Kultur Tårnet a year on

22 June 2018


Since 1620, there has been a bridge at the centre of Copenhagen harbour. Knippelsbro was constructed to link the old city to what was, in the 17th century, a new and prosperous settlement of Christianshavn that was being built on land claimed from the sea and - from a new south gate of the city - there was a way across and on to the island of Amager.

Over the centuries the bridge was rebuilt several times but these all crossed the harbour at the level of the quay so there was restricted headroom for boat traffic to pass through unless the bridge was opened. This became a problem in the early 20th century as the wharves and quays south of the bridge dealt with more and more goods so more and larger commercial shipping was coming through the harbour and as the number of people use the bridge to cross backwards and forwards increased with the building of large new apartments blocks along Islands Brygge and south of Christianshavn with new housing in Amagerbro and then in Sundby.

A new bridge - the present Knippelsbro - was constructed and opened in 1937 designed by Kaj Gottlob. This has a much higher deck level - with long ramps up on either side to take road traffic up and over the harbour and more shipping could pass through without opening the bridge - the current harbour ferries pass under the bridge without it having to open. There were two copper-clad towers - with that to the north for the main control room for opening and closing the centre span and a south tower contained sleeping accommodation for the bridge master and his men.

From the 1940s and through the 1950s and 1960s, the docks to the south of the bridge prospered with commercial quays extending down on both sides - so the bridge must have been manned throughout the day and the night - but with the decline and then the shutting of commercial wharves on the inner harbour, the number of times the bridge was opened each day declined and the south tower became redundant and was left empty and unused.

Lars Erik Lyndgaard Schmidt and Malthe Merrild saw the waste of abandoning such a prominent historic monument and came up with possible ways of using the building.

Last year, after several years of them putting considerable pressure on the city and after opening for a trial period to see if there was sufficient public interest … there was … and after extensive restoration work, the tower was opened to the public.

It is now an amazing viewing platform from where you can see up and down the harbour but more than that it's a very unusual venue for events; a very unusual place that can be hired for business meetings during the day and, despite the tight space, it's a venue for gastronomic events and concerts.

Today marks the first anniversary for Kultur Tårnet. Congratulations.


Kultur Tårnet




Dinesen, the Danish floorboard company, did not have a major exhibition in their showrooms in Copenhagen this year for 3daysofdesgn but I called in there on the way to look at the new showrooms for by Lassen that are on the third floor of the same building Søtorvet.

They have an amazing display that runs down the centre of the showroom with the base of a Douglas fir with the bark still attached but sawn through into enormous planks. A visitor had counted the tree rings and the fir, from a forest in South Germany, is thought to have been 117 years old when it was felled.




In from the base, more bark has been removed and the sawn planks are more obvious and then from there, running on down the showroom, is a table made from planks from the tree that are 50 metres long. FIFTY METRES.

It's truly astounding and it shows, in perhaps the most tangible way possible, that the Danish love of wood for furniture is not just about style or taste but about a deep understanding of timber and an appreciation of it's importance and a deep knowledge that comes from experience and decades … no not decades but actually centuries of working with wood in this country.


Just a few days earlier I had taken family, who were visiting, to the Viking Museum in Roskilde. The ships there - dating from the 11th century and excavated from the fiord in the 1960s - are stunningly beautiful and amazing for their size; for their striking design and for their engineering and above all because they show that shipbuilders in Roskilde a thousand years ago were masters of the skills needed to work with the timber and understood how to realise designs that were strong and did service for decades.

Outside, in the area between the museum building and the water of the fiord, there was a demonstration of various shipbuilding skills, using traditional techniques, and one craftsman was dressing the surface of a split timber plank with an axe. A tree trunk had been split with wedges then than being sawn … aa ancient technique that meant thin planks could be formed that took into account the twists and natural faults in the wood. With a few swings with the axe, the surface of the plank was taken back from rough fibres and splinters to a surface that was smooth and almost unblemished.

If anyone wants to know just why Danish furniture in wood is so good then the answer is simple … all it takes is a 1,000 years of experience.

