Karen Blixens Plads

approaching the square from the metro station at Islands Brygge


Designed by the landscape and architecture studio COBE, the square is at the centre of the south campus of the University of Copenhagen and is one of the largest public spaces in the city.

The square, with work just completed and now open, is approached either from the north, from the metro station at Islands Brygge, or from the south from the direction of Amager Fælled.

The main area is paved with pale bricks and the main feature is shallow brick domes that cover part sunken areas for leaving bicycles but they also form areas fr sitting out and reduce what was a bleak and almost overwhelming space because of the size of the open area.

To the south the shallow circular mounds are repeated but heavily planted and with winding pathways between them that create more sheltered areas. Several sunken areas have wetland planting and control run off of rain water.

earlier post on Karen Blixens Plads from June 2017 when work began

approaching the square from the south - from Amager Fælled


Enghave Plads

Vesterbro - the part of the city immediately west of the central railway station - is a densely-occupied area of apartment buildings with most dating from around 1900.

This was a strongly working class part of the city with the main rail line forming the southern boundary and with the meat markets, gas works and the harbour presumably supplying much of the work and the Carlsberg brewery was, until a few years ago, to the west.

The street pattern of the district is complicated with two main roads - Istedgade and Sønder Boulevard - running out at an angle from the railway station at the north-east to the south east but with secondary cross streets of traditional apartment buildings running north to south and there are also several streets running across the area from south east to north west so it a complex pattern of a grid but overlaid with a Saint Andrew cross so some streets meet or cross at odd angles.

At the south end of Istedgade is Enghave Plads - a large open square much wider east to west than the distance across from north to south and it narrows at the centre. This square is where several tram routes met so it was always an important point in the area and immediately to the west is a very large square with a major public garden - Enghave Parken - that has large apartment buildings on the north, west and south sides so the two spaces run together though divided by a busy main road - Enghavevej.

Enghave Plads is the site of one of the major new metro stations on the new circle line that will open at the end of September. The east end of the square and some of the surrounding streets have been boarded off for about a decade with major construction work for the metro but the boarding has just been taken down and the space with it's new landscaping opened officially.

There are large areas for leaving bicycles across the north or darker side of the entrance steps to the metro station but across the south side of the metro entrance there are raised beds with Corten edging and long raised bench seats and then to the west more open space for events. This area has striking new seating that has deep red slats on a black metal frame and these form great bold curves though the initial reaction to the seating has been mixed - some asking exactly why people would want to sit next to each other in long rows even if they are curved. Mature trees to the west, along the main road, have been kept and provide a baffle against the sound of traffic and shade for more seating and an area that is fenced for ball games.

Copenhagen Metro

Vesterbro with the main railway line to the south, the MeatPacking district in the cirve of the railway and the main railway station top right
Enghave Plads just left of centre and Enghave Parken towards the left side

Enghave Plads from the east with the square of Enghave Parken beyond

tram leaving the square and heading along Istedgade towards the railway station … the area between the buildings and the central space has been paved over and the main through traffic has been restricted to the north side of the square


the grimmest or the most brutal?

the Radisson Blu Hotel on Amager Boulevard manages to loom over Christianshavn. Lurking at the end of the street, this could have a bit part in a spy film about an ominous state watching every move of its citizens

walking along the canal from the back or south side of the Opera House, it is there, at the end of the view from nearly 2 kilometres away


walking down towards Højbro Plads you get your first view of Christiansborg and there is the hotel, well over a kilometre away but filling the gap. Maybe not looming but there and once you see it there then you can’t unsee it


There are very obvious problems with the design of the new office building at Østerport - its unrelenting horizontality, odd raspberry ice cream colour and insensitivity to the good historic buildings nearby and the important green space of the Citadel opposite for a start - but, for me, by far the ugliest building in the city is still the Radisson Blu Hotel on Amager Boulevard by Ejner Graae and Bent Severin that was completed in 1973.

It is an ugly and brutal tower that dominates it's location overlooking the trees and the water of Stadsgraven - the historic outer defences across the south side of the old city - but, worse, it is a thug of a building that can be seen from all over this part of the city. It is like a infeasibly tall and scruffy waiter at a wedding celebration and when the guests look back at their photographs they find that somehow he manages to be there, looming in the background, of most of them.

About the only time it looks anywhere near presentable - the hotel not the waiter - is when there is mist and frost hanging over the water or at night when looking down Frederiksholms Canal and the lights of the rooms form a bit of a book end to the view.

…. hardly a ringing endorsement and what really is astounding is that for a time last year there was a planning application, sort of hanging over the city, for permission to add another ten floors to the tower … permission that had been part of the original design but had somehow been omitted as the hotel went up as if even the builders ran out of energy or malice.

