Refshaleøen - what's where + what's on


There are good sign boards at Refshaleøen - one with a map showing the location of the main food stalls and the main buildings - including the new gallery space for Copenhagen Contemporary - and the other with the dates of main events here through the coming summer

maybe click / download / save / zoom ?

or information on line at REFFEN


if you like to eat your food straight out of the container .....


Popular food stalls that were in the warehouse on Papirøen - Paper Island - are back but on a new site further north - out on Refshaleøen - the island that until the 1990s was the yards of the ship builder Burmeister & Wain.

Called Reffen, the first phase is an open area with the kitchens and food stalls in shipping containers grouped around a new square and running down a short street towards the water of the harbour. The next phase will be more food stalls but inside in a hall in a former workshop.

There is open space that will be used for events and the newly reopened gallery of Copenhagen Contemporary is in massive former workshops just to the east.

Get here by taking the harbour ferry or a 9A bus that runs out here frequently from the central train station - this is the last stop where it turns round and heads back so you can't get lost - or you could always come out to Refshaleøen by bike.

There is a short description of each of the food stalls online on the Reffen site along with information about opening times and details about events.



select any image to open the photos as a slide show


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

the IRMA hen

Irma Chicken.jpeg


the famous roof-top neon sign of the egg-laying hen was installed in 1936 to advertise the supermarket IRMA .... the Schepler family opened their first store selling eggs, milk and butter in 1886 at Ravnsborggade 13 a block back from the lake ... but the sign was dismantled around a year ago for the roof to be rebuilt and for building work on a new or remodelled attic apartment

the sign is back and its return will be celebrated by a special festival on Saturday 26th May starting at 4pm with, appropriately, an egg and spoon race around the lake

upcoming work on the forecourt and entrance to Designmuseum Danmark

Work will start in May on some major changes at the design museum with plans for the alterations by COBE … the Copenhagen architecture and planning studio. 

The museum is in an important 18th-century building that was a hospital. A cobbled forecourt with iron gates and imposing stone gate piers along the street is flanked by detached pavilions that were part of the original construction - the pavilion to the right being the hospital pharmacy - but these are not currently used by the design museum for the public.

The main building faces you as you enter the courtyard and the entrance is in the centre of the front, emphasised by a pediment. Through the door there is an outer hall flanked by staircases and with access to cloakrooms on either side and then there is an inner hall, directly opposite the entrance, with the ticket desk and information, in a relatively small square space overlooking a large internal green courtyard beyond. The museum shop is at the left-hand angle of the building currently in three rooms but also with storage space. 

The ticket desk and the museum shop will be moved into the forecourt level of that right-hand pavilion so visitors will have to do a hard turn to the right as they come in through the gateway from the street into the forecourt … not difficult but then not obvious … and then, after passing through the shop and a new cafe, they will have to leave the pavilion and cut back to the centre of the main front, crossing the back of the forecourt, to enter the museum by the present door. 

One obvious advantage will be that people will be able to visit the shop without having to buy a ticket and it will free up important space in the building for exhibitions and the display of more objects from the permanent collection.

This being Copenhagen, better provision has to be made for bikes for the number of visitors who arrive on two wheels so there will be a new set of bike racks between the pharmacy pavilion and the main front of the building, tucked away behind the new cafe ... most visitors seem to leave their bikes in the forecourt. 

photograph and drawing from COBE


Certainly, the forecourt comes alive during major events at the museum - like the night of culture in October when there were braziers and displays out here - so, in effect, to move the museum out to welcome the visitor in, COBE have proposed that there will be several purpose-built display cabinets outside and the cobbles of the forecourt will be relaid - presumably to smooth out the fairly uneven surface there now - and there will be tables and chairs here for the new cafe. 

The stone steps up to the main entrance will be removed and replaced with a long ramp for access … to replace a ‘temporary’  metal ramp there now that sits over the stone steps.

I admire the work by COBE enormously but here do have some reservations. The building has a symmetry that is a strong part of its character and a certain severity, because it was a hospital, that again is important as a deliberate and original contrast with the exuberance and decoration of many of the 18th-century palaces and grand houses in the adjoining streets.

