it. 


one of the tall ships in the battle - to the right is the silhouette of the Great Brewhouse built by Christian IV in the early 17th century to supply the ships being loaded with sails, ropes, gunpowder and armaments from the Arsenal buildings immediately to the north

a reconstruction of the harbour in the 17th century on a staircase in the City Hall. The large ship with three masts shown here is approximately in the area where the Black Diamond - the National Library - has been built and the column marks the point where ships turned to go through the narrow gap to enter the inner harbour - now the courtyard garden between the library and the parliament buildings with the Arsenal - now the Tøjhusmuseet - to the left, the castle, now the Parliament buildings, in the centre and beyond the merchant quays and moorings along what is now Gammel Strand


As I walked back over Knippelsbro this evening there were several very loud booms, a mass of smoke, the sound of drums beating the attack and I realised that there was a naval battle in the harbour beyond the bridge with the tall masts of sailing ships emerging from the gloom and all immediately in front of the Black Diamond … the Danish National Library. 

And no - I wasn’t heading back from a bar and no this sort of thing certainly doesn’t happen on a Saturday evening on Euston Road immediately in front of the British Library … which is a pity.

This was a re-enactment of a battle in 1717 commanded by the famous Danish naval hero Peter Tordenskiold … a nobleman from Trondheim and actually christened Peter Jansen Wessel but his exploits earned him the nickname Tordenskiold or Thunder Shield which somehow seems more appropriate.

After a dash back to the apartment to get a camera I took a few photographs. I always have a camera with me, or nearly always, but for once, on a gloomy evening - nipping out to buy tea bags - I hadn’t expected to come across a naval battle.

Since the time of Tordenskiold the harbour has been narrowed as quays have been built out from the Christiansborg side and from the Christianshavn side and the massive building of the 17th-century Royal Arsenal is now a museum. The tightly enclosed area, the square basin, alongside the Arsenal and below the castle - where the battle ships of the navy of Christian IV pulled in to load with gunpowder and beer - is now filled in and is now the gardens between the parliament buildings and the National Library and the area where the first major shipyards were, where the fighting ships were built - close to the naval church of Holmen - is the site of the National Bank designed by Arne Jacobsen.

If you think that a naval battle has little to do with design then you would be wrong. The architecture of Christian IV - including the Arsenal and the great brewhouse from the early 17th century - were some of the first major industrial buildings on a truly modern scale and the great fighting ships and the merchant fleet of Denmark through the 17th and 18th century were some of the best and some of the most powerful in the western world, depending on up to date design, advances in technology and the most amazing skill from carpenters, metal workers, sail makers, rope makers and so on. There are records of Christian IV taking his latest war ship to England to show his brother-in-law King James and his nephew Prince Frederick just what Danish ship builders could do and show them how much faster and how much better the up-to-date technology of Denmark was than anything being built in London. Not exactly a trade delegation to promote Danish design but along the same lines.

And Tordenskiold? He died in 1720 just a few weeks after his 30th birthday, in a duel where the evidence suggests he was betrayed and set up to loose.


taken from the web site of BLOX from their post about the event


I just don’t understand


I went back to Side by Side Outside - the Cabinetmakers’ Autumn Exhibition at the design museum - to take a few more photographs and I realised that several of the pieces had footprints on them and not the small footprints of children but large so adolescent or even adult prints … and not just on the low pieces but someone had clearly stepped on to on side of the bench and table by Frama and then up onto the table and down the other side.


Look at the work. These are beautifully and carefully made and OK this is a garden - which is actually no excuse - but it’s an enclosed courtyard garden within the museum. Each of those footprints had paid to come in … so these were people who, presumably, wanted to be in the design museum … so does paying for a ticket confer some sort of right to be thoughtless?

What was strange was that in some ways the opposite was also a problem. The design brief for the cabinetmakers had been to produce works that encouraged people to interact with the furniture and interact with each other through and around the works. But some visitors were curiously circumspect and several, when I tried to take a photograph of them, leapt up and looked guilty or asked me if I thought it was all right that they were sitting on something in the exhibition.

Watch the film that accompanies the exhibition and you begin to understand just how much thought and effort and how many hours went into the works shown here so, at the very least, walking over the works shows a phenomenal lack of respect. At times I just don't understand and at times I despair. 

Lenschow & Pihlmann at DAC

The current exhibition in the Dreyer Architecture Gallery, on the upper level at the Danish Architecture Centre, explores the work of the Copenhagen partnership of Kim Lenschow Andersen and Søren Thirip Pihlmann. This is the first of exhibitions here through the Autumn that will look at three young architectural companies.