On the canal through Christianshavn, look down one side and perhaps the only criticism you could make is that it is too nice to the point of being bland - I wouldn’t agree but you could argue that a bit of spice improves a dish but look down the other side and there is the Radisson breaking the roof line even when you get lower on the quay and try to cut it out


On Frederiksholm Canal you are over a kilometre from the hotel. Look north and the tallest building - a marker on the skyline to get your sense of place and orientation - is Vor Fruhe Church in a view barely changed since the Thorvaldsens Museum opened further along the canal in the 19th century. Look south and there, dead centre, is the Radisson. Only at night does it seem to contribute something to the view but it is hardly good architecture if it is best seen in the dark.


Christian IV


location map from the notice of consent granted by the city of Copenhagen

A new statue of the Danish king Christian IV has been unveiled by Queen Margrethe.

It stands at the corner of the forecourt and the ramp up to the main entrance of Børsen - the Royal Exchange - a building that was commissioned by Christian IV.

The statue of the king is in bronze and by the Faroese sculptor Hans Pauli Olsen. It is close in the pose and for the costume to a portrait of the king painted by Abraham Wuchters in 1638 or 1639 where Christian is wearing high riding boots that are loosely fitted with the tops folded down, has his left hand resting on his hip with the right hand outstretched and has a neat beard, heavy head of hair and the famous long, thin, plaited pigtail.

The statue is set on a high stone plinth from where Christian looks across the front of the palace of Christiansborg.

That plinth represents major buildings commissioned in the city by Christian IV with The Round Tower and the distinctive twisted spire of the Exchange and the spire of the tower of Christian's palace of Rosenborg but curiously the stone tower flanked by the spires in bronze are all upside-down … said by the sculptor to be the city that Christian built reflected in water.

The tower is set on a shallow mound in the cobbles that is slightly rustic and also slightly odd as if the whole thing is erupting from the ground.

The cost of the statue has been controversial as has the rather traditional style of the work. A new statue to Christian was first suggested in 2009 but in 2014 the design was rejected by Rådet for Visuel Kunst i Københavns Kommune - the Council of Visual Arts in the City of Copenhagen - on the grounds that "the sculpture does not reflect a contemporary art expression, and therefore lacks sufficient justification and relevance in the present."

The city finally gave consent for the statue by Olsen in January 2018.


Christian was born in 1577 and he was only 11 when his father died. Initially the country was  governed by a regency council but Christian was deemed to have come of age when he was 19 and ruled Denmark from 1596 until his death in 1648.

Through his major building works Christian, more than any monarch, influenced both the plan and the appearance of the city. He remodelled the castle and made Copenhagen the centre of his administration and he commissioned major buildings that are still prominent features of the city including the Brewhouse and Arsenal to the south of the castle; Holmens Kirke - the church of the Royal Navy on the other side of the canal from Børsen - consecrated in 1619; Rosenborg - a private royal residence away from the castle - that was set in formal renaissance gardens on the edge of the city and completed around 1624; Børsen - The Royal Exchange - begun in 1624 and completed in 1640 and The Round Tower and its observatory and Trinitatis Church begun in 1637.

In 1626, Christian initiated work on the north defences of the city that was to become the Kastellet - completed after his death - and he began major engineering works to claim land from the sea - just off the shore and wharves of the old city - and where first Christianshavn was laid out, a planned new town, with defences around the south side and a new south gate to the city and then those defences were extended out to the north to enclose a vast area of sheltered and protected moorings for the naval fleet … an area of water that was subsequently filled with a number of large islands and canals that became the naval warehouses and dockyards of Holmen.


Kunst i Byudvikling / Art in Urban Development

Kunst Realdania cover.jpeg

Realdania have just published a report on sculpture and art in public space that is aimed at municipalities, development companies and other professionals to inspire them "to consider art as a value-creating asset in their own projects."

“Culture and temporary activities are often included in urban development to open up new urban areas and give them identity, involve local citizens, or attract investors and outsiders.”

Christine Buhl Andersen, director of the Glyptotek in Copenhagen, has written an introduction or overview and she emphasises the importance of art in public space …  "art is increasingly used strategically to make urban areas, urban spaces and buildings vibrant and attractive."

The report points out that art in public spaces has a clear role in helping to create a good urban environment but requires a partnership between politicians, architects, planners, developers, builders and artists.

Works of art can be used to decorate or to improve urban spaces and buildings but can do so much more … "art can give the individual building identity, create experiences and contribute to the well-being of the building's users."

established art in public space


sculpture of the Glyptotek in Copenhagen


Sculpture can be part of an outdoor exhibition space … the Glyptotek itself is a good and long-established example with sculpture on and around the building providing open access to art, with decorative portrait busts in niches across the entrance front, decorative panels and the heads of exotic animals, on the building itself; figures, many of workers, on the lawns on either side of the building, and across the back of the art gallery, on the opposite side to the entrance, there is a quiet, pleasant public garden that is also an outdoor gallery for a broad selection of statues.

