lighting the square at Christiansborg

Back at the end of November, there was a short post about extensive work across Slotsplads - the public square in front of Christiansborg - the parliament building in the centre of Copenhagen.

The main reason for remodelling this large and important public space was to bring some order to the area where, as a temporary security measure to thwart attacks with vehicles, a line of rough boulders had been set out in an arc on the outer edge of the square. The boulders have been replaced with large granite spheres and new setts were laid across the whole area. Security barriers were in place that drop down into the ground for access to the front of the building but work was ongoing - particularly along the canal in front of the square where new paving has been laid and a line of new trees have been planted.

Plans for this work showed the old lights but in a new arrangement in a straight line across the facade. There were electric cables in place with a rough gap in the cobbles where each light was to go but, given the time of year, there was a line of large Christmas trees here across the front of the building and all strung with fairy lights.

Now, with the new year, the Christmas trees have gone and the new lights have been installed in a straight line across the front, regularly-spaced and just out from a line of shallow steps. Ornate historic iron lamps are set on simple grey, marble bases and the effect is good … ordered and appropriate in a down-played but monumental sort of way.

a load of balls

 

There is an ongoing threat of terrorist attacks in cities around the World and in Copenhagen public spaces and pedestrian streets have been protected with different forms of barrier to keep out unauthorised vehicles. Across the entrance front of Christiansborg, the palace and the Danish parliament buildings in the centre of Copenhagen, a barrier of large, roughly-cut blocks of stone was a short-term solution to stop vehicles driving across the large public square.

Now, work on a permanent solution is almost finished.

At Slotsplads or Castle Square the large apron of cobbles in front of the castle with its equestrian statue of Frederik VII has been re-laid with new granite setts. There are now electric security barriers at entry points that drop down into the pavement to give official vehicles access and in a curve around the edge of the public space there is a sweep of very large stone balls - spheres in light grey granite 110 centimetres in diameter that are set close together.

It is not quite finished but recently temporary wire fences around the work site and plastic sheeting, that protected the stone spheres as work on laying the paving was completed, have all been removed.

Walking home the other evening just as it got dark was probably not the right time to take the best photograph but it does show one slightly odd thing: possibly because the fences have only just been removed or possibly because the spheres are actually set so close together but, for whatever reason, pedestrians do not seem to have reclaimed the space. Nobody was taking the short cut across the front of the building. Everybody was keeping to the edge of the square and keeping to the pavement outside the stone balls.

Steps across the front of the building in concrete have been rebuilt in the same pale granite and there are other changes that, although not dramatic, are important. Ornate, historic lamp standards will be moved back to the square but now to form a line straight across the façade and trees on the square that were felled for the work are not to be replanted where they were before but there will now be a line of 12 new trees on the far side of the road that runs across the front of the space between the square and the canal. With trees on the far side of the canal, this will create a new avenue flanking not a road but here a waterway and this will create a formal but natural edge to the public area. Parking bays for buses and coaches have been moved away so they intrude less.

Design work here is by GHB Landskabsarkitekter and there are interesting and important aspects to the new scheme. The work was extensive and features like felling the trees seems right now to be drastic but as soon as work equipment is moved away and people start reusing the space, it's likely that few will actually remember the earlier arrangement. Replacing the cobbles has changed the character of the space particularly as the previous pattern that radiated out from the entrance has been replaced with a regular and consistent arrangement of the granite setts making it perhaps starker but also more discrete and less in competition with the building to make the space grander and the high quality of the materials and the quality of the new work are also important as this respects and reinforces the significance of this major public and national space.

GHB Landskabsarkitekter