Kaare Klint, when he oversaw the conversion of the building, to make the hospital into a museum, carefully and deliberately respected that symmetry. It was almost an obsession … the pair of staircases in the front range and the pair of staircases on the opposite side of the building might be taken to be original but were designed by Klint. Also Klint was meticulous about his choice of colours and finish … everything in the building is of a high quality and everything is properly made but it is always restrained and always stays on the right side so can never be described as mechanical … Klint pursued quality and craftsmanship but not perfection for its own sake and that gives even the plasterwork - or the cobbles - a warmth and a texture that is nowhere mechanical or cold.

That is why, perhaps, the the cobbles or setts of the forecourt should not be too regular and do the placement of large outside display cases and new trees in the forecourt possibly distract from the design of the front?

the existing stone steps up to the entrance of the design museum and the even grander stone steps at Amalienborg to show how these worked in terms of architectural rules and conventions in the 18th century and the bull-nosed moulding and the decorative tooling on the stonework are essential and typical features of 18th-century work


on the opposite side of the museum, Klint created an entrance for deliveries into the main courtyard and this was treated like carriage arches in the city with steps omitted and the cobbles running right up to the door


Sunday of the recent Easter weekend. It shows just how busy the museum is and actually this is not a sign of an over-slow ticket system ... the museum was overwhelmed and for a short time had to slow down access to let new visitors in only as people left. While I was there no one in the queue complained and no one coming into the forecourt turned away on seeing the queue so that's quite some endorsement of the reputation, success and popularity of the museum 

Obviously the ramp up to the door is understandable but again there is a subtle point to be made about the original architecture. The carefully-designed and well-made stone steps up to the doorway have two functions … first to give that sense of entering - so a deliberate and important transition from outside to inside - but also the dark line of the stone has a visual role … perhaps rather subtle but it is a use of correct architectural grammar absolutely appropriate to this classical building … the horizontal line of the darker stone of the steps is almost like a punctuation mark or an underlining of the door. Take that away and it weakens the composition of the facade.

Look around the streets here and you can see how carefully architects and masons designed and made entrance steps. This does does not and cannot trump the right that visitors have for direct and easy access to the museum so one solution would be to pull the stonework of the steps forward, to create a level apron or landing in front of the door - there are good classical precedents for such a design - and then take the ramps in cobbles or stone down each side. That might even work better with the new approach line from the left-hand door of the pharmacy building where people will move from the ticket desk area to the museum itself.

Kengo Kuma to design the new aquatic centre in Copenhagen 


10 April 2018

It has just been announced that the Japanese studio of Kengo Kuma will design the new aquatic centre on Christiansholm … the island at the centre of the harbour in Copenhagen that is generally known as Papirøen / Paper Island because the Danish press stored newsprint in the warehouses here. The most recent use has been for popular food halls, a gallery for modern art, various design studios and quite a lot of covered car parking.

The key feature of the new building will be high brick pyramids - to follow the overall scheme for the island from COBE - but the swimming pool at the main level is to have glass on all sides for panoramic views and there will be a terraced walkway and shallow pools stepping down and forward towards the harbour.

Reffen / The Reef


On Papirøen - Paper Island - immediately south of the Opera House and opposite the national theatre - the popular food hall and the large gallery space of Copenhagen Contemporary closed at the beginning of the year because all the buildings here are about to be demolished for redevelopment of the area with plans for the construction of large new apartment buildings and a swimming pool.

However, a larger and much more ambitious version of the Papirøen food halls are set to open further out at Refshaleøen … an island at the north end of the harbour that was formerly the site of the B&W shipyards and engineering works and perhaps famous recently as being the venue for the Eurovision Song Contest.

The plan for Reffen is to attract here not just the sellers of gourmet food who were so successful on Papirøen but for this to also be a venue for cultural events and to attract crafts people and design people to not just sell out here but to have their workshops here. There will be a strong emphasis to reduce and reuse - to use local produce to reduce transport and of course recycle or reuse … so there will be a strong environmental agenda.

"The hope is thus to create a new place in Copenhagen that with a sustainable point of departure is a melting pot of amazing experiences that attract and inspire both locals and tourists - a place that can be seen, tasted, heard and felt both locally and internationally."

It will cover a large area - around 10,000 square metres - much larger than the Paper Island warehouses - and they are talking about leases for 10 years so this should become a well-established destination for both people from the city and for tourists.

Plans show three areas … a large market place, a covered hall in old machine shops and an open area  for events on the city side of the huge hall where music events and so on are held.