Much of the sculpture in Copenhagen commemorates major figures - either from the city or national figures including, of course, monarchs, statesmen and major academics, scientists and literary figures.

These are busts or full length figures but there are also more complex representations of the lives of people … an interesting sculpture by Elisabeth Toubro has been added to the line of more traditional busts on plinths across the front of the old university buildings on Frue Plads that commemorates the life and work of the mathematician and seismologist Inge Lehmann.


commemorating and remembering through public art …
a statue of Hans Christian Andersen by Augustus Saabye in the King’s Garden: Gottlieb Bindesbøll by Kai Nielsen in the courtyard of Designmuseum Danmark: Steen Eiler Rasmussen by Knud Neilemose at the Royal Academy buildings on Holmen:
a traditional bust of the physicist Niels Bohr at the front of the university buildings on Frue Plads and the less-traditional monument close by to Inge Lehmann by Elisabeth Toubro

traditional art in public spaces


Litauens Plads - art, sculpture or street furniture?


to mark the site of the important engineering works of Bumeister Wain there is a timeline set in the grass behind the sculpture

Now, many sculptures are designed to be sat on or climbed over and many have an important role in public spaces by encouraging people to sit in or use the space. Are the lines of low cylinders along the edge of the square at Litauens Plads street furniture? The red bird nesting boxes in the trees above suggest a complicated, diverse and subtle use of art works here.

Some artists can be reticent if they feel that their art is there simply to make the area more attractive or, worse, if it is there to increase the value of a development and politically it can be difficult if local people cannot relate to works; find them irrelevant or see the obvious cost as a waste of funds that might better be spent on supporting social projects.

The report looks at several major projects that have included public art in public spaces from the design stage with the examples of new sculpture incorporated into the new developments of Køge Kyst, south of Copenhagen, and Kanalbyen in Fredericia where there has been collaboration to integrate art from the start. 

An ambitious new scheme for public art is evolving at Arken, the major art gallery to the south of Copenhagen. There has been extensive re-landscaping immediately around the art gallery but, because many visitors and tourists come out from Copenhagen by train, Arkenwalk will link the railway station at Ishøj to the art gallery down on the beach - a walk of 2.2 kilometres - with the final design selected after a completion that was entered by 27 teams of artists and architects. The new "art axis" will be marked by very distinct red lamp posts.

new street art


The Wave - an interactive light installation by Frederik Svanholm, Mikkel Meyer and Jonas Fehr

the bike and foot bridge by Olafur Eliasson - public art or engineered city planning?

hoardings around the engineering works for the new metro station at Trianglen painted by Benjamin Noir


Superkilen in Nørrebro in Copenhagen

Public art is not restricted to sculpture - or at least not what would traditionally be seen as sculpture. Superkilen in Nørrebro has lines of stools and tables marked out with board games and the Circle Bridge by Olafur Eliasson, opposite the national library, with its lighting, blurs the boundary between engineering and public art. Paintings on the high fencing around the sites of the engineering works during the construction of a new Metro line has provided an opportunity for a major project in public art.

Many of these more recent projects, including newer forms of public art in light or with projected video art or sound, are about social engagement but public art can have an important role in attracting people through an area to make it feel used and safe rather than empty and abandoned or underused and under appreciated.

The report identifies a general change in the response to art in the streetscape. It suggests that there is a growing reaction against public art that is temporary or experience orientated or projects that are designed to attract tourists and a move towards "liveability", so art enhancing everyday life for local users of the space … a move towards appreciating art that brings joy, beauty, curiosity, a specific sense of a specific place so context and consideration - in the sense of thoughtfulness - back to enhance how we see and use and occupy public space.

It also includes more mundane but important and practical summaries about realising projects; about determining frameworks and about practical matters of planning for operation and maintenance and even a reminder about seeking information about rules covering Tax and VAT.

Above all the illustrations show just how diverse and just how imaginative public art in public space can be. 

Kunst i Byudvikling

private art in public space?
a rack for bikes outside the bike shop on Strandgade in Copenhagen
pedals of the stand from a failed experiment to ride side saddle?


Sankt Kjelds Plads - climate change landscape

Sankt Kjelds Plads in July 2018 - looking towards Hahnemanns Køkken - the cafe on the north side of the square


the same view in April 2019


Sankt Kjelds Plads is in a densely-built area of older apartment buildings about 4 kilometres directly north from the city hall.

Many of the buildings here date from the 1930s but there are large modern office buildings and large and relatively recent industrial buildings and a large supermarket to the west.

The area has a distinct urban character with relatively wide streets but little planting and not just on street parking but also fairly heavy through traffic. From the air you can see that most of the large apartment blocks have extremely pleasant courtyards with planting but the real problem for this area is that climate change has meant occasional but very destructive flooding from sudden rain storms with traditional street drainage unable to deal with surface water on the streets and with rain running off the roofs of the large buildings.

