Cityringen / The City Ring

Today - Sunday 29 September 2019 - Cityringen / The City Ring - the new metro line in Copenhagen opened with a ceremony on the square in front of city hall. For the afternoon and through to midnight transport around the city was free and people were out in large numbers to see and to use the new stations and the extended train system.

Construction work started over eight years ago so citizens are now reclaiming large parts of the streetscape and squares of their city that have been fenced off behind high green hoardings as the seventeen new stations were constructed.

Bus routes too will alter drastically on 13 October with fewer buses actually crossing the city … buses will come in to a station on metro City Ring and then head back out again or will run around the edge of the city centre rather than cutting across. So, inevitably, over the coming months and years, the ways in which people move around and through the city will change.

There will be major interchanges at Kongens Nytorv and Frederiksberg where the existing lines and the new metro circle line intersect and major interchanges to other forms of transport at the new metro stations at existing stations for suburban and country-wide trains at Østerport, Nørreport and the central railway station.

All these new stations have extensive areas for leaving bicycles at street level or underground so it is clear that people will make their journeys by swapping from bike to metro to foot to bus or whatever combination makes for the best or the easiest or quickest route.

The engineering work - constructing over 15 kilometres of tunnels and huge excavations below street level for the new stations much of the work below important historic buildings, below residential area, under the canals or under existing infrastructure of water pipes, sewage pipes and so on - is clearly very very impressive but, and quite deliberately, the new stations follow the form of the existing stations so are relatively low key at street level with simple glass boxes over the lifts to the platforms and simple steps down and, for most stations, glass pyramids that throw light down into the station concourses below.

But that does not mean that the stations will not have a huge impact as most have been constructed along with dramatic improvements to the squares and streets around the station so, over the coming years, the real change will be in the ways that the metro will revitalise and transform some areas of the city - areas such as the newly renovated square and the streets around Enghave Plads or the area around Trianglen - and the metro will mean quicker and easier access to and from the densely-occupied residential areas of Vesterbro and Nørrebro and - with the next phase of work - the new residential areas of the north and south harbour …. planning that has been described by the newspaper Politiken as “binding together the suburbs.”.

the Copenhagen metro

the impressive new concourse below Kongens Nytorv and the area to leave a bicycle below street level at Marmorkirken / The Marble Church

you can be certain that it will never be possible to take a photograph like this again ….. that is with the cycle store empty

 

The Viking Ship Hall in Roskilde

There is growing controversy about the future of the Viking Museum in Roskilde.

The ship hall designed by Erik Christian Sørensen was completed in 1968 to house the remains of five Viking-age ships that were discovered and recovered from the Roskilde Fjord in the 1950s.

It is a stark concrete building - some would say brutal - but it provides a dramatic setting for the archaeological displays with a wall of glass that looks north out to the sea.

But there are serious problems with the concrete - with water damage and iron reinforcements too close to the surface - and, because the necessary repairs would be prohibitively expensive, permission has been given, with some reluctance, for the building to be demolished even though it was given protection status in 1998.

Now, a European conservation group has listed the Ship Hall as one of the top 100 modern concrete buildings in Europe and it is not clear quite what the museum and the government agency responsible for historic buildings - Slots og Kulturstyrelsen - will do now.

ØsterGRO to remain?

The well-known and well-used garden on the large flat roof above three floors of offices in Æbelgade has been under threat of closure.

When it opened in 2014 for temporary planning permission was for two years and the obligation to provide a set number of parking places for cars - a crucial part of city planning law to control on-street parking - was waived but with an application to extend that planning permission it seemed impossible, however the city tried, to circumvent that parking requirement.

Now it seems as if a way round the requirement has been found and it looks as if the vegetable gardens and the restaurant can remain.

earlier post here:
ØsterGRO in Østerbro

ØsterGRO, Æbeløgade 4, Copenhagen

 
 

where do all the tourists go?

Over the last year or so, I have detected a change of attitude about tourism in the city. 

Tourists and visitors to the city, coming for business or for conferences and events, are still an important source of revenue - many in the city are employed in holiday industries, in the hotels, in restaurants and of course shops rely, to some extent, on tourists shopping - but there have been articles in newspapers recently that have stared to question the benefits of tourism and look at the benefits weighed against the cost. 

