Den Danske Model / The Danish Model

Since the Danish Architecture Center moved to their new building, in addition to a series of major exhibitions, there have been small displays and video presentations in lobbies, on staircases and spaces around the building that have included video interviews with Danish designers and architects and areas with examples of classic Danish furniture.

With the large exhibition on the work of the architecture studio BIG - Forgiving - From Big Bang to Singularity - now occupying so much of the exhibition space then the more general introduction to Danish architecture and design is currently in The Hall - the area above the main exhibition space that can be used as a venue or conference space or lecture theatre.

Made in Denmark has a number of long banner panels - with interesting quotes about design from Martin Nyrup, Jens Thomas Arnfred, Anders Lendager and others - and they are also showing the short film The Danish Model.

Obviously, the film is best seen on a large screen but as this part of the exhibition programme will change in October and, as it is an extremely good introduction to modern Danish design, then the link to the film through vimeo is included here.


the Berlin Wall at BLOX

On Saturday 7th September, to mark the anniversary of the Berlin Wall being dismantled in 1989, a section of the wall that stood on Potsdamer Platz was on display on the square in front of BLOX with a number of associated events.

The section of wall will stay on the square until 22 September and then be moved to other venues around Denmark.

One Wall - Seven Destinations
Golden Days - the Berlin Wall at BLOX

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

Communities Between the Walls

On 15 February a new exhibition opened in the gallery space on the staircase at the Danish Architecture Centre.

Communities Between the Walls is a counterpoint to the recent reports on social housing and ghettoes. Here are a number of major art projects that have been initiated in areas of deprived or poor housing in urban areas including the new library recently completed in the Tingbjerg housing scheme and the major projects in Gellerupparken in Aarhus.


continues at the Danish Architecture Centre until 1 June 2019

on with the old ....


Axel Towers by Lundgaard & Tranberg

As the calendar moves to a new year it’s a good time to look back and a time to look forward but that old trope - out with the old and in with new - really can't apply to architecture and planning.

There might be a great buzz as a new building is finished and opened - this year in Copenhagen it was Axel Towers opposite the main entrance to the Tivoli Gardens designed by Lundgaard & Tranberg Arkitekter that won a popular vote for the best new building in the city and the new BLOX building down on the inner harbour designed by the architects OMA that opened in May that caused most 'buzz' - but buildings take years to evolve and major planning decisions take years to resolve and their impact can last for decades if not centuries.

I wonder how many merchants in 1618 muttered and moaned about how difficult it was to get their boats in to the old wharves along Gammel Strand now the King was doing all that work around Holmen and as for those fancy new warehouses on the other side of the harbour emerging out of what was open water … well who could afford those prices and wasn’t it a pity to have lost that nice view across to Amager?

But back to 2018. Particularly towards the end of the year - there was what seems like a rush of planning decisions in December where some major schemes have been put on hold and some, that were apparently abandoned, seem to have been resurrected.




If New Year is good for anything then it's as good a time as any to reflect and reconsider.

The BLOX building is a good example. I find it really really difficult to like the building and I'm certainly not alone. It's not a bad building as such but with hindsight - yup that wonderful thing hindsight - I'm curious to know if that project was starting right now, rather than in 2005, when the land was purchased, would Realdania and DAC be sketching out now a building like that for that site?

If you had to pick just one really controversial problem for planning right now, it would be the huge pressure on the city to break the skyline by breaking through the long-established height limit for new buildings. If any developer buys land anywhere in the city outside the centre, even close to the historic centre, then the go-to solution is to go up.

One of those new towers at Axel Torv has 16 floors and taller buildings are proposed for a different development on the area immediately to the north which could involve not only demolishing the much-loved Palads Teatret at the north end of Axel Torv but also building massive towers across the top of the railway as it heads out north from the central station in what is now a wide cutting. The problem with that scheme, as with proposals for any tower building, is that it can have a huge impact on nearby buildings, by blocking views, creating shadows and funnelling wind and of course, as with the new Maersk building on the north side of the lakes, towers impose themselves by dominating the views from a wide area as they rear above the historic roof scape. Permission for a series of new towers on the site of the old post sorting offices south of the central station were delayed in the summer as people protested about concerns that they would throw a shadow over the harbour swimming baths.