Refshaleøen is at the end of the harbour ferry line and through the summer there will be direct boat links from Nyhavn - the ferry terminal by the Playhouse - and tourists boats will also come out here … and of course you can get here by bike.

BLOX ... progress


Shuttering and fencing are now down from the city side of the building and everything looks as if it is moving fast towards the opening in May.

With the completion and the opening of BLOX imminent, it is worth subscribing to the news updates.

It was recently announced that staff are to start moving across from the Danish Architecture Centre - from their current building in a warehouse on the other side of the harbour - and that the restaurant / café are to be run by the Meyer company. The sections of the new bridge over the harbour are now being assembled off site but will be moved here in the summer for the bridge to be completed and opened in the Autumn. Work on the intermediate piers is finished and they are capped off and the metal barriers marking the channel for boat traffic and there to protect the piers have been installed.



CPH Light Festival 2018



CPH Light Festival is running through February, with Frost Festival 18, with sound and light installations around the city.

The Wave, by Mikkel Meyer and Jonas Fehr, has returned for a second winter at Ofelia Plads on the harbour immediately north of the National Theatre and on the other side of the harbour to the Opera House.

There are forty triangles, each 4 metres high, set in line along the mole. The light responds to the movement of people as they walk down through the triangles and the haunting sound carries across the harbour to the park beside the Opera House.


The Wave, Ofelia Plads, Copenhagen 4 February and 25th March

programme of the installations for CPH LIGHT FESTIVAL

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


Proposals for Dokøen - the area around the Opera House

The Opera House from the north west


Designed by Henning Larsen Architects and completed in 2005, the Opera House dominates the central harbour in Copenhagen … in part because, obviously, it is a very very large building but the scale is exaggerated by the open areas to either side with lawn to the south - over an area about 140 metres by 140 metres - and on the north side an even larger space 160 metres by 160 metres that is now mostly car park but divided by a dock running back from the harbour and with a historic brick pumping house that dates from the 19th century along with massive gantries of two harbour cranes that were kept when this part of the dock was cleared.


The original scheme included large apartment buildings that were to have flanked the Opera House but with the onset of the economic recession that phase of the development was put on hold. 

New proposals, under discussion, are to proceed with building the apartments planned for the north side of the Opera House around the dock - retaining the cranes and the pump house - but for the area to the south the new plan is to construct a large underground car park and then reinstate the area of grass for a new park with landscaping. 

It has been suggested that the quay facing across towards the harbour - facing towards Ofelia Plads but now set back and at an angle - could be pulled forward to line up with the edge of Papirøen to the south. Would that be a gain? It might make the harbour too regular - too much like a wide canal - and there is another potential ‘loss’ because any development and even more dense planting will in part hide and will reduce the visual impact and impressive scale of the two long historic blocks along the canal to the east that were warehouses but are now converted into homes.

Kultur Natten ... reporting back


Actually it’s difficult to report back on Kultur Natten - or at least on the night overall because, even with careful planning, and even trying to pick a sensible route, it is impossible to see everything you want. This year there were around 250 different venues around the city and in many of the main buildings and the galleries and museums and theatres there were full programmes of different events all through the evening.

And then part of the real pleasure of these events is that you get caught up in watching a demonstration you hadn’t even planned to see or you ask a question and you find yourself pulled in by someones enthusiasm and expertise. So this is a bit of an impression … my impression … of some of the places I managed to get to see … and some of the queues I saw in passing.

For many people in the city Kultur Natten is their chance to see inside some of most important buildings in in the city that they walk past most days, but where normally access for the general public is restricted …. simply because from Monday to Friday these are busy working places … but from 6pm until midnight on Kultur Natten, not only is there open house but in most of the buildings people are there to explain what they do and why and in some you get to explore what goes on beyond the public areas. 

So this year I took this opportunity to look around the Eastern Courthouse - built in the 18th century as an opera house in what was then the new town around the Amalienborg Palace - and then went to the City Court House - in what was, through the 19th century, the city hall until the present City Hall was completed in the early 20th century - and then on to the present and famous city hall itself where I joined thousands of people exploring the council chamber, function rooms, amazing staircases and the archives.

Of course there were long queues of people keen to get a first look at sections of the new metro before it opens and as always the government buildings of Christiansborg and the State Apartments and the kitchens and royal stables on the island were incredibly popular.

This was the first time since it was almost-completely rebuilt that I have been into the DI building - the headquarters of Danish Industry close to the City Hall - apart that is from seeing exhibitions in the entrance.