Pressures from the numbers of tourists visiting Copenhagen are not yet as marked as the more obvious and better publicised problems in cities like Amsterdam, Barcelona or Venice but certainly people have started to question the impact from Airbnb - particularly where complete apartments are now let through much of the year so this has begun to distort the long-term rental market - and some journalists have asked questions about the number of large cruise ships that stop here and about the impact they have through pollution. But the main criticism is that disproportionate numbers of visitors in the city focus their time on remarkably few sites so crowds of tourists are concentrated in areas like Strøget - the Walking Street - Nyhavn, parts of Christianshavn and along the harbour around the Little Mermaid and these parts of the city can be unpleasantly crowded, not just for local people but actually for visitors as well.

There is also a problem with tour buses that want to drop passengers close to main sites but then park waiting for their passengers to return either blocking the bus stops for public transport or by blocking the front of buildings the visitors actually want to see. Recently, I wanted to take a photograph of the front of the Royal Theatre on Kongens Nytorv for a post here but over three days there were at least two tourist buses parked across the front each time I went past.

 

By coincidence, thinking about this post, I came across a fascinating article on line by Colin Marshall on the Open Culture site from June of this year. He wrote there about 136 maps of major cities across the world produced for a project called Locals and Tourists and published in a larger project The Geotaggers’ World Atlas, by Eric Fisher who has used MapBox, Twitter and data from Gnip to plot photographs taken of cities that have been uploaded to the internet. 

The central area of the Copenhagen map is reproduced here with red indicating photographs that appear to have been taken by tourists while blue are images that are probably by local people - determined primarily because they are Tweeting from the same location for at least a month - and yellow could be either.

When data is presented in this way, it is easy to see the densely-packed areas where most photographs were taken with Nyhavn - the long rectangle at the centre of the map that extends up to large blob that marks Kongens Nytorv - the large public square at the city end of the New Harbour - and just above that there is the distinct shape of the royal palace with the circle of the main square and long narrow strips running out to the right to the harbour in one direction and to the Marble Church in the other. The large public square in front of city hall and, nearby, Tivoli are the densely-packed but slightly more scattered areas of red on the left side of the city centre.

Roads can be picked out clearly and give a framework for location and one interesting feature of the complete map, right, that shows the wider area around the city, is the long narrow line of yellow that is the railway bridge across to Malmö with good and photogenic views of the sound.

The data was collected in 2013 but more recent published data from 2017 corroborates the general conclusions. In that year, there were around 7 million visitors to the city and more than 60% included Nyhavn in their trip so, by rough calculation, that suggests that the number of visitors walking up and down Nyhavn in a year was equal, approximately, to the total population of the country.

With the opening of a new bridge from the end of Nyhavn for cyclists and pedestrians to cross the harbour to Christianshavn, Nyhavn has become not just a destination but also a major route. Shops close to the harbour on the west side of Nyhavn have seen a marked and welcome increase in business and for several shops it has meant the difference between declining trade and the possibility of a failing business before the bridge opened and surviving now.

But an article in Politiken by Søren Astrup in September 2017 pointed out that, even at that early stage, not long after the bridge opened, there was an obvious problem with the possibility for accidents as tourists, looking at maps or at the view or busy chatting came into contact with fast moving bike traffic. Planners are responsible for road markings and barriers and some changes have been made, particularly at the bottom of the bridge on the city side, but tourists also have a responsibility and have to learn to be more aware.

This is particularly true of the green man system at traffic lights that in too many cities seem to be treated as respect-it-or-ingnore-it advice rather than as an instruction but, because biking is taken seriously here, many cyclists are heading to or from work, can be in a hurry, and many cycle long distances so when you get up momentum (speed) you do not appreciate a tourist sauntering into the bike lane to take a better photo or stepping out onto a crossing because it sounds clear …. ie they can’t hear a car so step out without looking.

The real problem in Nyhavn is people taking photographs and particularly selfies. Most tourists would say well that is pretty harmless and surely it doesn’t hurt locals to wait just a few seconds while they get that perfect shot. 

But I’m much less tolerant of selfies now I have actually moved to an apartment on Nyhavn.

I have deliberately changed my behaviour to walk down the shady side when possible, although I live on the sunny side, simply because there are slightly less people taking photos. It may be your once in a life time shot but for me, heading to the metro, it may well be the ninth or tenth time I’ve had to walk out into the road in just over 100 metres to get around a selfish-selfie taker. 

Do people taking selfies realise just how much space they take up on a narrow or crowded path with or without a selfie stick? 

