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

 

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?

 

The Renovation Prize 2019

It has just been announced that the winner of the Renovation Prize for 2019 is the Hotel Herman in Copenhagen - a major project with a former electricity transformer station in the centre of the city converted into a major hotel and restaurant.

The challenge was to retain the character of the original facade - with it’s distinct and tightly-spaced bronze slats - but bring light into a space that is hard pressed by tall buildings at the back and on both sides. Large entrance gates, concrete floors, walkways and staircases were all retained inside the building.

With 157 renovation projects from all over the country under consideration for the prize this year, six were shortlisted and, along with the Hermann Hotel, these included:

  • Postgården (the old post office building) in Købmagergade, Copenhagen

  • St. Kongensgade 53, Copenhagen

  • Sønderparken, Fredericia

  • Villa i Sydbyen, Silkeborg

  • GAME Streetmekka Viborg, Viborg

details of each of the shortlisted projects

 

fruit from Fejø

Walking home in the early evening at the end of the week, I had to wait as the bridge over the centre of Nyhavn was just being raised for a two-masted boat to come through to reach the upper harbour. It was piled high with what looked like traditional fruit or vegetable boxes.

This was the fruit growers from the island of Fejø who come into the city for a week at the beginning of every September - after the harvest - and unload their produce to sell from the quay.

Wandering along later in the weekend there were boxes of pears, huge plums, several varieties of apples and other farm produce including apple juice.

Everyone was more than happy to chat - they are rightly proud of what they produce - and they explained that the small island - only about 8 kilometres east to west and around 5 kilometres across - is in the sound off the south coast of Sjælland but closer to the north shore of Lolland.

The clay soil is fertile but it’s the micro climate that is important with, generally, a slightly late onset of Spring - so after the frost that could damage the apple blossom - but summers have more sunshine than anywhere else in Denmark … or that was what I was told.

The fruit was, of course, incredibly fresh and all with distinct and strong flavours - I’m eating one of the apples right now.

When it comes to planning or thinking about the quality of day to day life in the city, this is exactly what the planners and the city and port authority should be encouraging.

Why not more trade on the harbour? In the past, with large and heavily loaded commercial shipping coming in and out of the main harbour there might have been a conflict but now why not much more produce delivered or sold from the harbour quays? Why can’t the port authority build transit stations at the north and south end of the harbour with some storage facilities so food and goods can be transferred from lorries to boats?

the fruit sellers of Fejø will be on the the quay on the north side of Nyhavn
until the 15 September

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

 

curious!

April 2019

August 2019

And no the captions are not the wrong way round. That’s what is curious.

This is the new building alongside the suburban railway station of Østerport in Copenhagen designed by KHR Architecture … or rather it is an extensive remodelling of an existing line of shop units that had a fairly brutal street frontage in concrete and now has a new frontage, now offices above the shops and a new office building behind.

Everything is clad - or more accurately everything was clad - in rather distinct panels of glass with a sort of strong raspberry-ice-cream colour. The design has been heavily criticised in the press, in part as being inappropriate on this prominent site, and in part for the glass that reflected bright sunlight and was said to dazzle or even blind car drivers. One critic described it as the “grimmest building” in the city.

Photographed yesterday - as I happened to be walking by on my way somewhere else - it looks as if all the cladding on the front towards the road has been removed. I’m curious to know exactly why and will watch to see what happens next.

Oslo Plads

voted the grimmest

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.

Fang din by - forandring / Capture your city - change 2019

 

Fang din by - catch or capture your city - is an annual photographic competition at Dansk Arkitektur Centre - the Danish Architecture Centre or DAC - that demonstrates “that our cities are full of quirky details, historical corners, new urban spaces and fantastic architecture.”

This year the theme of the exhibition is transition in the city because our cities are changing every day and that change is fast. "We adapt to climate change, building height, the old is torn down creating new urban spaces." Information about the competition posed two questions ….

How does it look when old meets new? 
Is the transformation of our cities always good? 

Along with information about submission of images for the competition were also the recommendations that photographs should not only reflect the theme for this year but should also be an "exciting composition" and show the "interaction between urban space and people.

The competition was open to professional and amateur photographers and this year 3,000 people submitted images.

A final selection was made by a jury with Maja Dyrehauge Gregersen, Director of Copenhagen Photo Festival; the photo journalist Janus Engel Rasmussen, and Christian Juul Wendell, Head of Communications at the Institut for (X) and project manager at Bureau Detours.