The solution has been to put in fast-flowing storm drains, surface channels to take water away to tanks or sumps where it can be controlled, and, where necessary, filtered and then released into the drainage system but at an appropriate rate. These sudden storms may last for only an hour but in that time there can be a depth of 30 centimetres of water across the road that stops traffic, floods basements and ground-floor apartments and businesses and takes road-level pollution through the drains and to the harbour and the sound.

Along with this hard landscaping of drains and surface gullies, the other solution is extensive planting that absorbs rainfall - apart from the most severe storms - and adds considerably to the amenity value of the street scape.

Here at Sankt Kjelds Plads, seven roads converge at what was a very large traffic round-a-bout. That was planted with shrubs and trees but it certainly was not a place to sit. In fact, with the heavy traffic, it was not a place where many people even cut across.

With the current scheme, small areas of pavement in front of the buildings have been pulled forward and the traffic discouraged and the round-a-bout reduced significantly in size. The new areas are densely planted and have pathways curving through them with seats . Sunken areas will flood when there are storms, to act as holding tanks, but have planting that will cope with short periods of partial submersion.

This will be the first full growing season for the trees and shrubs and ground cover so it is not fair to judge the scheme until everything becomes more established but already the transformation is obvious.

This large open space links through with the climate-change landscaping of Tåsinge Plads, about 85 metres away to the east, and the main north south road through Sankt Kjelds Plads - Bryggervangen - is also being planted to form a green corridor from the large park - Fælledparken - to the south and continuing through to an open area and pond to the north beyond Kildevældskirke.

post on Sankt Kjelds Plads July 2018
post on Tåsinge Plads July 2018


aerial view of Sankt Kjelds Plads after the main landscape work on Tåsinge Plads had been completed - the thin triangular street space on the right towards the bottom - and just before construction work on Sankt Kjelds Plads began so this shows the original traffic island and areas for people to walk kept to the edge immediately in front of the buildings

Three architectural and landscape design companies worked on the scheme - SLA Copengagen, Tredjure Natur and GHB Landskabarkitekter - and their online sites have more information and more images.

by SLA

the new climate district - by Tredje Natur

GHB Landskabsarkitekter

looking across Sankt Kjelds Plads from the south side - although it is hard to see through the new planting, the traffic island is still at the centre but has been reduced significantly in size


proposal for the scheme by SLA Copenhagen showing the green corridor from the church in the north and down to Fælledparken to the south


New drains and new planting along Bryggervangen - north of Sankt Kjelds Plads with the church at the north end
note the grills covering large buried drainage channels and the cover to a sump in the sunken area of garden where storm rain water will be held until it can be released into the main drains


Gammel Strand


the official site for the city Metro has news, general information, drawings and a short description of the new stations along with pdf plans of the area around each station at street level

Work is moving forward fast on the hard landscaping at street level above the new metro station at Gammel Strand … a station on the new circle line that will open later in the summer.

The steps down to the platforms and the glass covered lift tower are in place and setts are now being laid in the traditional scallop pattern across the main area so the new arrangement for this important historic street is becoming clear.

There was consultation with local businesses and local residents. Vehicles will be excluded, apart from deliveries, so the only through traffic will be a new narrow bike lane but with markings showing lanes to cycle in both directions.

The existing road, now being removed, runs parallel to the building frontages with just a narrow pavement so with little space for outside tables and chairs for the restaurants here. With the bike lane set forward closer to and parallel to the canal there should be much more space for people to sit outside and the gentle curve of the bike lane takes that bike traffic along the side of the canal further west rather than running as the road does now through in a straight line to Snaregade.

There will be steps down from the street level of Gammel Strand to a lower canal-side level for access to boats but as a sun trap it will certainly be used by people simply wanting to sit and watch what is happening on the water.


The work at street level around each station is crucial. People will quickly get used to the new arrangements of steps and paved areas and new road alignments and, inevitably, find it difficult to remember what each area looked like before …. particularly as the disruption of major engineering work has meant temporary arrangements and high hoardings around many parts of the city for many years.

The precise arrangement of steps and lifts and the crucial bike stands will be important not just for how each station deals with the numbers of passengers each day - estimates suggest that 18,000 passengers a day will use Gammel Strand - but the planning will determine the way people use the area immediately around each station.

Here at Gammel Strand, many using the Metro will be heading to or coming from the parliament buildings at Christiansborg on the other side of the canal so the steps up and down from the east end of the platform are double width. It seems that, in part to respect the historic quay side, and reduce the impact of the new station superstructure, Gammel Strand will not have skylights found on most of the existing stations to throw light down, between the escalators, to bring as much natural light to the platform as possible.

Gammel Strand was a commercial quay backed by warehouses and merchants’ houses but for many years it was also the fish market until it was moved out south down the harbour to Fisketorvet.