Even more drastic changes are proposed but one of the curious things is that although people seem to crave novelty and love the new, when push comes to shove, they are wary or very wary about change.

Maybe that is the real problem for planners … people will be nostalgic when they see a sepia-coloured photograph of a long-lost streetscape or watch an old film of the city and reminisce but if you ask them what a specific building looked like after it has been demolished then they will struggle to remember. A new metro station on the square in front of the city hall is close to being completed and right now they are planting a forest … well all right … planting a glade … of trees across the site of the old bus station but I struggle to remember what that looked like.

The point is that with all the new buildings and all the major planning changes that have been proposed over this year, the real need is for lively and informed public debate both before plans are finally approved but also after a new scheme is completed because it helps to be able to say why we don’t like something … not just, slightly vaguely, that we don’t like it.

Some of the plans in the pipe line will change the city for ever so now is the time for people who live in Copenhagen to decide if what is proposed is actually what they want for their city five, ten, fifteen or more years from now.

People in the city have a proud tradition of protest - sometimes violent - as when housing around Blågårds Plads was demolished in the 1970s or the Youth House on Jagtvej was demolished in 2006 without local consultation.

Some major schemes, like the motorway down the lakes that planners proposed in the 1960s, can be abandoned when everyone, planners and citizens, realise that actually it is a bad idea, but that is rare. Other schemes get built and it's only then that people can see the impact and only then that they realise that the real problem is that buildings like that don’t get unbuilt.

Lille Langebro …. news



A newsletter has just come through from the BLOX website to say that there has been an accident in Hamburg where a crane failed as it was lifting the sections of the new bridge onto a barge for them to be transported to Copenhagen.

Two of the four massive sections of the bridge have been damaged beyond repair and will have to be remade. No one was hurt in the accident but these sections took a whole year to fabricate so there will be a long delay to the completion and opening of the bridge that will form a bike and pedestrian link between Christianshavn and the quay alongside the newly opened BLOX building.

looking down the harbour


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

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

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

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

BLOX - a summer of building work

BLOX in February 2016

October 2016



Work on what initially was called the Bryghusprojektet in Copenhagen but is now known as BLOX seems to have moved forward rapidly through the summer. There are now fewer cranes, less obvious engineering work and with a more open site, where hoardings and builders cabins have been removed, it is now much easier to get a sense of how the finished building will appear. 

It still looks a bit like a stack of plastic lunch boxes but, as more of the large panels of pale green and opaque white have been put in place and the scaffolding and covers removed, it now seems to be at least some reference to the use of green and blue slate colours for many of the buildings in the city from the 20th century. It strongly adheres to danish ideals of rational and minimal style and is clearly aware of how buildings can and do use views of the harbour and the light reflected up off the water. 

It was obvious that the relationship with the dark, solid block of the Royal Library, the near neighbour along the quay, was always going to be a difficult one … dominate, compete or be subservient … but the decision to simply be different seems now to be the simplest one. There are still some odd issues with the way the new building will loom over low historic buildings around a courtyard on the side away from the harbour and it will undermine the impressive scale of the important 17th-century Brew House but that may well be resolved by the way the open space on the city side of the new building will be quite complex with changes of level with steps and sunken areas, that will form a transition from street level to the interior and then through to quay of the harbour.

That complex interlocking of levels is in part because a major road running along the quay is bridged by the new building but there will be links under the road as one important function of the building is to provide a route between what is now to be known as the Cultural District of the city and the water front.

Work is so far advanced that it was possible to allow the public access during the Night of Culture to see the progress for themselves. 

Determined clearly by necessary economic considerations, there will be a mix of uses for the building including car parking, a restaurant, a gym and luxury apartments across the upper levels but the primary function will be as the new home for the Danish Architecture Centre and for BLOXHUB - the Danish Design Council along with other associated bodies and companies working broadly on architecture to focus on the Built Environment … rather than the Natural Environment.




The architect for the project is Rem Koolhas and his studio in Rotterdam - OMA (Office for Metropolitan Architecture) - and the development is by Realdania who have an excellent web site for more information.