A new exhibition of photographs City Struck opened at the Danish Architecture Centre and this will be the last major exhibition here in the present building before they move to BLOX - a new building close to the National Library. 

There were light shows on many of the buildings and food stalls and beer tents and coffee places everywhere ... the smell of roasting marshmallows in the courtyard of the Design Museum was amazing. And there were jazz bands and performances and I heard several times in the distance military bands and I know there were choirs singing in several of the churches and in the Thorvaldsen Museum.

And everywhere there were special displays and demonstrations so, at the Design Museum, people watched to see how a craftsman from Carl Hansen makes the seat of a wishbone chair in paper cord. At Realdania there were demonstrations of carpentry and people could try their hand at brick laying or blacksmithing and Heidi Zilmer was there to talk about the amazing wallpaper she recreated for the house of Poul Henningsen in Gentofte that was recently restored by Realdania and, of course, there were staff there to talk about the important historic buildings Realdania own, preserve and, where possible, open to the public.

It’s important to describe the good humoured sort of carnival-like atmosphere around the city as people line up to get into the places they really want to see - the line of people outside the gallery at G L Strand was amazing - and although most events are open until late - many until midnight - it really is an evening for children and families ….. I’m sure there are regulars who get there as the doors open to get to the huge collection of Lego brought out at the Danish Architecture Centre ….. and kids get a chance to watch special events in the theatres or the Opera House and they can explore the stage or see the scenery up close.

This is all driven, in part, by the idea that Copenhagen belongs to its citizens and, when possible, they should have access to its buildings and organisation, but really it’s about pride and enthusiasm … the enthusiasm of the people who work for the city and its galleries and its administration and its companies and the enthusiasm of the citizens for what goes on in their city.



Kulturtårnet on the bridge - Knippelsbro

Light show in the courtyard of the Design Museum on the gable of the pavilion of the old pharmacy

The new exhibition at the Danish Architecture Centre and children looking at a display outside the entrance

Heidi Zilmer at Realdania talking about the wallpaper that she recreated for the house of Poul Henningsen in Gntofte

Loius Poulsen where there was open house in the show rooms on Gammel Starnd

The Department of Industry

The inner atrium of the City Hall with people looking at the building and meeting staff and looking at stalls about the work of the council and the city

Chart pavilions



This weekend is the Chart Art Fair at Charlottenborg in Copenhagen. With the expansion of the Fair to Chart Architecture and Chart Design, five temporary pavilionshave been constructed in the courtyard …..

  • ALGAE DOME by Aleksander Wadas, Rafal Wroblewski and Anna Stempniewicz
  • ADAPT by Harry Clover, Jack Cripps, Sebastian Gatz and Fabian Puller
  • STICK BOX by Miki Morita, Suguru Kobayashi and Keita Shishijima
  • PAPER PAVILION by Kazumasa Takada, Yuriko Yagi and Yohei Tomioka
  • SUNDAY TEMPLE by Mia Frykholm and Astrid Gabrielsson 


the Chart Art Fair continues at Kunsthal Charlottenborg through to 3 September 2017


Kulturhavn - the harbour festival



This weekend it is Kulturhavn - the harbour festival of culture in Copenhagen - with events not just in the central harbour but over the eight kilometres from Nordhavn to Sydhavn and with everything from demonstrations of belly dancing to an oom-pah-pah band on a boat sailing around the canals to swimming and kayak competitions. 

This was celebrating diverse culture - in the broadest meaning of the word culture - so what has this to do with a design blog? Well, rather a lot.

For a start - with historic working boats and tall ships moored in the central harbour - you realise that here are all the key elements of good design … a clear pushing of the boundaries of what was then up-to-date technology; an appreciation of the best materials and the skills with tools and machinery to work them along with a strong sense of style … so here is a key part of the Danish design heritage. We might not have talked and written about Form and Function in design until the 20th century but we didn’t invent the concept.




The noise and bustle on Ofelia Plads - the recently rebuilt wharf by the national theatre - brought back some of the vitality of the docks when they were working with ships loading or unloading. New apartments along the harbour are fantastic and no one would have swum in the docks then - or at least not for leisure - but it was the working harbour that is the very reason that Copenhagen is here and why it thrived. It is great that some of the cranes and rail tracks and bollards, where the ships tied up, do survive but maybe not enough. 