Fishwife by the sculptor Svejstrup Madsen - set up on the parapet wall of the quay in 1940

Fishwives continued to trade here long after the main fish market was moved


Lille Langebro


The four sections of the new cycle and pedestrian bridge have arrived from the Netherlands on a gigantic barge and are being lifted into place … the work started yesterday and it looks as if all the sections will be in place today.

These photographs show what will be the first fixed section from the city side as it was taken off the barge by a huge floating crane and swung across the harbour and lowered into place to be guided down by engineers on the quayside by BLOX and engineers in two small boats by the pier in the harbour. The sections in place, in the photographs, are the first section from the Amager side and the part that swings open on the the city side - general views are photographed here from Langebro.

The bridge will be completed by late summer and then the opening and closing of the swing sections will be controlled from the bridge house on the existing road bridge.

just a couple of thoughts:
It was impressive watching all this play through so quietly and smoothly - sort of flat pack for the the real pro - and I guess they didn’t find there were bits missing when they unpacked it at this end.
More serious though is a rhetorical question …….
… this bridge is all about cycling, here in the city of bikes, but the cyclists are just shifting from one bridge to another. The numbers are pretty amazing - up to 40,000 cyclists are said to cross the harbour each day using the existing bridge - but will Lille Langebro encourage otherwise reluctant cyclists to abandon their car for a bike to travel between Amager and City Hall? It will be interesting to see figures for the bike traffic using the bridge over the next few years.
As new and very substantial infrastructure, this has to be a big debit on the carbon account.

earlier post
earlier thought

Growing Smart Cities in Denmark

This report from Arup Smart Cities was commissioned by the Danish Ministry of Foreign Affairs and was published in 2016. It makes important points that should be considered alongside a recent report on updating the Finger Plan and a major report on an initiative for the development of the Copenhagen region. Planning for future urban growth has to factor in new technology and the role of smart data.

Growing Smart Cities gives a brief overview of the approach to digital and smart technologies in the Danish cities of Copenhagen, Aarhus, Vejle, and Albertslund and, for context, brief assessments of developments in smart technologies in other countries.

The report identifies a growing number of companies undertaking research and developing projects but one aim of this report is to find ways for these to be scaled up and to find ways to ensure that they are carried forward.

The approach is two-fold, looking first at growing smart Cities in Denmark - so at digital technology for urban improvement and mentions several times the word liveability - but, for obvious reasons, looks at the financial and investment potential of developing these new technologies in Denmark.

There is encouragement for education to address a potential shortage of people with appropriate digital skills with a need to teach a new generation of students who will be qualified when research departments scale up projects - to take them forward - and to work with business who now have to assess long-term returns from what is often considerable investment.

The conclusion is that "Denmark has an opportunity to become a world leader in smart cities."

Obviously Copenhagen is an optimal size with 600,000 people in the city area and about 2 million in the greater metropolitan area - there are mega cities but they have specific problems - concepts developed in Copenhagen could be applied to the vast majority of large cities - but Denmark is also trying out smart data systems in smaller communities. The concern is to make systems work together between different cities and across different systems and different standards.

Generally, people in Denmark already have a proactive approach to the problems of climate change with a positive acceptance of new technical solutions that are being developed - from wind-driven energy to the control of cloud-burst flooding - and the report suggests that there could be a similar and favourable attitude to smart technology.

The report emphasises that Denmark has a strong record for citizen participation which is clearly important. There is a high use of current technology in the country - 85% use the internet every day where the EU average is 65% - and the report cites the example of wind energy - a technology where Denmark is now a world leader.

In fact, Denmark is top of the table in EU countries under five criteria: 

Connectivity / Human Capital / Use of the Internet / Integration of Digital Technology / Digital Public Services

It is also interesting that the report identifies that Denmark is strong in design, architecture and technology and education and has a well-developed health system where the benefits of new technology are clear so citizens are receptive to change.

Generally, good urban design is associated with liveability so people should be open to using smart technology if a user-centred approach is taken. There is a caveat. Danes appreciate good design so digital technology should be well received providing it is "simple, easy to use, and unobtrusive." 