The overall winner was announced at the opening with the second and third prize and there was a second and separate competition for schools and again the winner and second and third prizes were announced.

Fang din by was organised in collaboration with the Copenhagen Photo Festival and the opening coincided with the opening of the Festival.

the exhibition can be seen outside on Bryghuspladsen in Copenhagen
- the public square in front of BLOX -
from 7 June through to 30 August

for the first time this year there will also be a separate but closely-related exhibition - showing a different selection of images - that will be moved between a number of venues around the city.

That exhibition can be seen at:

  • Nytorv - 7 June to 20 June

  • Israels Plads - 21 June to 4 July

  • Rådhuspladsen - 5 July to 18 July

  • Kultorvet - 19 July to 1 August

  • Den Røde Plads - 2 August to 15 August

  • Højbro Plads - 16 August to 30 August

  

Dansk Arkitektur Centre - Fang din by
Copenhagen Photo Festival
Bureau Detours
Institut for (X)

Fang din by - Bryghuspladsen

 

Fang din by - Nytorv

a change of sign ….

Back last August, I wrote a post about the new 7-Eleven store that had opened on Gammel Torv on the ground floor of the Stelling building by Arne Jacobsen … or, rather, the post was about the signage that I described then as a travesty.

This week I was cutting up through the square and realised that all the signs have been changed and the original facing above the shop windows appears to have been restored so, credit where credit us due, this a huge improvement.

I would be curious to find out when the signs were changed and if there had been lobbying or pressure on the company from the public or from the planning department.

the post in August 2018

the Stelling building by Arne Jacobsen

 

a reminder of what went up in August ….

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.

sum of the parts …

 


Too often, when writing about architecture, the focus is on famous or obvious buildings - on the latest or the biggest or the best or on the buildings by well-known architects - and it's too easy to forget or to ignore why everyday parts of our townscape are important.

But, living in Copenhagen and walking around the city most days, I can see that it is the streetscape, the buildings together and the otherwise unremarkable but well-kept historic buildings that make the city such a pleasant and attractive and interesting place to live and to visit.

The architect and writer Jan Gehl has focused on how we respond to our urban environment and, over many years, he has looked at how people use the streets and public spaces of a city. Rather than seeing planning just in terms of the buildings themselves or, and worse, planning as simply the implementation of political dictate - the laws of urban administration - concerned simply with zoning or about how streets and squares are laid out in terms of traffic flow or parking bays - Jan Gehl writes about how people use their cities and what makes a city a good place to live.


It's rare for me to leave home here without a camera and I have been keen to look at and record not just buildings in the city but, because I'm a social historian, I look for evidence that shows how the city has evolved … evidence for not only when buildings were built, but why they were built in a specific way and how they were built and how they were used. And if we look at how and why and when buildings were altered or demolished or look at how and when the layout of the streets and squares changed, we can see evidence for how life has changed for people in the city …. and that change can be either rapid - so within a year or two - or buildings reflect change and adaptation over a time-span of decades or even centuries. 

 
 

Certainly, in Copenhagen, there are important and amazing buildings but, more than in many cities around the world, it is the quality of the parts that make the whole … it is the public space of the streets and squares and courtyards - the areas framed or defined by the buildings and in the streets now it’s the planting and the hard landscaping and the care that is taken with the details and it’s the setting or context for the buildings that together are so important. 

But there’s the paradox … we rarely comment on these elements of our built environment - the context and setting of the buildings - when they are right but we can see something, or often, we just feel something, is wrong when something is done badly.

This is one part of what Jan Gehl talked about in the book New City Life where, with Lars Gemzøe, Sia Kirknæs and Britt Sternhagen Søndergaard, he set out what they called “12 key quality criteria” for good city spaces. 

These were divided between qualities of protection - so feeling safe against the traffic or protected against crime and violence - qualities of comfort - from opportunities to walk through a city to opportunities for play and exercise and then last are their key qualities - ten, eleven and twelve - that are grouped under what seems like a curious heading enjoyment … or perhaps not so much curious but a quality that is either ignored or simply not appreciated when journalists and academic authors write about architecture.

These key qualities of enjoyment are important so they are worth quoting in full.

They are:
scale - Buildings and spaces designed to human scale
opportunities to enjoy the positive aspects of climate Sun/shade Heat/coolness Shelter from wind/breeze
positive sensory experience Good design and detailing Good materials Fine views Trees, plants, water

… so what, in another book, Gehl called ‘Life Between Buildings.’ 