 

A few weeks back I was heading up towards Kongens Nytorv on the Charlottenborg side and walking along the pavement against the water. I noticed a woman standing a short distance ahead with her back against the buildings and only noticed her because of the odd pose - even for someone taking a photo with a phone. The phone was held in both hands at arms length with her arms straight out in front so I guess she was long sighted. As I got nearer and, presumably, as she focused on the phone screen or composed the view, she set off straight across the bike lane - cutting between bikes heading out of the city without looking - and walked straight across the road between the moving cars and straight across the bike lane on the water side with bikes heading fast into the city but without taking her eyes off the screen and ended up, with arms still straight out, rigid, taking up the full width of the pavement immediately in front of me. And I mean immediately in front. Inches away rather than feet away. I was walking quite quickly but she moved at a surprising speed so if I had been wearing rubber-sole shoes there would have been black burn marks on the pavement because I had to stop that quickly to stop from walking straight into her. She gave me a withering look - presumably for standing too close and for distracting her - before turning her head back to the outstretched phone and to the perfect photo she wanted to take. I had to step out into the bike lane - after checking - to get round her. 

When I’m trying to get somewhere it’s bloody annoying although looking out of my apartment it’s more entertaining and a mind-boggling view of weird human behaviour. In the last couple of weeks alone I watched someone who looked like a Japanese tourist who set up his camera on the top of his case with wheels and then made endless trips between the edge of the harbour and his case to take shot after shot after shot until he got just the right angle of his face against the buildings opposite and there was a curious girl who did the splits along the raised timber that marks the edge of the quay for her photo although now, I appreciate, that the timber is, remarkably, like the bar in women’s gymnastics although balancing three metres above the water seemed a little precarious even if, admittedly, it made for an unusual photo. There was also a young couple I took to be Chinese with him in a smart suit and her in an elaborate wedding dress …. Cinderella before midnight meets Marie Antoinette … although they were not strictly taking selfies as they had a photographer with them and she insisted in setting up her camera on a tripod in the middle of the road - again to get what they thought was the perfect photo. 

Another trend I’ve spotted is the fake selfie … the girl (usually a girl and usually mid teens) with a striking outfit and a mate or sometimes someone who is obviously the doting mum there to take the perfect shot. The common pose seems to start by dropping the head forward and then doing a great swinging arc to take all the hair in a great circular sweep so it ends up artfully draped down one side of the face but clear of the eyes and the favourite stance seems to be with body angled to face one side or the other, so across the view line from the camera, but looking slightly over the shoulder towards the camera. Again I’m amazed just how many takes and how much discussion it takes to get that perfect spontaneous shot.

 

Oh and while I’m being grumpy …. the other thing I really really don’t understand is this fad for fixing padlocks to bridges. The first person to do it was being original and presumably romantic if that first lock on that first bridge marked somewhere special where something significant happened … like proposing or promising eternal love and devotion. Now it’s locks on locks on locks.

I’m curious …. do people arrive with pockets full of locks or do they buy them here and exactly how much does it cost the city or the port authority to cut them off at increasingly regular intervals? And what do people do with all those keys?

 

a new park by the Opera 

The Opera designed by Henning Larsen was completed in 2005 and is the most prominent modern building along the harbour in Copenhagen. It’s at the centre of a wide rectangular island or, rather, on the central island of three islands side by side with narrow canals hard against either side of the opera building and crossed by narrow bridges out to the flanking islands.

In the original scheme, these flanking islands were destined to be developed with expensive apartment buildings but then along came the global recession and since then everything has been on hold. 

The island to the north, about 160 metres wide and 160 metres deep but cut into by a dock from the harbour frontage, has been covered with tarmac and is used for car parking although there is a fine gantry crane across the north side and a 19th-century brick pumping house. The island to the south, tapering slightly from the width of the opera house site at its north end down to 122 metres deep at the south end, has been left as a wide area of grass with relatively small trees planted as formal avenues but not competing with the scale of the opera house and barely masking its south or side frontage.

Krøyers Plads - a development of large and expensive apartments some 500 metres south of the opera house - also faces onto the harbour and was also built around an existing dock but the that scheme was mired in planning controversies and the original plan for tall tower blocks was modified and modified and modified until it is now a relatively acceptable pastiche of historic warehousing or at least reminiscent of historic warehouses in scale and silhouette. 

Papirøen or Paper Island - between Krøyers Plads and the opera - had low concrete warehouses built in the late 20th century - where paper for the city newspapers was stored so hence the name - has been cleared and work recently started on rebuilding the quay side and with major excavations for new buildings but apparently funding for the apartment blocks and a new harbour swimming pool here has slowed so completion dates have moved further away.