The report recommends that to encourage the development of smart technology the government has to:

Develop municipal digital governance
Strengthen city collaboration
Clarify standards and regulation
Address public concerns
Communicate the opportunity


download full report from ARUP


related sites:
 Copenhagen Solutions Lab
Copenhagen Street Lab
Copenhagen Data
Space 10

Snaregade and Magstræde

the east end of Snaregade from Gammel Strand (top left) - the building to the left is the courtyard house now used by the Minister of Culture

the warehouse of Sthyr & Kjær rebuilt in 1903 with the frontage 6 metres back from the historic street line


the area in the middle of the 18th century from the map by Christian Gedde
the canal is along the bottom

note there were then buildings at the west end of Gammel Strand, the building occupied by the minister of culture then had a courtyard open on the side towards the canal

the L-shaped building at the corner of Knabrostræde and Magstræde had that front courtyard by the mid 18th century

the warehouse of Sthyr & Kjær is on plot 33 of the 18th-century map - the small house with a small courtyard behind at 32 survives and the warehouse was built out across a range to the west that in the 18th century was part of the building on plot 42 of what was then Wand Mölle Stræde but is now, more prosaically, Rådhusstræde

 Life Between Buildings 1

Gammel Strand, now in the centre of the historic city, is approximately on the line of the foreshore and the first wharves of the early settlement and, up to the late 16th century, someone standing here, could have looked south, across the short distance to islands where the castle was built, and, beyond, the north shore of the island of Amager well over a kilometre away.

Now, Gammel Strand has the canal along its south side with Borgen, the castle, on the other side of the canal. The space gradually widens out to form what is, in effect, a long triangle and across the west end is a large courtyard house, now the ministry of culture, and then there are two blocks of buildings, beyond the courtyard house, between there and Rådhusstræde, with the line of the building frontages of Gammel Strand continuing on as the city side of a narrow lane that is first called Snaregade and then, beyond a cross street Knabrostræde, continuing as Magstræde.

This narrow lane, Snaregade and Magstræde, is just 7 metres wide at the Gammel Strand end and barely wider along the whole length. This is essentially a street with no space, let alone space for Life Between Buildings.

The buildings vary between two and four floors, some with half basements and with relatively narrow but irregular plot widths. In this party of the city you get a very clear idea of just how tightly packed the buildings were within the city defences by the late middle ages. Many of these buildings, close to the wharves, appear to have been owned by merchants and there would have been workshops as well as store rooms and living accommodation here - some of it quite grand.  

There is little space for any street furniture and few places to stop and no seating but actually it is one of the most beautiful and certainly one of the evocative streets in the city.

It demonstrates many of the points mad by Jan Gehl in his book Life Between Buildings.

For a start, the narrowness means that the details of the building become much more important as you are walking hard against the frontages, and you can see, where you cannot look directly into the windows of ground-floor rooms, just why householders gained privacy by raising the lower rooms above a half basement of storeage space or workshops so the ground-floor rooms are actually half a floor above the street or in grander houses the main living rooms could be on the first floor.

Also important is that although short - just 700 metres for the two streets in line - the frontages of the houses curve in and out so you cannot see from end to middle - let alone end to end - so you see more of facades ahead even though the street is so narrow.

Signs become important and few of the buildings had or have shop windows … a relatively late introduction in most cites and towns.

The street is as attractive as it is because of the variety and the quality of the historic buildings but it is important that the street has setts rather than tarmac. There are narrow foot paths but note virtually no yellow lines. One of the most civilised aspects of the historic centre is that Danish drivers generally respect parking restrictions with simple signs and little more than a small yellow triangle on the kerb.

Only in two places does the street widen out. At the middle where Snaregade and Magstræde meet at Knabrostræde it looks as if the house at the north-west corner has been rebuilt as some stage as as L-shape against the adjoining buildings rather than as an L-shape along the street lines.

Towards the west end of Magstræde, a five storey brick pakhus or warehouse for Sthyr & Kjær, sugar merchants and makers of matches, was constructed in 1903. The street frontage was set back just over 6 metres to create a forecourt the width of the building - 11 metres wide - presumably for loading and unloading but also to allow more light in through the windows here now 13 metres rather than 7 metres back from the buildings opposite.


Life Between Buildings 2

This square in the centre of the historic centre is on the land of a Fransciscan monastery founded in 1238 and closed in the late 16th century when the land was used for houses of various sizes. Most were rebuilt after the fire of 1728.

This is now one of the most picturesque old squares in the city but is a bit of a hidden gem tucked away on the north side of Strøget - The Walking Street - behind Heligaandskirken. It is a triangular space about 70 metres long and just 45 metres wide at the inner end and 20 metres wide at the east end where the narrow end of the square has the street called Niels Hemmingsens Gade runnng across.

Most of the entry points into the space are through alleys or secondary pedestrian spaces off the square such as Kejsergade and the space is covered with setts and is free of vehicles apart from access for deliveries.

Around the square are cafes and restaurants that have tables outside and there is surprisingly very little street furniture. This is a space for walking, for looking and for sitting outside to eat and drink. There is an oddly placed Pissoir - at least tucked away but across the small side space of Kejsergade.

There is a large stone water feature - Vandkunst - by the Danish sculptor Søren Geog Jensen with the date 1971.

The main feature of the square is a large Plane tree at the narrow end protected by old iron railings. Benches are set around the tree to look outwards … Jan Gehl observes that people prefer to sit with their backs against something - protected and so they can look outwards at activity n the space even if they are not taking part. There are other benches around the square but generally set back against the front of buildings and the other main street furniture is simple modern street lights.