To consider some of these aspects of architecture design and planning, this new occasional series of posts, under the heading sum of the parts, will look at streetscape in Copenhagen; at the details and the outcome or the reality of planning policies, and at aspects of how people here use public and semi-public parts of the city and why well-thought-out architecture of a high quality with good landscaping and good street furniture, together make Copenhagen not just a pleasant but a visually stimulating place to live.

Good planning and good building is not necessarily about doing something that is perfect or even something that fits in - so something conventional or safe - because too often that becomes a matter of simply ticking boxes on a design pro forma but it should be about doing something that is appropriate for a specific place or for a distinct part of the city and is something that is thought through and done in a way that is resilient - which means often that it is something that has been done for the long term - and something that settles in and wears well and works well and, more often than not, that means it should work without shouting at the user.

In English architectural studies "polite" architecture is usually taken to mean the architecture of the rich although, and curiously, few books seem to talk about "rude" architecture.

So generally, in urban architecture and planning, the aim should be for architecture that is quiet and does what it is meant to do without being intrusive … so polite in that sense. That is what makes doing what is appropriate important and surprisingly difficult and, too often, when the appropriate is achieved then it is not appreciated enough.

 

New City Life by Jan Gehl Lars Gemzøe, Sia Kirknæs and Britt Sternhagen Søndergaard, The Danish Architectural Press (2006)

Life Between Buildings, Using Public Space, Jan Gehl, Island Press (sixth edition 2011)



*I've been told by several Danes that they can't understand why the English like puns so much … so I hope that I can get away with the general title of this series as less of a pun and more of a homophone although, of course, I like the idea that, when there are enough posts in this ongoing series, they will have to be indexed as some of the parts of sum of the parts.

Kongens Nytorv

Although the opening of the new Metro has been delayed, that delay seems to be underground because work is moving forward fast on the townscape around the stations. Trees are now in and established around the new Metro station on the square in front of the city hall and this was Kongens Nytorv this morning. There was a station here for the existing metro line but this will now be a major interchange between the old line and the new city ring.

On the square, the hoardings are down and the trees and the paving are finished. It looks close to being opened completely with just temporary wire fencing around the gardens and the statue at the centre.

voted the grimmest

 

This week, the Danish newspaper Berlingske published the results of a poll where they asked readers to vote for the grimmest building in Copenhagen.

With over 50% of the votes, the new building at Østerport by KHR Architecture won … although in the circumstances perhaps winning is not the right word as, presumably, it is not an accolade the architects will cherish.

And it is not even finished.

Lars Kragh, from the architects, defended the design by suggesting that once "there are beautiful trees on the tarmac and there is life in the shops and workplaces are in use and the construction fence is gone, there is no doubt that the experience will be great."

An odd plea. So, the design will be fine once it is hidden behind trees and when people are using the shops and offices and are too busy to look at the architecture?

One critic summed up the problem well by pointing out that, “the building overwhelms the urban space with its size and tasteless façade."

If you are interested …

BLOX, just a year since it was completed, came in second
House of Industry, close to the city hall, was at three
Bohr Tower, out at the redevelopment of the old Carlsberg site, was at four
The Opera House received the fifth largest number of vote.

The Opera House, designed by Henning Larsen, is interesting because it is now fifteen years old but clearly that is not long enough to either endear itself or to become so familiar that people stop reacting to it.

earlier post on the Østerport building

KHR Architecture
Berlingske article

the grimmest or the most brutal?

the Radisson Blu Hotel on Amager Boulevard manages to loom over Christianshavn. Lurking at the end of the street, this could have a bit part in a spy film about an ominous state watching every move of its citizens

walking along the canal from the back or south side of the Opera House, it is there, at the end of the view from nearly 2 kilometres away

 
 

walking down towards Højbro Plads you get your first view of Christiansborg and there is the hotel, well over a kilometre away but filling the gap. Maybe not looming but there and once you see it there then you can’t unsee it

 

There are very obvious problems with the design of the new office building at Østerport - its unrelenting horizontality, odd raspberry ice cream colour and insensitivity to the good historic buildings nearby and the important green space of the Citadel opposite for a start - but, for me, by far the ugliest building in the city is still the Radisson Blu Hotel on Amager Boulevard by Ejner Graae and Bent Severin that was completed in 1973.