Parts or elements from the construction of recent buildings by Lenschow & Pihlmann are detached and isolated here, rather as if they are sculptures. Although these are simply components, when they are spotlit like this, they do justify closer scrutiny. A building is the sum of its parts so here, reversing the process and extracting parts of the buildings, it emphasises the technical and engineering aspects of many modern buildings and highlights how our increasing focus on insulation and on appropriate and careful use of materials has changed radically the way that buildings are constructed.

As a consequence, contemporary buildings seem to be less concerned with space and architecture in a plastic sense - about form and shadow defining and enclosing space - but buildings as relatively light structures with thin walls that are arranged as a series of flat planes.


continues at Danish Architecture Centre Strandgade until 4 November 2017

Lenschow & Pihlmann

a new on-line site for DAC

New DAC page.jpeg


The Danish Architecture Centre in Copenhagen has redesigned their web site.

In part this is in anticipation of the move, early next year, from their current building - an historic brick warehouse on the Amager side of the harbour - to BLOX a new building designed by Rem Koolhaas that is close to the National Library and close to completion.

The new web site is clean and minimal. The horizontal bands of images that scrolled through and were a hall mark of the older site have gone. The redesign site is very much in progress as with the move, presumably, more and more features will be added with new programmes for exhibitions and new services provided by the centre.

There seems to be a stronger emphasis on the study tours and outreach teaching programmes for schools from the centre and a focus on commercial aspects for the book shop and with on-line booking for the restaurant that I don’t remember being on the old site. The gallery of buildings - a quick reference tool on the old site that could be searched by architect, name of building or street name - has been removed for now but I have been told that this will return as work on the site moves forward.

Interesting that the font is Helvetica throughout … a clean typeface that obviously has well-established credibility for a design site but can look slightly compressed and therefore not as easy to read at smaller sizes or with a lot of information that might need bold or italic to suggest a hierarchy of information.

The site reconfigures well for the narrower proportions of a mobile or iPad screen. Wide, cinemascope images also make the scroll process quicker but may be limiting for some subjects.

Danish Architecture Centre





This will be the last major exhibition from the Danish Architecture Centre in their present space in the large, historic, brick warehouse on the Amager side of the harbour because early next year they will move across to the other side of the harbour to BLOX … to new buildings designed by Rem Koolhaas and OMA and now close to completion

The exhibition has been curated by Marie Stender and is a selection of striking images by different photographers who explore the city as a place for people that is moulded and adapted by people for the way they really live day by day.

Divided into three areas - Boundaries, Meetings and Flows - this is the antidote to all those perfect images that are seen in so many architectural journals and glossy coffee-table books were perfect buildings are shown in the best light, from the most flattering angle and invariably devoid of people ... stripped of their reason and, metaphorically and literally, stripped of their humanity. 

When you watch people en masse in complex urban spaces you see quickly if the planning has failed -  so anything from a curiously empty and unused and unloved space to exactly the opposite where a street or a square or a building seems to be overwhelmed by the people passing through or trying to use the space. In these photographs, you see how people colonise public space and use it in ways no architect or planner had envisioned.

continues at the Danish Architecture Centre on Strandgade until 28 February 2018

Kultur Natten ... reporting back


Actually it’s difficult to report back on Kultur Natten - or at least on the night overall because, even with careful planning, and even trying to pick a sensible route, it is impossible to see everything you want. This year there were around 250 different venues around the city and in many of the main buildings and the galleries and museums and theatres there were full programmes of different events all through the evening.

And then part of the real pleasure of these events is that you get caught up in watching a demonstration you hadn’t even planned to see or you ask a question and you find yourself pulled in by someones enthusiasm and expertise. So this is a bit of an impression … my impression … of some of the places I managed to get to see … and some of the queues I saw in passing.

For many people in the city Kultur Natten is their chance to see inside some of most important buildings in in the city that they walk past most days, but where normally access for the general public is restricted …. simply because from Monday to Friday these are busy working places … but from 6pm until midnight on Kultur Natten, not only is there open house but in most of the buildings people are there to explain what they do and why and in some you get to explore what goes on beyond the public areas. 

So this year I took this opportunity to look around the Eastern Courthouse - built in the 18th century as an opera house in what was then the new town around the Amalienborg Palace - and then went to the City Court House - in what was, through the 19th century, the city hall until the present City Hall was completed in the early 20th century - and then on to the present and famous city hall itself where I joined thousands of people exploring the council chamber, function rooms, amazing staircases and the archives.