When the square was first pedestrianised it was popular with students from the university nearby and some comments suggest it was sometimes too crowded for the size but is generally now quieter and is unusual in the city because there are no shops.


about 1900 with a market building in the centre


map by Christian Gedde showing the square in the middle of the 18th century

Copenhagen's biggest urban carpet

Life Between Buildings 3 - Israels Plads by COBE

In 2016 there was an exhibition - Our Urban Living Room- Learning from Copenhagen - at the Danish Architecture Centre that looked at the work of Dan Stubbegaard and his architectural office COBE established in 2006. In the catalogue, the work by COBE on redesigning the large public square at Israels Plads - completed in 2014 - is described as “Copenhagen's biggest urban carpet” and there is a sketch of the square with the surface drawn like a giant Persian rug with tiny people on it and the corners rucked up.

These corners of the carpet are now the bold steps rising up across the south-east corner of the square and a prominent V-shape of steep steps at the north-west corner of the square that covers an exit ramp from the underground car park below the square.

Israels Plads has new trees in a bold pattern of circular planting and seating areas; courts for sport; play equipment for children; open space for events like flea markets and plenty of areas where people can sit and watch was is happening here.

With this extensive new work, the square is now closely linked to a large and well-used public park immediately to the west and is adjacent to Torvehallerne - very popular food halls - immediately to the east, that opened in 2011. This is all just a block away from the major transport interchange of the station at Nørreport - an area also remodelled by COBE - so within a few years, and with justification, Israels Plads has become one of the most popular and best-used public spaces in the city.


Until the late 19th century, this part of the city was just outside the old defences - the banks and ditches that surrounded and protected the city - just outside the north gate and immediately to the west of the important road leading up to the gate. The road came through what is now Nørrebro and crossed the lakes before crossing the ditches of the defences. A large park immediately to the west of the square has part of these defensive ditches retained to form a large lake.

When the defences and the gate were removed around 1870 this was still a main road into the city and as the city grew rapidly out to the north, with big apartment buildings, the square was left as an open space and was used as a market area - the Grønttorvet or vegetable and fruit market - for produce brought to the city for sale.

The market remained here until 1958 when a new wholesale vegetable and fruit market was built in Valby, out to the west of the city, and the square was then used as a huge car park.

In 1973 an underground car park was constructed and football pitches were laid out on the square itself. I can remember coming to a flea market here on one of my first trips to Copenhagen. I can't remember if I bought anything but I do remember that several long rows of stalls set out along the east edge of the square hardly made an impression on the huge space and I remember that I came away with a thick coating of dust over my shoes.

Israels Plads at the centre with Torvehallerne - the food halls and open-air market between the halls to the east and Ørstedsparken and the lake - from the outer defences to the west and to the south, one block away, are the roofs of the pavilions of the public space above Nørreport station


the area beyond Nørreport or North Gate in 1860 before the defences banks were dismantled and before much of the water-filled outer ditch was built over

Over 260 metres long, this large space should really be seen as two distinct areas with Vendersgade between the two parts.

The east half has two large food halls with the main road into the city - Frederiksborggade - across the east side and Ørestedsparken - a large and well-used public park - is at the west end. There are good apartment buildings along both long sides and including a church and a large and important school. All these buildings date from the last decades of the 19th century. The roads along both long sides of the space have some access to vehicles for deliveries but only Frederiksborggade has relatively heavy and continuous traffic including buses.

Israels Plads itself is 150 metres long from Vendersgade to the edge of the park - Ørestedsparken - and 105 metres wide from Rømersgade across the north side of the square to Linnésgade across the south side from the facades of the buildings to the facades of the buildings opposite.

These are good buildings, generally of four or five stories, and they define and enclose the space.

The square itself is free of vehicles and the edge is raised with quite a high step that has a distinctive iron edging to prevent cars driving up even to park briefly. There is parking under the square for 1150 cars - the largest in the city - with the entrance for cars down a spiral ramp at the south-west corner and the exit by a ramp at the north-west corner but what is important is that traffic cannot drive across the west side of the square - across the access from the square to the park. Cars, driving into the car park, come from Nørre Voldgade and barely get into the square before they are taken down the ramp and cars leaving are directed away from the square immediately they leave the exit ramp to leave the area by Nørre Farimagsgade.

There are four pedestrian access points for people leaving their cars or going back to retrieve their cars but these have open glass boxes with a relatively light structure over lifts and staircases and payment machines so these are barely obvious in such a large space.

The key to the popularity and to the success of the space is that it is large enough to take very different events and activities, often at the same time, and yet there are few fixed uses, apart from the the sports area, so there is considerable flexibility … it is people who decide what they want to do here and not the space or the street furniture that dictates what they do.