Vikingeskibs Museet, Roskild

Africa: Rethinking Architecture and Design


An exhibition that presents 25 new research projects that demonstrate how architecture and design can contribute to projects for innovative and sustainable solutions - for instance for alternative energy sources or water treatment and problems with sanitation in a period of rapid development that puts pressure on natural resources.


The exhibition continues at KADK, Danneskiold-Samsøe Alle, Copenhagen until 6th May 2018

HC Ørstedsværket / HC Ørested Power Station


Designed by the architect Andreas Fussing, work on the power station began in 1916 and was completed by 1920 although there have been several major additions. The long turbine hall with shallow curved roof in concrete was part of the first phase. Additions in 1924 and 1932 were designed by Louis Hygom and Waldemar Schmidt and for that phase Burmeister & Wain built what was then the world’s largest diesel engine.

Some roads around and through the works are open to the public and there is a museum here and open days when it is possible to see some of the machinery halls. 

This is certainly some of the most dramatic architecture in the city and should have been a model for some of the recent developments around the city - particularly for the Carlsberg redevelopment but also for the overall planning of the North Harbour area. 

The power station is Functionalism at its best … carefully controlled and beautifully proportioned buildings in the style known as New Classicism and incredibly important industrial archaeology that tells the history of electric power in the city.

Of course, that’s not to suggest that new architecture in the city has to be a pastiche of industrial buildings of the past but that modern buildings achieve the scale but seem thin and flimsy and curiously rather cautious when compared with the bold compositions here that use very strong but carefully controlled colour; strong use of shadow and strong, simple but beautifully proportioned fenestration and rational design where function, generally, is expressed in the form.

A new metro station is due to be built here, just south of the power station and there are plans to build blocks of apartments along the water frontage but it is to be hoped that they respect the form and the importance of the architecture of the power station. There is also to be a new bridge to link this part of the harbour development with the new areas further south … all part of developing the circuit of the harbour to encourage people to cycle, run or walk around the harbour.

a new metro line


In March it was announced that a contract has been signed for work to start on constructing a new metro line - Sydhavnslinjen or South Harbour Line - with new stations at Ny Ellebjerg, Mozarts Plads, Sluseholmen, Enghave Brygge and Havneholmen. 

There will be a major transport interchange with the suburban railway at Ny Ellebjerg and the line will serve the large area of housing to the south of the western cemetery before running in a long arc through the new development of the South Harbour and from there to Enghave Brygge - just to the south of the power station - and then on to a new station at the west end of the shopping centre at Fisketorvet which is to be enlarged and remodelled.

Just to the west of the main railway station the south line will join the new metro line - Cityringen - the new metro line that opens next year. 

The new metro line from Ny Ellebjerg will be finished in 2024 and it has been calculated that each day there will be 29,000 journeys along the new line so around 9 million passengers a year.


work on the new metro stations from the air

Kongens Nytorv - photograph from MAGASINET KBH


Last November the online site MAGASINET KBH published an amazing set of aerial photographs of the nineteen metro stations now being built for the new City Ring in Copenhagen. These show just how extensive the major engineering project has been but they also hint at just how much the new metro stations will change so many parts of the city. 

Of course the obvious change will be in how people will be able to move rapidly and easily from one part to another but the new stations will also revitalise areas and for key interchanges will influence how people use the surrounding streets and buildings and how they move around; how often they go to an area and how long they stay. 

Just how much change these patterns of movement will bring can be seen in the effect at Nørreport. There was a major train station there on the railway running east to west, from the old terminal at Østerport to the main central station, dating from the early 20th century, so long before the first stage of the metro was completed. Initially the metro station below the railway, serving a metro line running north south, seemed simply to reinforce routes taken by people as they arrived at or left the station … most people were heading into the shopping area. So it seemed to be more a matter of the number of people rather than what they were doing or where they were going. But the extensive remodelling of the street level by COBE has completely revitalised the area. 

