Copenhagen is the city of bikes. There are said to be more bikes than people … five bikes for every four people … and the statistics are mind boggling. Each day people in the city cycle 1.27 million kilometres. I’m not sure how that was calculated but if it was organised as a relay race it would be the equivalent of team Copenhagen riding around the World 1,000 times EVERY DAY.
There are five times more bikes than cars in the city but of course that doesn’t mean that there are no cars in Copenhagen … you can pile all your shopping plus all the kids and an elderly relative onto a cargo bike without any problems but how else could you get that lot out to the summerhouse without a car?
So for maybe 20 years, with many of the new apartment buildings constructed along the harbour and around the city, a common solution is to excavate first and build underground parking below the block.
The other planning imperative in the city is for open space where children can play and adults exercise … despite all that cycling an amazing number in the city run and then insist on adding a few pull ups and squats. This means that many larger apartment buildings have a courtyard with play or exercise equipment or apartment buildings are set around a public square or open space with play and exercise equipment. This seems to resolve several problems. Apartments in Copenhagen are generally larger than in cities like London or New York or Hong Kong - many are over 100 square metres and some over 200 - but even with balconies that does not stop people getting stir crazy and needing open space but also, of course, attractive space, used in a practical way, means that public space is appreciated and well used public space is much less likely to be vandalised.
In the new development in Nordhavn a slightly different approach to the problem of parking cars and getting exercise is being tried. The density of housing that is being built on former dock yards is higher than that of many recent developments and presumably excavation of deep car parks, on what has only been solid land reclaimed from the sea about 100 years ago, would be a challenge so here at Helsinkigade the solution is to build a large well-equipped public square and then hoik it up into the air by 24 metres and slip a multi-storey car park underneath.
model for the extensive new development around Århusgade in Nordhavn that is currently part of the exhibition at the Danish Architecture Centre on the work of the architectural studio of COBE. P-Hus Lüders is at the centre of the three buildings - on the far side of the canal - with the pronounced angle of the east end following the alignment of the canal. There are apartment buildings on either side and shows clearly the proximity of the Silo - just to the right - to the north - but set further back and there is the distinct shape of the two giant cylinders of the former concrete silo to the left - to the south - and set back slightly from the wharf of the Nordhavn basin.
A competition in 2013 for a design was won by jaja architects and the work was completed and opened in the Autumn of 2016.
It is a substantial building, roughly rectangular although the east end is set at an angle determined by a canal between the main area and an oddly angled island beyond to the east. Parking is accessed from the ground level with seven floors or decks of parking above. There is a massive circular ramp for cars is at the east end and rather than having separate ramps, for going up and coming down, this has two lanes together so like a road spiralling to the top. Space around the ramp is dramatic, open through the full height. There are places for bikes to be left here and there will be lockers where people can leave possessions while they exercise on the roof … yup this is for serious exercise.
Access to the roof is by long straight flights of steps with one staircase up the south side rising to a landing at the east end of the south side but with intermediate landings at each level. The north staircase actually starts on the east side of the building, by the entrance to the bike store, and then turns the north-east corner to continue up the north side and again with intermediate landings at each level and each landing with a door into a parking level.
the full run of the staircase that rises up the south side of the building to the north-east corner of the building ... one of two staircases that give access to the car decks and the roof
the east end of the south side of the car park (above) and the staircase with pierced panels of Corten steel and planters (below)
portrait of Ferdinand Lüders at the landing of the north staircase at the north-east corner of the building
detail of the pierced holes in the sheets of Corten steel that face the building - there are doorways at each landing of the external staircases for access to the car decks
Perhaps the most striking feature of the building itself is the metal cladding. For adequate ventilation much of the metal sheet is an open-weave grill but on the staircases there are large sheets of Corten steel 3mm thick pierced with 20mm holes - like pixels on a screened newspaper image - to form a montage of scenes and characters from the historic docks in a bold design by Rama Studios. Their web site has drawings of the whole design and good photographs of the Corten panels as they were fixed into position as work on the building progressed.
The steel has the normal deep rust-red colour of Corten and this is picked up not just by the red metalwork of the exercise and gym equipment and the handrail of the staircases but also in red concrete for the steps of the staircases and large red planters on the side of the building at various levels that presumably will hold trailing plants.
The building is named after Ferdinand Lüders who came from from Odense and was a naval officer who trained as a mechanical engineer. He was an inspector of naval dockyards before being employed in Copenhagen from 1860 to build docks and wharves and was promoted to “harbour captain” or master of the port. The road was called Lüdersvej until 2013 when it was renamed Helsinkigade.
On the roof there is fixed equipment for a cross training gym and a sprint course as well as areas for ball games although the fencing is relatively low so if play gets a bit over enthusiastic then it’s a long way down and back to retrieve a ball.
For children there are swings and trampolines, climbing ropes and at the centre an amazing spiral rope walk. The surface is soft and in shades of red with red painted metalwork for all the equipment and the red is taken down the building as the colour for the handrails of the staircases.
From the roof there are incredible views across the city to the south and west, to the northern area of Nordhavn and the terminal for cruise ships and across the harbour and the sound to the east.