Clearly, now is not the right time to build expensive apartments on either side of the opera house so proposals for the area immediately south of the opera have changed. A large underground car park is to be constructed here and a park above it will be densely planted with trees. This scheme has been drawn up by the architecture and planning team of COBE who finally saw the Krøyers Plads buildings realised - although they were not involved in the original proposal - and they produced the initial planning proposals for Paper Island.

However, there seem still to be two problems.

Since it opened, the opera House has been relatively difficult to reach. Until two years ago, and first the completion of new foot bridges over the Christianshavn canals and then the opening of a new bike and foot bridge between Nyhavn and Christiansholm, it was a long walk up from Knipplesbro or an odd route by bus. And it was a longer drive by car around the outside of Christianshavn to come at the opera from the north through the buildings of Holmen - now part of the Royal Academy.

To be able to walk under cover from an underground car park against the side of the opera house, through a tunnel under the canal, and into the opera house at a lower level sounds convenient but I’m still not clear how you will drive there and unclear how it can be justified on ecological grounds where the trend in the city is to remove cars from the centre.

More important, in terms of architecture and planning, is that the opera house and anything on either side hides the four great naval warehouses built in line in the middle of the 18th century, and, with masting sheds and the great crane, these are one of the great and singular features of historic Copenhagen. The warehouses and mast sheds faced across an expanse of open water where the fleet anchored, to the royal palace on the west side of the harbour …….. until the islands were built in front of them and the opera house muscled in.

COBE - The Opera Park

Opera House.jpeg

Himmel & Hav - By & Havn at Nordhavn

On Saturday and Sunday, By & Havn opened their exhibition in The Silo about the development of Nordhavn - or the North Harbour as one of their contributions to Kulturhaven … the harbour culture festival.

There were models, plans, historic photographs and maps to show how the harbour has developed as more and more land has been claimed from the sea and docks and quays constructed.

A relatively new terminal for the ferry to Oslo and the large dock for cruise ships along with the last area of container dock survive but the oil terminal and most commercial docks have gone and the bonded warehouses converted to offices. Now, much of the land and large areas of newly claimed land that have been built up with spoil from digging the tunnels for the new metro are now streets and squares of large apartment developments.

One task of the exhibition is to show how the development of Nordhavn will be completed through the next stages as an extension of the metro is completed but it is also, in part, a way to show new sustainability goals and to show how this area has taken on board the latest ideas about contending with climate change so, for instance, water from cloud bursts is filtered and taken into the harbour rather than being allowed to overwhelm sewage systems.

By & Havn are the development body that is also overseeing planning and the extensive and ongoing construction work in Ørestad, on the Amager side of the south harbour, and the next stage of development around the power station on the city side of the south harbour and By & Havn will oversee and control the proposed development on new islands north of Refshaleøen.

The exhibition will be open to the public again next weekend - Saturday 31 August and Sunday 1 September and after that can be opened specifically for organised groups by arrangement.

By & Havn

 
 

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

 

update - Karen Blixens Plads

approaching the square from the metro station at Islands Brygge

 
 

Designed by the landscape and architecture studio COBE, the square is at the centre of the south campus of the University of Copenhagen and is one of the largest public spaces in the city.

The square, with work just completed and now open, is approached either from the north, from the metro station at Islands Brygge, or from the south from the direction of Amager Fælled.

The main area is paved with pale bricks and the main feature is shallow brick domes that cover part sunken areas for leaving bicycles but they also form areas fr sitting out and reduce what was a bleak and almost overwhelming space because of the size of the open area.

To the south the shallow circular mounds are repeated but heavily planted and with winding pathways between them that create more sheltered areas. Several sunken areas have wetland planting and control run off of rain water.

earlier post on Karen Blixens Plads from June 2017 when work began

approaching the square from the south - from Amager Fælled

 
 
 

Enghave Plads

Vesterbro - the part of the city immediately west of the central railway station - is a densely-occupied area of apartment buildings with most dating from around 1900.

This was a strongly working class part of the city with the main rail line forming the southern boundary and with the meat markets, gas works and the harbour presumably supplying much of the work and the Carlsberg brewery was, until a few years ago, to the west.

The street pattern of the district is complicated with two main roads - Istedgade and Sønder Boulevard - running out at an angle from the railway station at the north-east to the south east but with secondary cross streets of traditional apartment buildings running north to south and there are also several streets running across the area from south east to north west so it a complex pattern of a grid but overlaid with a Saint Andrew cross so some streets meet or cross at odd angles.