Surely there will be a similar impact at the new stations on the new line - particularly at major transport interchanges including the square at Kongens Nytorv; at the square in front of the City Hall at Østerport and at Frederiksberg but other new metro stations are at key public open areas … particularly Trianglen - close to Fælledparken and the national football stadium - Nørrebro, at the centre of perhaps the most diverse and densely occupied part of the city; the station at the corner of the cemetery, Assistens Kirkegård, at Nørrebros Runddel and at Enghave Plads, out to the west of the central station, which will be an access point to the massive redevelopment on the old site of the Carlsberg brewery.


The photographs also include the engineering works for the spur line that will run out from the ring to the north harbour and there will be a second spur down to the south harbour.

it's all downhill from here


SLA have published plans and drawings for the ski slope and the planting that are to be added in the final stages of the building works for Amager Bakke - the new incinerator and waste processing plant in Copenhagen designed by Bjarke Ingels. The plant is now up and running but still without the promised smoke rings.


View of the incinerator at night taken in December ... the ski run might not look that daunting in plan but that's not a bad angle. If you don't ski, there will be steps and a pathway for walking (or maybe that should be climbing) up to a cafe at the top which will have pretty amazing views over city and out over the Øresund.

SLA Copenhagen


New Year resolution? ... putting a design classic through its paces

image from COACH fitness magazine


I'm not sure that this is what Arne Jacobsen had in mind when he designed the chair but I guess this is one way to get rid of all those calories put on over Christmas. Is this what is called an incline press or is it a weird plank?

What is it with the English and Chair 7? Christine Keeler sat on it the wrong way round although, as that chair was a fake, does it still count as sacrilege?


one of the tall ships in the battle - to the right is the silhouette of the Great Brewhouse built by Christian IV in the early 17th century to supply the ships being loaded with sails, ropes, gunpowder and armaments from the Arsenal buildings immediately to the north

a reconstruction of the harbour in the 17th century on a staircase in the City Hall. The large ship with three masts shown here is approximately in the area where the Black Diamond - the National Library - has been built and the column marks the point where ships turned to go through the narrow gap to enter the inner harbour - now the courtyard garden between the library and the parliament buildings with the Arsenal - now the Tøjhusmuseet - to the left, the castle, now the Parliament buildings, in the centre and beyond the merchant quays and moorings along what is now Gammel Strand


As I walked back over Knippelsbro this evening there were several very loud booms, a mass of smoke, the sound of drums beating the attack and I realised that there was a naval battle in the harbour beyond the bridge with the tall masts of sailing ships emerging from the gloom and all immediately in front of the Black Diamond … the Danish National Library. 

And no - I wasn’t heading back from a bar and no this sort of thing certainly doesn’t happen on a Saturday evening on Euston Road immediately in front of the British Library … which is a pity.

This was a re-enactment of a battle in 1717 commanded by the famous Danish naval hero Peter Tordenskiold … a nobleman from Trondheim and actually christened Peter Jansen Wessel but his exploits earned him the nickname Tordenskiold or Thunder Shield which somehow seems more appropriate.

After a dash back to the apartment to get a camera I took a few photographs. I always have a camera with me, or nearly always, but for once, on a gloomy evening - nipping out to buy tea bags - I hadn’t expected to come across a naval battle.

Since the time of Tordenskiold the harbour has been narrowed as quays have been built out from the Christiansborg side and from the Christianshavn side and the massive building of the 17th-century Royal Arsenal is now a museum. The tightly enclosed area, the square basin, alongside the Arsenal and below the castle - where the battle ships of the navy of Christian IV pulled in to load with gunpowder and beer - is now filled in and is now the gardens between the parliament buildings and the National Library and the area where the first major shipyards were, where the fighting ships were built - close to the naval church of Holmen - is the site of the National Bank designed by Arne Jacobsen.

If you think that a naval battle has little to do with design then you would be wrong. The architecture of Christian IV - including the Arsenal and the great brewhouse from the early 17th century - were some of the first major industrial buildings on a truly modern scale and the great fighting ships and the merchant fleet of Denmark through the 17th and 18th century were some of the best and some of the most powerful in the western world, depending on up to date design, advances in technology and the most amazing skill from carpenters, metal workers, sail makers, rope makers and so on. There are records of Christian IV taking his latest war ship to England to show his brother-in-law King James and his nephew Prince Frederick just what Danish ship builders could do and show them how much faster and how much better the up-to-date technology of Denmark was than anything being built in London. Not exactly a trade delegation to promote Danish design but along the same lines.