It is a stark and brutal tower that dominates it's location overlooking the trees and the water of Stadsgraven - the historic outer defences across the south side of the old city - but, worse, it is a thug of a building that can be seen from all over this part of Copenhagen. It is like a ridiculously tall and scruffy waiter at a wedding celebration and when guests look back at their photographs they find that somehow he manages to be there, looming in the background, of most of them.

About the only time it looks anywhere near presentable - the hotel not the waiter - is when there is mist and frost hanging over the water or at night when, looking down Frederiksholms Canal, the distant block and the lights of the rooms form a bit of a book end to the view.

…. not a ringing endorsement and what really is astounding is that for a time last year there was an application going through the system for planning permission to add another ten floors to the tower … permission that had been granted in the original consent for building the hotel but for some reason the tower was truncated as the hotel went up… as if even the builders ran out of energy or malice.

Fortunately, the recent application was withdrawn.

On the canal through Christianshavn, look down one side and perhaps the only criticism you could make is that it is too nice to the point of being bland - I wouldn’t agree but you could argue that a bit of spice improves a dish but look down the other side and there is the Radisson breaking the roof line even when you get lower on the quay and try to cut it out

 

On Frederiksholm Canal you are over a kilometre from the hotel. Look north and the tallest building - a marker on the skyline to get your sense of place and orientation - is Vor Fruhe Church in a view barely changed since the Thorvaldsens Museum opened further along the canal in the 19th century. Look south and there, dead centre, is the Radisson. Only at night does it seem to contribute something to the view but it is hardly good architecture if it is best seen in the dark.

 
 

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?

 
 

Christian IV

 

location map from the notice of consent granted by the city of Copenhagen

A new statue of the Danish king Christian IV has been unveiled by Queen Margrethe.

It stands at the corner of the forecourt and the ramp up to the main entrance of Børsen - the Royal Exchange - a building that was commissioned by Christian IV.

The statue of the king is in bronze and by the Faroese sculptor Hans Pauli Olsen. It is close in the pose and for the costume to a portrait of the king painted by Abraham Wuchters in 1638 or 1639 where Christian is wearing high riding boots that are loosely fitted with the tops folded down, has his left hand resting on his hip with the right hand outstretched and has a neat beard, heavy head of hair and the famous long, thin, plaited pigtail.

The statue is set on a high stone plinth from where Christian looks across the front of the palace of Christiansborg.

That plinth represents major buildings commissioned in the city by Christian IV with The Round Tower and the distinctive twisted spire of the Exchange and the spire of the tower of Christian's palace of Rosenborg but curiously the stone tower flanked by the spires in bronze are all upside-down … said by the sculptor to be the city that Christian built reflected in water.

The tower is set on a shallow mound in the cobbles that is slightly rustic and also slightly odd as if the whole thing is erupting from the ground.

The cost of the statue has been controversial as has the rather traditional style of the work. A new statue to Christian was first suggested in 2009 but in 2014 the design was rejected by Rådet for Visuel Kunst i Københavns Kommune - the Council of Visual Arts in the City of Copenhagen - on the grounds that "the sculpture does not reflect a contemporary art expression, and therefore lacks sufficient justification and relevance in the present."

The city finally gave consent for the statue by Olsen in January 2018.


background:

Christian was born in 1577 and he was only 11 when his father died. Initially the country was  governed by a regency council but Christian was deemed to have come of age when he was 19 and ruled Denmark from 1596 until his death in 1648.

Through his major building works Christian, more than any monarch, influenced both the plan and the appearance of the city. He remodelled the castle and made Copenhagen the centre of his administration and he commissioned major buildings that are still prominent features of the city including the Brewhouse and Arsenal to the south of the castle; Holmens Kirke - the church of the Royal Navy on the other side of the canal from Børsen - consecrated in 1619; Rosenborg - a private royal residence away from the castle - that was set in formal renaissance gardens on the edge of the city and completed around 1624; Børsen - The Royal Exchange - begun in 1624 and completed in 1640 and The Round Tower and its observatory and Trinitatis Church begun in 1637.

In 1626, Christian initiated work on the north defences of the city that was to become the Kastellet - completed after his death - and he began major engineering works to claim land from the sea - just off the shore and wharves of the old city - and where first Christianshavn was laid out, a planned new town, with defences around the south side and a new south gate to the city and then those defences were extended out to the north to enclose a vast area of sheltered and protected moorings for the naval fleet … an area of water that was subsequently filled with a number of large islands and canals that became the naval warehouses and dockyards of Holmen.

 

Oslo Plads

Osterport Air.jpeg

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.