Someone told me that in the late 19th century, as more and more buildings in Copenhagen were built in brick, with brickwork with ornate patterns or fine moulded or shaped details in brick, bricklayers were sent off to Germany to learn to do it properly.

I’m not sure if that is true or not but certainly by the 1890s and into the early 20th century, better buildings in Copenhagen had very good high-quality brickwork with a lot of ornament.

By the 1920s, with the arrival of first classical and then functional styles for the best architecture, brickwork, generally, became less ornate but still of a high quality and not just for public buildings but also for the better apartment buildings.

Patterns of coursing and the use of different colours of brick together enliven what would otherwise be stark or severe exteriors. This apartment block was built in 1930 and is in Skoleholdervej - the road that runs across the south boundary of the north-west cemetery.

Similar brickwork, with alternate courses set forward and back to create the effect of horizontal ribbing, has been used at Amaryllis Hus - the new apartment building in Valby but in sunk panels beside windows within a regular square grid.

Copenhagen brick

In Copenhagen major buildings in brick survive from the early 17th century, or earlier, but the most prominent are from the 19th and early 20th century. 

There are a range of styles or fashions in these brick buildings and high-quality brickwork can be seen on all types of buildings from major industrial buildings to churches and from some of the most impressive early social housing through to apartment buildings for the wealthy …. but the important points are more general: brick is a durable building material - so in Europe and Africa and the Middle East huge Roman constructions in brick survive after 2,000 years - and bricks have been used throughout the World so brick is a common building material.  

And brick as a building material is relatively cheap so what is important with brickwork is the imagination of the architects and builders and the skills of the brick makers and brick layers in using a simple material. 

Walk around Copenhagen … the buildings around Israels Plads or along H C Andersens Boulevard are a good place to start … and you realise what a huge force of skilled artisans there were in the city to achieve such an extensive and impressive rebuilding and expansion of the city after 1870.