At the south end of Istedgade is Enghave Plads - a large open square much wider east to west than the distance across from north to south and it narrows at the centre. This square is where several tram routes met so it was always an important point in the area and immediately to the west is a very large square with a major public garden - Enghave Parken - that has large apartment buildings on the north, west and south sides so the two spaces run together though divided by a busy main road - Enghavevej.

Enghave Plads is the site of one of the major new metro stations on the new circle line that will open at the end of September. The east end of the square and some of the surrounding streets have been boarded off for about a decade with major construction work for the metro but the boarding has just been taken down and the space with it's new landscaping opened officially.

There are large areas for leaving bicycles across the north or darker side of the entrance steps to the metro station but across the south side of the metro entrance there are raised beds with Corten edging and long raised bench seats and then to the west more open space for events. This area has striking new seating that has deep red slats on a black metal frame and these form great bold curves though the initial reaction to the seating has been mixed - some asking exactly why people would want to sit next to each other in long rows even if they are curved. Mature trees to the west, along the main road, have been kept and provide a baffle against the sound of traffic and shade for more seating and an area that is fenced for ball games.

Copenhagen Metro

Vesterbro with the main railway line to the south, the MeatPacking district in the cirve of the railway and the main railway station top right
Enghave Plads just left of centre and Enghave Parken towards the left side

Enghave Plads from the east with the square of Enghave Parken beyond

tram leaving the square and heading along Istedgade towards the railway station … the area between the buildings and the central space has been paved over and the main through traffic has been restricted to the north side of the square

 

Lille Langebro

Yesterday a new bridge in Copenhagen opened for cyclists and pedestrians to cross over the harbour from the city side just south of BLOX to Christianshavn.

There appeared to have been no opening ceremony and no notices in the newspaper.

It’s very elegant and forms a gentle curve as it crosses the harbour and my first reaction, on crossing over the bridge, is that it makes the bicycle and pedestrian bridge from Nyhavn to Christianshavn look clunky and over engineered.

 

the new circle line of the Copenhagen Metro to open 29 September

 

The major new extension of the Metro in Copenhagen - the circle line round the historic centre - will now open on 29 September.

Above is the important new station at Trianglen at the south-east entrance to Fælledparken. It shows that much of the new hard landscape in place but the planned avenues of trees along each road edge are still to be planted and architectural features - such as the glass pyramids that will throw natural light down onto the platforms - are still to be installed.

Most of the new stations are at about this stage of completion above ground but the main reason for delay appears to have been caused by late delivery of the trains and the postponement of mechanical, electrical and safety testing.

Photographs of the station platforms and various designs and the different and specific colours for tiling, appropriate for the particular neighbourhood, have been published in some newspapers and show not just different and specific schemes for each station but mark a clear departure from the consistent design and the concrete finish of the existing stations on the first two metro lines that were constructed at the beginning of the century.

Sankt Hans Aften

Sankt Hans Aften is the celebrations on the evening before the Feast Day of St John the Baptist and, close to the summer solstice and the longest day, is also linked with more ancient legends and beliefs for this is the evening when witches fly to the Broken or Bloksberg in the Harz Mountains - a story that inspired the music known as Night on a Bare Mountain that was composed by Mussirgsky with a later orchestral version by Rimsky-Korsakov.

In Denmark the celebrations open with traditional songs before the bonfire are lit.

Not much to do with architecture and planning …….. or rather this is a brilliant example that shows where city planning has to create public spaces that can be a venue and can cope with events like this that attract huge crowds.

Ofelia Plads - the relatively new public space immediately north of the National Theatre and across the harbour from the Opera House - can accommodate surprisingly large crowds and with plenty of room for food stalls and with good access …. there is plenty of parking spaces for cars below the wharf and for public transport, the quayside is at the end of a bus route that terminates at the end of Sankt Annæ Plads and there is a stop for the harbour ferry just the other side of the theatre …… oh and there is plenty of water if the bonfire should take on a life of its own.

The floating bonfires at the end of Nyhavn and at Ofelia Plads on the Eve of Sankt Hans.

Royal Run

 

Today, the bank holiday Monday, was the day of the Royal Run. The Crown Prince and all his family ran. It was only the second year for the event but this year, held in four cities, 82,000 people ran either a mile or a 10 kilometre course. In Copenhagen, that longer run was from the centre of the city out to Frederiksberg and back.

The organisation in Copenhagen was amazing because a huge part of the centre was cleared of traffic and barriers had to be set up along the course to keep back the crowds who were watching and cheering on the runners. At busy points there were even temporary bridges over roads, constructed in scaffolding, to take pedestrians up and over the course.