Of course there were long queues of people keen to get a first look at sections of the new metro before it opens and as always the government buildings of Christiansborg and the State Apartments and the kitchens and royal stables on the island were incredibly popular.

This was the first time since it was almost-completely rebuilt that I have been into the DI building - the headquarters of Danish Industry close to the City Hall - apart that is from seeing exhibitions in the entrance.

A new exhibition of photographs City Struck opened at the Danish Architecture Centre and this will be the last major exhibition here in the present building before they move to BLOX - a new building close to the National Library. 

There were light shows on many of the buildings and food stalls and beer tents and coffee places everywhere ... the smell of roasting marshmallows in the courtyard of the Design Museum was amazing. And there were jazz bands and performances and I heard several times in the distance military bands and I know there were choirs singing in several of the churches and in the Thorvaldsen Museum.

And everywhere there were special displays and demonstrations so, at the Design Museum, people watched to see how a craftsman from Carl Hansen makes the seat of a wishbone chair in paper cord. At Realdania there were demonstrations of carpentry and people could try their hand at brick laying or blacksmithing and Heidi Zilmer was there to talk about the amazing wallpaper she recreated for the house of Poul Henningsen in Gentofte that was recently restored by Realdania and, of course, there were staff there to talk about the important historic buildings Realdania own, preserve and, where possible, open to the public.

It’s important to describe the good humoured sort of carnival-like atmosphere around the city as people line up to get into the places they really want to see - the line of people outside the gallery at G L Strand was amazing - and although most events are open until late - many until midnight - it really is an evening for children and families ….. I’m sure there are regulars who get there as the doors open to get to the huge collection of Lego brought out at the Danish Architecture Centre ….. and kids get a chance to watch special events in the theatres or the Opera House and they can explore the stage or see the scenery up close.

This is all driven, in part, by the idea that Copenhagen belongs to its citizens and, when possible, they should have access to its buildings and organisation, but really it’s about pride and enthusiasm … the enthusiasm of the people who work for the city and its galleries and its administration and its companies and the enthusiasm of the citizens for what goes on in their city.



Kulturtårnet on the bridge - Knippelsbro

Light show in the courtyard of the Design Museum on the gable of the pavilion of the old pharmacy

The new exhibition at the Danish Architecture Centre and children looking at a display outside the entrance

Heidi Zilmer at Realdania talking about the wallpaper that she recreated for the house of Poul Henningsen in Gntofte

Loius Poulsen where there was open house in the show rooms on Gammel Starnd

The Department of Industry

The inner atrium of the City Hall with people looking at the building and meeting staff and looking at stalls about the work of the council and the city

Kultur Natten 2017


Tomorrow evening - the 13th October - it is Kultur Natten in Copenhagen.

Galleries, museums, government departments, theatres and organisations all over the city will be open - most through to midnight - with special events, demonstrations and teams of people on hand to explain what they do and why they do it.

You need a pass that costs just DKK 95 and that not only gets you in but includes train, metro and bus travel within the central area if you need transport.

Go to the program and plan your route around what you want to see … the one thing that is certain about the evening is that it is impossible to see everything


M/S Bibiana


A coaster that has been refitted as an exhibition and teaching space with workshops for children centred around fairy stories and tales of the sea.

Funded by Nordea Fonden, the ship has had a full programme through the summer visiting ports and coastal towns around Denmark.


M/S Bibiana will be moored at the quay at Kroyers Plads until 14 October

Ørestad street art


These hoardings are not around engineering works for the new metro but around the construction site for a new apartment building on C F Møllers Allé just south of the Bella Center in Ørestad. The art work is by pupils at the nearby gymnasium. 

I like the cryptic statement that WE BLAME SOCIETY BUT WE ARE SOCIETY and then there is .... 

The tigers of wrath

are wiser than

The horses or instruction

But never forget

The Pandas of rest

Rather like a proverb or a good fortune cookie where you can’t work out the meaning but it sticks in the memory. And wrath spelt correctly in English by a kid from a Danish school is really impressive by why horses or instruction which implies a choice? I can have horses or instruction but not both? Or are there modern references here that I'm too old to understand?

more metro hoardings


looking across the centre of the engineering works for the extension of the metro station at this key point of interchange ... the equestrian statue of the king Christian V survives in isolation - high hoardings face outwards all round the works - the view was taken from the gate to the site but there are also glazed panels in the hoardings and a viewing platform so people can see work progressing


On the high green hoardings around the building sites for the new metro there is usually art work - either by local artists or or by local community groups - and as the hoardings are moved or adjusted for a different section of work then new art work appears.