And Tordenskiold? He died in 1720 just a few weeks after his 30th birthday, in a duel where the evidence suggests he was betrayed and set up to loose.


taken from the web site of BLOX from their post about the event


Lenschow & Pihlmann at DAC

The current exhibition in the Dreyer Architecture Gallery, on the upper level at the Danish Architecture Centre, explores the work of the Copenhagen partnership of Kim Lenschow Andersen and Søren Thirip Pihlmann. This is the first of exhibitions here through the Autumn that will look at three young architectural companies.

Parts or elements from the construction of recent buildings by Lenschow & Pihlmann are detached and isolated here, rather as if they are sculptures. Although these are simply components, when they are spotlit like this, they do justify closer scrutiny. A building is the sum of its parts so here, reversing the process and extracting parts of the buildings, it emphasises the technical and engineering aspects of many modern buildings and highlights how our increasing focus on insulation and on appropriate and careful use of materials has changed radically the way that buildings are constructed.

As a consequence, contemporary buildings seem to be less concerned with space and architecture in a plastic sense - about form and shadow defining and enclosing space - but buildings as relatively light structures with thin walls that are arranged as a series of flat planes.


continues at Danish Architecture Centre Strandgade until 4 November 2017

Lenschow & Pihlmann

yet more drains


This is not the start of an ongoing series but having posted a photograph of one drain then - a bit like with biscuits - it’s difficult to stop at just one.

The triangular drain is on the outer part of the paving at the centre of Kongens Nytorv where there is a chevron pattern in the stone setts. Diagonal lines are fairly common around the city as a way of diverting surface water towards a drain but here it becomes a giant pattern laid out around the central equestrian statue and the drain covers respect the pattern. They have a stylised version of the water of the harbour that is part of the city crest.

On Ofelia Plads the long drains running across the new public space have pierced iron plates and the inspection covers pick up the same size of small circle but they are reversed to form projecting studs so that the surface provides more traction when they are wet. With large building projects in the city it is rare to see evidence that the architects have turned to a junior in the drawing office and said … “I really don’t care … just pick anything from the catalogue that fits.” In Danish design every detail should matter even if most people don’t notice … even when they are standing on it.

The two examples from Ørestad on Amager are included - in part because they are interesting and in part because they are very much in the middle of a huge building site as this phase of new apartments is finished. Canals, trees and hard landscaping are in as work progresses so people moving in first have at least some semblance of a normal street outside their door.

These are not so much drains as iron inspection covers. HOFOR is the Copenhagen water company.

Looking on their web site recently for something else I came across an aspect of city planning that I had never thought about before. There was a heading and a link to a post on heat seeking drones and it turns out that on Amager the communal heating system has pipework that if stretched out would get to Rome and then all the way back. That is partly why there are so many iron covers with some for drainage systems and others for utility services like the communal heating. The drone is used to identify leaks in the system and it works best if it is flown when it is dark and the roads are dry and it has to be flown in co-ordination with the airport. So next time the flashing lights of a drone appear immediately above you they are probably not interested in you at all but what you are standing on. 

brick cladding


Out near the beach on the east side of Amager there are large new apartment buildings that are going up and at an incredible speed because of the method of construction being used with large panels of preformed concrete lifted into place by huge cranes before then being fixed or linked together. 

Then, on the outer face, goes insulation and a veneer of brick in large sheets made in a factory …. and that is where I begin to have reservations.

read more





Research - to assess the possible impact of climate change on the city of Copenhagen - has concluded that rising sea levels together with changing weather patterns, could mean that storm winds could drive a tidal surge into the wide entrance to the harbour and cause extensive flooding in the centre of the city. 