Before the start, runners were marshalled in the streets around Sankt Annæ Plads before entering their race by crossing over the bridge at the centre of Nyhavn and setting off by running through the temporary arch of a starting gate. With so many runners, the start was staggered over several hours but runners waited patiently and with very obvious good humour.

The Royal Run has nothing to do with architecture or design but it certainly has a lot to do with city planning and with a positive and flexible attitude by city councils who have to licence and provide the infrastructure and facilities for such a hugely-popular public event.

This was all about encouraging people to participate and if they do not run already, then to encourage them to take up running for a healthier life and it needed a phenomenal amount of planning and organisation by the city to make the event such a success.

update - Lille Langebro

Lille Langebro is almost complete with final work on the hard landscaping on the quay at at each side almost finished.

This is the new bridge for cyclists and pedestrians that will cross the harbour from Christians Brygge, from the quayside opposite the end of Vester Voldgade, to the Christianshavn side and lining up with Langebrogade.

Current traffic surveys suggest that there are around 40,000 cycle journeys a day across the main road bridge - an astounding number - and planners hope that at least 16,000 cyclists a day will change there route to the new bridge and also avoid the heavy and relatively fast road traffic along Hans Christian Andersens Boulevard.

The official opening is set for the Autumn but opening and closing of the new bridge is already controlled from the tower of the main bridge so presumably the wait is for safety tests.

There was a post on this site when the sections of the new bridge were lifted into place but Realdania have since posted a time lapse record of that work over two days when the four sections were delivered by barge from where they were manufactured in the Netherlands and were lifted into place by a giant crane.

post on Lille Langebro in September 2017

lifting the sections of the bridge into place April 2019

improve life in Copenhagen?


At this time of year, it's not easy to remember that Copenhagen is not just a city of tourists and the shop window for Danish design and architecture but is a large and complex city with a diverse population that has the social problems and the disparities of wealth and all the environmental challenges faced by any city.

With the approach of national elections in Denmark, a recent article in the newspaper Politiken, charged the current government with failing to create the proper framework of a policy for Copenhagen.

This was an opinion piece by three leading politicians from the city council …. Franciska Rosenkilde, Chair of Culture and Leisure; Sisse Marie Welling, Chair of the Health and Care Committee and Karina Vestergaard Madsen, acting Chair of the Technical and Environment Committee.

The government published a report for the capital region in January this year but this article is critical - suggesting that the report failed to address the biggest challenges Copenhagen faces and they make six demands for specific policies to "create a more sustainable Copenhagen with proper welfare."  

 
  1. They want a new government to remove the economic straightjacket with an appeal for an increase in funding for the provision of social services and increases in funding for cultural and recreational facilities.

  2. They suggest road pricing and the establishment of green zones are introduced to tackle rising levels of traffic pollution.

  3. The proportion of social housing should be increased by implementing a target for 25% subsidised housing throughout the city and the government should initiate policies to reduce the number of empty properties in the city calculated to be 3,000 homes

  4. A new government should legalise the use of cannabis. The argument here is that it would tackle a serious problem because gangs control the current cannabis supply that increases crime and, in the worst situations, has seen a rise in the use of guns on the streets that are used to settle disputes or establish control of the trade.

  5. They suggest a reorganisation of employment legislation

  6. They call for moves to "Stop Blackstone" … a foreign equity fund that has invested heavily in the Copenhagen housing market.


 
 

sum of the parts [ 1 ] … the corner store

 

So what should be the first post for sum of the parts - a new series of posts here?

Well … it seemed appropriate, for the first post, to find a type of building that nearly everyone uses; that everyone takes for granted and that is rarely mentioned in books on planning.

How about the corner store?

In the UK, the corner store in cities is often an expanded newsagent and, generally, has cheaper ranges of foods from a local wholesaler. Here, in Copenhagen, the corner store is often part of a major supermarket chain - rather than being independent - and has exactly the same items as their big supermarkets - although this means a slightly smaller range and often a smaller number of each item so they can fit in the widest range possible. Of course, in England, there are now small versions of Tesco or M&S but those are often on the high street or at a railway stations and more to do with opening earlier and closing later rather than providing a local service. Here, corner stores are in every area and often every couple of blocks.

Use google map to find the major companies here, including Irma or Super Brugsen (both part of the Coop company) or Fotex, and you can see just how many stores there are in the city and how close they get to the city centre.

