restoration and inspiration - the mast sheds on Holmen


the mast sheds from the south - from the island of Christiansholm - with the north end of the Arsenal to the right and two long ranges of the magasins for naval stores beyond


In the middle of the 18th century the area of the harbour to the north of Christianshavn in Copenhagen was established as royal dockyards for the Danish navy and a number of islands were formed by landfill. Frederiksholm was formed in the late 1740s and the famous map by Christian Gedde shows the two long storehouses of the Arsenal in line - the buildings now behind the modern Opera House - as outlines suggesting that they were planned but not at that stage built and on either end, to the north and south, were shown mast sheds. The northern sheds have been lost but the row of seven mast sheds at the south end of the Arsenal survive.

The Masteskure - the mast sheds - are on the south side of Galionsvej at the harbour end. There are seven sheds in a row each about 10 metres wide and just under 40 metres long with the narrow ends to the harbour with wide double doors to each shed. They were built in 1748 and were used to store the masts and spars of the naval ships … the masts and rigging were dismantled and stored and only re-fitted as the ships were prepared for battle. In line to the south is a later taller building now with two floors dating from 1829 and called the Mærshuset. This translates as maiden's house … the maiden apparently being the round look-out platform towards the top of a mast.

The buildings were restored by the architects Frank Maali and Gemma Lalanda and the work was completed in 2009. Land around the buildings had risen over the years so they were raised up by just over 80cm so they do not appear to be in a hollow.

Work included new gullies and drains and roof lights set back so they are not obvious from the quay. The rain water is thrown out from hoppers into a cobble-lined gulley around the building and there are steps and landings in corten at each door.

The restoration is striking and in a typically Danish way introduces innovative and good modern elements to allow the buildings to be used now as offices and showrooms. The architects were nominated for the prestigious Mies van der Rohe Prize for this work.

Frank Maali & Gemma Lalanda - architects