Engineers are working on proposals for tidal defences or barriers that could be raised when necessary to keep storm water out of the harbour but Urban Power - a partnership of young architects in the city - have suggested that this is an opportunity to consider a more dynamic option … they have suggested that a man-made island could be constructed, rather than a single barrier, to protect the entrance to the harbour providing new land to develop and an opportunity to extend and link together, the infrastructure of bike routes, roads and metro links across the north and east side of the city.

read more

Urban Power


Circular Economy


A major exhibition at the Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts Schools of Architecture, Design and Conservation to show fourteen projects that offer new solutions and strategies for the development of new sustainable materials along with the development of new technologies, the exploration of new approaches to building and construction and the recycling or re-circulation of materials.

“The conversion means that we need to work innovatively and experimentally on the development of new materials and the recycling of old ones, while also using our knowledge to create solutions that people actually want to use. That is the way we work at KADK, so our research and the skills of our graduates can play a major role in terms of giving people a better life without putting pressure on our planet.” 

Lene Dammand Lund.


Through the Autumn there will be a series of open seminars to “draw on knowledge and experience from some of the world’s leading architects and designers in the field of circularity, who will be invited to talk about their work.”


the exhibition Circular Economy continues at KADK at Philip de Langes Allé 10 in Copenhagen until 3 December 2017


Nordhavnsvej and a northern harbour tunnel 



The planning proposals for Copenhagen dating from 1947, known as the Finger Plan, has served the city well as it expanded out to new suburbs in the north and the west but as the centre of the city becomes more intensively built up - for instance in the area south and south west of the main railway station - and as there is more extensive and more intensive development of the harbour and on Amager - south and east of the centre - in the opposite direction to the spread-out hand of the Finger Plan - then rather different and very ambitious engineering works for new infrastructure are needed. Extensive new road tunnels have been proposed to take traffic around the south side of the city.

read more

a new road tunnel alongside city hall?



A second major road tunnel, to the west - under the lakes and possibly on under the harbour to Amager - is now more uncertain but would have much more impact on the inner city than a north-harbour tunnel. 

It is also more controversial than the north tunnel because it would be expensive; because there would be complicated gains but possible losses and because there could be considerable disruption during construction … although, actually, most in the city seem to accept major engineering works as somehow part of everyday life now with the extent of the works and the time scale for the current work on extending the metro system.

read more

King's Garden pavilion


the King's Garden in 1784   

The temporary pavilion in the King's Garden in Copenhagen was opened officially yesterday, 18th August, and will now be used for events through the rest of the Summer and early Autumn.

In English architecture this type of roof truss is described as a "Queen Post" in part, I guess, because they are smaller than a "King Post" which is a single post immediately below the ridge or apex. Not that that makes any sense of the odd implication that there has to be two queen's for every king. It's also usual, except in a very very large roof, to have either two queens or one king. If carpenters did put in a king post flanked by queens then the queens often lean outwards and then are called queen struts.

Who knew the engineering of a roof could be such a minefield of social niceties?

Here there is no ridge piece but three long timbers or purlins on each side to space and support the 'common' rafters ... common here being nothing to do with their sense of taste or style but simply that there are a lot of them.

In the 17th century these gardens of the Rosenborg were enclosed and private, and then, as now, divided by avenues and walkways but with more of the spaces between laid out with planting and paths in geometric shapes. The aim was to delight and entertain the king and his court ... so the present pavilion also uses those ideas and those games with spaces and division to create different areas in each of the quadrants.



Knippelsbro - KULTURTÅRNET


At the centre of the harbour is Knippelsbro - the bridge between the historic centre of the city and Christianshavn. There has been a bridge here since the early 17th century when houses and warehouses were first built on land claimed from the sea in what was then a wide stretch of open water between the walled settlement of Copenhagen and the island of Amager.

The present bridge was completed in 1937 - designed by Kaj Gottlob and built by Wright, Thomsen & Kier with Burmeister & Wain - an engineering company whose works were just to the west of the bridge and whose ship yards were then to the east at Refshaleøen.

Earlier bridges had been at the level of the quay so had to be raised for most shipping to pass and were relatively narrow. As the port expanded, traffic crossing over and passing under the bridge increased so the new bridge, with a deck well over 27 metres wide, meant there could be tram tracks in each direction down the centre, wide lanes for traffic and wide pavements and, set much higher, with long approach ramps on both sides, the bridge only had to be raised for the larger ships passing through to the quays where the National Library now stands and to a long line of quays along the Islands Brygge side.