A local store takes on something of the rhythm of the neighbourhood; is usually open early to late and without the corner store the use of bikes in Copenhagen would not be half as popular or half as ubiquitous. If someone has to use an out of town hypermarket, because that is all there is in their city, then it can only be used with a car. Here, the pattern is for people to shop often, shop when using their bike, and that can be on the way out to work or, more often of course, when heading back home from work.

Kunst i Byudvikling / Art in Urban Development

Kunst Realdania cover.jpeg

Realdania have just published a report on sculpture and art in public space that is aimed at municipalities, development companies and other professionals to inspire them "to consider art as a value-creating asset in their own projects."

“Culture and temporary activities are often included in urban development to open up new urban areas and give them identity, involve local citizens, or attract investors and outsiders.”

Christine Buhl Andersen, director of the Glyptotek in Copenhagen, has written an introduction or overview and she emphasises the importance of art in public space …  "art is increasingly used strategically to make urban areas, urban spaces and buildings vibrant and attractive."

The report points out that art in public spaces has a clear role in helping to create a good urban environment but requires a partnership between politicians, architects, planners, developers, builders and artists.

Works of art can be used to decorate or to improve urban spaces and buildings but can do so much more … "art can give the individual building identity, create experiences and contribute to the well-being of the building's users."

established art in public space

 

sculpture of the Glyptotek in Copenhagen

 
 

Sculpture can be part of an outdoor exhibition space … the Glyptotek itself is a good and long-established example with sculpture on and around the building providing open access to art, with decorative portrait busts in niches across the entrance front, decorative panels and the heads of exotic animals, on the building itself; figures, many of workers, on the lawns on either side of the building, and across the back of the art gallery, on the opposite side to the entrance, there is a quiet, pleasant public garden that is also an outdoor gallery for a broad selection of statues.

Much of the sculpture in Copenhagen commemorates major figures - either from the city or national figures including, of course, monarchs, statesmen and major academics, scientists and literary figures.

These are busts or full length figures but there are also more complex representations of the lives of people … an interesting sculpture by Elisabeth Toubro has been added to the line of more traditional busts on plinths across the front of the old university buildings on Frue Plads that commemorates the life and work of the mathematician and seismologist Inge Lehmann.

 

commemorating and remembering through public art …
a statue of Hans Christian Andersen by Augustus Saabye in the King’s Garden: Gottlieb Bindesbøll by Kai Nielsen in the courtyard of Designmuseum Danmark: Steen Eiler Rasmussen by Knud Neilemose at the Royal Academy buildings on Holmen:
a traditional bust of the physicist Niels Bohr at the front of the university buildings on Frue Plads and the less-traditional monument close by to Inge Lehmann by Elisabeth Toubro

traditional art in public spaces

 

Litauens Plads - art, sculpture or street furniture?

 
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to mark the site of the important engineering works of Bumeister Wain there is a timeline set in the grass behind the sculpture

Now, many sculptures are designed to be sat on or climbed over and many have an important role in public spaces by encouraging people to sit in or use the space. Are the lines of low cylinders along the edge of the square at Litauens Plads street furniture? The red bird nesting boxes in the trees above suggest a complicated, diverse and subtle use of art works here.

Some artists can be reticent if they feel that their art is there simply to make the area more attractive or, worse, if it is there to increase the value of a development and politically it can be difficult if local people cannot relate to works; find them irrelevant or see the obvious cost as a waste of funds that might better be spent on supporting social projects.

The report looks at several major projects that have included public art in public spaces from the design stage with the examples of new sculpture incorporated into the new developments of Køge Kyst, south of Copenhagen, and Kanalbyen in Fredericia where there has been collaboration to integrate art from the start. 

An ambitious new scheme for public art is evolving at Arken, the major art gallery to the south of Copenhagen. There has been extensive re-landscaping immediately around the art gallery but, because many visitors and tourists come out from Copenhagen by train, Arkenwalk will link the railway station at Ishøj to the art gallery down on the beach - a walk of 2.2 kilometres - with the final design selected after a completion that was entered by 27 teams of artists and architects. The new "art axis" will be marked by very distinct red lamp posts.

new street art

 

The Wave - an interactive light installation by Frederik Svanholm, Mikkel Meyer and Jonas Fehr

the bike and foot bridge by Olafur Eliasson - public art or engineered city planning?

hoardings around the engineering works for the new metro station at Trianglen painted by Benjamin Noir

 

Superkilen in Nørrebro in Copenhagen

Public art is not restricted to sculpture - or at least not what would traditionally be seen as sculpture. Superkilen in Nørrebro has lines of stools and tables marked out with board games and the Circle Bridge by Olafur Eliasson, opposite the national library, with its lighting, blurs the boundary between engineering and public art. Paintings on the high fencing around the sites of the engineering works during the construction of a new Metro line has provided an opportunity for a major project in public art.