So the festival is a reminder of just how vital the water way of the harbour is to the city and it is to the credit of the planners that since the navy and commercial shipping moved out in the 1990s they have done so much to not just reuse the buildings and develop the land but are trying to put the harbour very much at the centre of life in the city.

It really is an incredible resource.


view of what is now Ofelia Plads when it was a working wharf

the harbour cranes to the east of the Opera House

Papirøen - Paper Island



Papirøen or Paper Island is at the centre of the harbour in Copenhagen, opposite the National Theatre, immediately south of the Opera House and north of Christianshavn. The settlement of Christianshavn, with its houses and warehouses and canals, dates from the early part of the seventeenth century when land was first claimed from the sea between the old city and the low-lying island of Amager. Then, for nearly a century, the area of water to the north of Christianshavn provided sheltered moorings for naval ships but a map of 1710 shows a new arc of distinct and recently-constructed defences curving out and round towards the Kastellet - towards what is now Refshaleøen.  

In stages, over the following centuries, new islands were created within the defences, divided by canals or open areas of moorings, with extensive boat yards and stores that were primarily for the navy but then, through the late 19th and the 20th century, increasingly for commercial trade. The distinct rectangular island now known as Paper Island, but officially Christiansholm, and the island immediately to its south, Arsenalholm are shown on a map of 1749 much as now but then linked by a central bridge rather than the current bridge at the west end of the canal between the two islands.

By the 1990s both the navy and commercial shipping were moving out of the central harbour and there is a fascinating account by Klaus Kastbjerg - about how he acquired the island - that was published in the catalogue for Our Urban Living Room … an exhibition at the Danish Architecture Centre last year about the work of the architectural firm COBE.

COBE have drawn up the master plan for the redevelopment of this prominent site at the centre of the harbour and construction work will start at the end of the year. 

Although not everything in the scheme has been finalised, drawings have been published over the last year or so that show a mixed development around a large courtyard or public garden with taller blocks of apartments but on the ground level there will be large halls that replicate, to some extent, the spaces of the warehouses that have become such a popular venue for Copenhagen Street Food and for Experimentarium - before they moved to new buildings in Hellerup - and now the gallery space of Copenhagen Contemporary. The public walkway around the island on the quay will be retained but with stepping down and timber terraces for getting to the water to swim or to get to moorings.

The style of the new buildings has been inspired by the materials and the pitched roofs of historic warehouses and workshops along the harbour. Three of the apartment buildings rise up to 12 or so storeys and even the lower buildings will be much more prominent than the relatively low warehouses here now but sloping back of the upper floors of the buildings - to give a tapered silhouette - will reduce their impact when seen from below and should, if the colours and textures of the facing materials are not to stark, add some focus and vertical interest to the skyline of the waterfront rather than dominating it.

Copenhagen Contemporary



This independent art institute was established in 2015 and from June 2016 has occupied space in redundant warehouses on Papirøen - Paper Island - where paper for printing newspapers was stored. This will provide a venue for exhibiting art and installations and performance and light shows until the end of 2017 when work starts on new buildings here.

The gallery has a wine bar and a store and with evening opening and with the attraction of the food halls in the same warehouses this has become a very popular destination for tourists and for local people particularly since the completion last summer of the new bridge over the harbour.

There is a full programme of exhibitions and events through to the end of the year.

Artbar as a venue for meeting will continue through Cph Art Week from 26th August through to 2nd September.

Copenhagen Contemporary

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.



Allépavillonen in Kongens Have


Work progressing on building the Allépavillonen in Kongens Have - the summer pavilion in the King's Garden in Copenhagen.

The pavilion - by the Swedish architects Krupinski / Krupinska - was the winning design in the annual competition by the Architects Association and will open from the 18th August.

Krupinski / Krupinska Arkitekter

TÅRN - a Knippelsbro guide



For the reopening of the bridge tower, the team behind the restoration work have produced a combined guide and magazine. Narrower pages attached to the cover have a good selection of historic drawings, old photographs and information about the building of the bridge and its operation.

Inside is like a good art magazine with a selection of newspaper cuttings about the bridge and some interesting photographs of odd objects found as work on the restoration progressed but there is also a review of the art installation Between the Towers by Randi Jørgensen and Katrine Malinivsky at Arken; what appears to be a declaration of love for the Eiffel Tower; an essay about the symbolism of towers through time and much more.