The sections on the north and west sides of Kongens Nytorv at the moment are particularly good. Art can be pure decoration but usually it gains in significance if it makes you look at something familiar in a different way or challenges you to rethink an assumption or brings you hard up against something you had never thought about before.

So here on three long adjoining sections of the hoarding are all three:


For Copenhagen List, the photographs of familiar features from the city are part of the celebrations to mark the 850th anniversary of the founding of Copenhagen. Because the prints are large and isolate the subject you see things that you see so often that you stop seeing them or you are surprised because a visitor comments. The Christiania bikes loaded with kids or shopping or both and a dog are a common site although it’s best not to not see them as in a bike v pedestrian clash it’s clear who would come off worst. These are not light-weight frames by a long shot and get up a surprising speed surprisingly quickly. Never under estimate a Christiania.

People have been asked to vote on which photos represent the city best and I still think my vote is for the Copenhagen bench ... good to look at and better to sit on but then I like people watching.

To follow the result go to københavnerkanon.dk


The photographer Kiên Hoàng Lê lives in Berlin but he studied in Denmark. His photographs that were taken in 2016 are superb. The series is about the problem of identity … about feeling Vietnamese in Germany where he grew up or feeling German when he returns to Vietnam but then despite that displacement understanding that people have more in common than they realise. Curiosity - for a start - is universal.


On Mirror Wave by the artist Frederik Hesseldahl, the boldly curved reflecting panels give a distorted image of the familiar scene in part because the overpainted design fragments the view but the curved reflection also adds a weird speed or whip to how the brain registers what it is looking at … so focus on trying to work out which part of which building you are actually looking at and the reflection of someone walking behind you or even someone cutting in front changes pace as the image goes in and out of the hollows and, of course, as you move your own image distorts and changes.

People can upload their images of this work to an Instagram page @MIRROR_WAVE or a Facebook page @MIRRORWAVE.CPH


As always, when I’m taking photographs in a city, I was checking quickly to see if anyone was about to walk into the frame. Sometimes I realise a person will add scale or context so delay just a second or two until they get into the picture but sometimes someone just off frame is the last person I need so I wait and then sometimes I catch sight of the perfect person for that photo coming along and they stop and apologise and walk round behind me. Here I just caught a glimpse of this scene as I was about to take a photo of the hoarding to the left and I turned and pressed the shutter as I turned because I knew I was about to loose it. Certainly not a good photo technically but the young girl, imitating the wing span of the swans, dropped her feet back to the ground as I took the shot. It was only when I downloaded the photos that I realised the young boy, presumably her brother, was not only trying to ignore her - he muttered something as he walked away - but also he was doing the Copenhagen Walk - keeping to the smooth stones.

yet more drains


This is not the start of an ongoing series but having posted a photograph of one drain then - a bit like with biscuits - it’s difficult to stop at just one.

The triangular drain is on the outer part of the paving at the centre of Kongens Nytorv where there is a chevron pattern in the stone setts. Diagonal lines are fairly common around the city as a way of diverting surface water towards a drain but here it becomes a giant pattern laid out around the central equestrian statue and the drain covers respect the pattern. They have a stylised version of the water of the harbour that is part of the city crest.

On Ofelia Plads the long drains running across the new public space have pierced iron plates and the inspection covers pick up the same size of small circle but they are reversed to form projecting studs so that the surface provides more traction when they are wet. With large building projects in the city it is rare to see evidence that the architects have turned to a junior in the drawing office and said … “I really don’t care … just pick anything from the catalogue that fits.” In Danish design every detail should matter even if most people don’t notice … even when they are standing on it.

The two examples from Ørestad on Amager are included - in part because they are interesting and in part because they are very much in the middle of a huge building site as this phase of new apartments is finished. Canals, trees and hard landscaping are in as work progresses so people moving in first have at least some semblance of a normal street outside their door.

These are not so much drains as iron inspection covers. HOFOR is the Copenhagen water company.

Looking on their web site recently for something else I came across an aspect of city planning that I had never thought about before. There was a heading and a link to a post on heat seeking drones and it turns out that on Amager the communal heating system has pipework that if stretched out would get to Rome and then all the way back. That is partly why there are so many iron covers with some for drainage systems and others for utility services like the communal heating. The drone is used to identify leaks in the system and it works best if it is flown when it is dark and the roads are dry and it has to be flown in co-ordination with the airport. So next time the flashing lights of a drone appear immediately above you they are probably not interested in you at all but what you are standing on.