With its two copper-clad towers on distinctive stone piers, set just out from the quays, the bridge is an iconic and perhaps the iconic feature of the inner harbour.

Those towers held control rooms and sleeping accommodation for the men who supervised and opened the bridge but with the decline in harbour traffic the bridge is now controlled from the tower on the city side and the tower on the south or Christianshavn side of the bridge has been redundant for many years. A long campaign of lobbying and a serious programme of restoration work has lead to the south tower reopening as a new cultural attraction in the city. Visitors can climb up to the upper viewing gallery for amazing views up and down the harbour and in the process appreciate the quality of the well-thought through and careful design of the tower itself … now restored as one of the major monuments in the city from the 1930s that can be seen in its original form.

Some facilities were upgraded, including the fitting out of a new kitchen, so the tower can be used for social and cultural events including as a venue for meetings and meals and there have even been a couple of jazz concerts.

For information - Kulturtårnet or email l.lyndgaard@gmail.com

Dursley-Pedersen update



Back in May there was a post here about the Dursley-Pedersen bike that had just been added to the collection at the design museum in Copenhagen.

The bikes are still in production but I have still not seen any actually being ridden in the city so it was worth a trip over to Christiania - to the bike workshops of Christiania Cykler there - to see the current models.

I’m still not sure how people on these bikes cope with Copenhagen cobbles or is that the real benefit of that long low-hung hammock for a saddle - or cope with the pressure and rush of a Copenhagen peloton at full speed on a commute over one of the bridges and through the traffic. 

The options for different handlebars and modifications to the arrangement of the frame were impressive but I did note that none of the bikes in the showroom had that viscous-looking spike as all the bits of the frame came together above the handlebars in the early version … surely lethal if you hit a rut or a drain at the wrong angle and go hurtling over the top when the bike stops abruptly. Versions had the handlebars at the top so if they are straight then the posture is upright … sort of more Dutch … but some had handlebars that swept down like demented bull’s horns. Perhaps that’s the way to deal with pedestrians who try to cross when their little man is on red and your light is on green … 




A new bridge for cyclists and pedestrians was opened in the south harbour area of Copenhagen in October last year. 

Constructed over the Belvedere inlet - a narrow cut at the end of Frederiksholmsløbet - it connects Frederiks Brygge with Enghave Bryyge and completes a 13 kilometre circuit around the inner harbour for walkers, runners and cyclists and allows local cyclists to avoid heavy traffic on Vasbygade.

Designed by the architect SLA, this bridge is 25 metres long and is a generous width at 6 metres across. 

The sides or parapets are formed with large but thin tabs of steel that appear to have been folded upwards at different angles so they are close to vertical at the centre of the span but drop outwards and downwards in stages until they are almost horizontal towards the banks. It feels as if the bridge is open and welcoming as you approach and then gradually encloses you and protects you as you cross before opening out again as you reach the far side.

This folding is reminiscent of origami, of course, but it also looks a bit like the effect you get as pages of a book drop open.

There are three folds … the first just up from the bottom to form vertical at the bottom where the panel is attached to the side of the deck of the bridge so the next part is angled out. Then there is a fold up to form a vertical section that is more pronounced towards the centre and then, except on the outer tabs, a fold for a narrow almost horizontal section outwards to make what is, at the centre, the handrail of the bridge.

There is a striking contrast between the colour of the outside of the parapet in deep shiny iron-oxide red - rather like a Chinese lacquer red - and a matt grey inner surface and deck that is rubberised to reduce noise and provide better grip for bike tyres.

Sydhavnen - South Harbour - is an extensive area of new and ongoing redevelopment below HC Ørstedsværket - the power station at the south end of the harbour. The bridge is actually temporary and will only be here for about eighteen months before a permanent bridge - designed by the architectural practice COBE - is built to cross Frederiksholmsløbet to connect Enghave Brygge and Teglholmen.