Many of these more recent projects, including newer forms of public art in light or with projected video art or sound, are about social engagement but public art can have an important role in attracting people through an area to make it feel used and safe rather than empty and abandoned or underused and under appreciated.

The report identifies a general change in the response to art in the streetscape. It suggests that there is a growing reaction against public art that is temporary or experience orientated or projects that are designed to attract tourists and a move towards "liveability", so art enhancing everyday life for local users of the space … a move towards appreciating art that brings joy, beauty, curiosity, a specific sense of a specific place so context and consideration - in the sense of thoughtfulness - back to enhance how we see and use and occupy public space.

It also includes more mundane but important and practical summaries about realising projects; about determining frameworks and about practical matters of planning for operation and maintenance and even a reminder about seeking information about rules covering Tax and VAT.

Above all the illustrations show just how diverse and just how imaginative public art in public space can be. 

Kunst i Byudvikling
Arkenwalk
Realdania

private art in public space?
a rack for bikes outside the bike shop on Strandgade in Copenhagen
pedals of the stand from a failed experiment to ride side saddle?

 
 

Oslo Plads

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Oslo Plads is in front of the station and takes the road over the railway
the building being converted and extended by KHR is in the top angle of the junction with the Citadel to the right - to the east - the main railway station building to the left - to the west - Den Frie opposite, on the other side of the junction and the northern-most houses of the famous 17th-century Nyboder centre bottom

towards the top left of the view are the engineering works for the new Metro station that will open this summer and on the left edge of the view are the earthworks and lakes that survive from the historic city defences … it would be difficult to find a more prominent or more sensitive site for a new development in Copenhagen

Designed by the Copenhagen architects KHR - this building, on Oslo Plads in Copenhagen, is not finished but has, already, attracted a huge amount of criticism.

It has been described as looking like a collapsed cake; one national newspaper critic has suggested that it should be nominated for an award as the grimmest building in the city; someone on the board of a conservation society has demanded that work should stop immediately and members of the planning committee are already stepping back from their decision to give consent by saying that it looks nothing like the drawings.

It is not actually a new building but a dramatic remodelling of a single-storey and very brutal concrete block that was a supermarket and sports shop with an extension to the railway station - Østerport Station - immediately to the left in this view.

The building was L-shaped, facing onto both roads with a courtyard at a lower level to the back, in the angle of the L, where a new office building has been constructed.

The design was bound to be contentious because this is an incredibly sensitive site … the ornate station building dates from just after 1900; opposite the building - behind the camera in this view - is a very quirky wooden building that was used by a famous group of landscape painters and is now an art gallery - Den Frie - Gustafskyrkan - the Swedish Church on the other side of the road, to the right in this view, was completed in 1911 and is a very fine building and, more important, immediately behind the church is the Kastellet - the citadel - with ramparts dating from the late 17th century and one of the most important green spaces in the city.

An extra floor has been added above the supermarket but it is the odd, raspberry-sorbet colour of the glass cladding and the unrelenting horizontal line of the front that seems to be the problem.

A wider issue is actually one about road planning: this is an incredibly wide junction with traffic heading out of the city along the coast to Hellerup and Klampenborg to the north that crosses in front of the station and traffic for the Oslo Ferry terminal, traffic for the new district of Nordhavn - North Harbour - and tourists buses for the cruise ship terminals all head along the road past the church.

The solution, over the years, has been to make the roads wider and wider - to create separate filter lanes for dealing with the traffic lights - and this has taken away much of the pavement but it is hardly a ringing endorsement for a new building to say that it might look better set back beyond a deep pavement heavily planted with trees.

 

the DJ on the bridge

 

This was taken as I crossed over the lakes on Dronningen Louises Bro - the Queen Louise Bridge - heading back into the city early one evening just before the Easter weekend.

It was seriously loud and seriously good electronic music and he was completely in his own world …oblivious of the people standing around and oblivious of the traffic heading out of the city.

For a blog about design and architecture this might seem a bit irrelevant but it makes an important point about planning and about how people use and take over public space.

The bridge is wide but not that wide but this parapet faces south-west so this pavement catches the best of the evening sun. It's on the way home for people heading back from the city to Nørrebro and as the parapet and pavement is over 130 metres long this is a good place to see and be seen and drink a beer … if you have remembered to buy some on the way.