However, having said that, the space and the placing of street furniture is done with considerable care and subtlety to manipulates - to some extent - how people move through the space and certainly to direct where they look. There is a very clever use of diagonal lines so particularly the raised areas of steps across each corner lead you towards park at one end and out towards the food halls at the other.

COBE was also responsible for the redesign of the large street-level space above Nørreport railway station - just one block away - but there the design was approached from the opposite direction. Nørreport is the busiest transport interchange in the city with a large bus station and with suburban trains, below ground, and the metro below that so COBE started by tracking how people moved across the space at ground level as they arrived at or left the station and fitted new buildings and areas for leaving bikes in the spaces where they walked least. At Israels Plads it was an large open space - so almost a blank sheet of paper apart from the access points for the car park - and the design here is about placing street furniture to enhance and, in an almost subliminal way, control how people use and move through the space.

Paving is laid out as a large grid, like giant sheet of graph paper across the whole area, with 16 large squares across and 25 along marked out by bands of darker stone or long, narrow drain covers and then, within each square, a regular layout of rectangular slabs. This pattern rises up the outside slopes of the large raised areas of steps across the two corners to bring these into the overall design but also to reduce their impact when seen from the side roads.

The main features of the square and the street furniture are set in a series of circles of various sizes with the largest being for sport with two courts surrounded by a high fence although this fence itself is made a distinct feature by being arranged as a spiral climbing up from a main but narrow entrance point to keep footballs and so on in play. The surface of the sports area is sunk down slightly from the level of the main part of the square and there is an eccentric oval of soft surfacing that forms a bank around the sports courts where people sit to watch.

A second main circle is a shallow bowl for skate boarders and then there are a series of circles framed by a flat rim of iron with circular seats and with single trees and low ground-cover planting.

These circles are taken out into the space of the park and form what is almost a scalloped edge. Originally, there were railings that formed a distinct barrier between the square and the park but the road and the railings have been removed, across the end of the square, and the level of the square taken out as an apron, just beyond the line of the fence, to link together the two areas - park and square - and also to increase the impact of the change of levels from the square to the slope down to the lake in the park.

Across the front of the steep bank of steps at the north-west corner is a stone rill or water feature that gets wider towards the park with a series of fountains and with iron circles forming a bridge across before the water drops down through a series of circular basins down the bank.

The rill forms an effective division between the area where people sit on the steps across the angle of the corner to watch what is happening on the square. The rill keeps most skate borders to the square itself but also acts as a strong visual element, running at an angle, that leads people towards the centre of the west side and to the series of ramps down into the park.

The effect is that trees from the well-planted and well-established park seem to come up into the space of the square so depending on the direction you are walking you move from the busy city space at the metro end, through the bustle of the first part of the square and through the busy food markets to the area for sport and exercise and areas for people to sit and watch what is going on and then on to where the trees become larger and you enter a transition point where you come to grass but with an iron-covered edge so you step into the park and then down a steep bank, down gravel paths, to the lake. The other way round, of course, if you start at the lake, you are well below the square and hardly aware of what is happening there but as you climb up and enter the square you move into a more and more urban and more and more busy city space.



Torvehallerne was opened in 2011 and is now a very popular destination - not just for tourists but for local people and for people, heading home from work in the evening, who stop here for a drink or an early-evening meal.

The two food halls are large - each 50 metres long and 24 metres wide - and are set parallel some 21 metres apart so there are food stalls and market stalls outside in the space between the two halls.

They are set back from Vendersgade, the road that divides the two parts of the square, but there is much more space at the east end where the halls are set back from Frederiksborggade to form a  square. This is important because it separates out and differentiates different functions so the large space, at the far end away from Israels Plads, has outdoor eating and is busy with lots of people here well into the evening and it has a distinct city feel … there is an entry to the metro just outside the square towards Nørreport. At the west end people sit immediately outside the food halls, out in the sun, to have a coffee or they cross the road to the main part of Israels Plads to eat snacks or drink while they sit and watch what is happening on the square.



Life Between Buildings 4


Copenhagen has a number of linear parks of which the most ambitious is Superkilen in the district of Nørrebro just to the north of the city centre. The north section of the park forms a green wedge down from Tagensvej - a major road - and continues through to Nørrebrogade and then, across that main shopping street, the series of parks runs on to link with Nørrebroparken.

Superkilen or Super Wedge follows the route of an old railway that cut through the district which explains the long narrow site with much of it behind buildings. There is a mixture of architecture, including some good industrial buildings that have been adapted to new uses, and some apartment buildings look down on the space but, unlike a square or street, it is not enclosed or defined by building facades. 

In strict architectural terms, the shape of the park seems odd and irregular with space leaking out so the opposite of Skydebanehaven or Shooting Gallery Park in the city that is enclosed by housing so that it is almost like a secret garden or secret playground owned by the community.

However, at Superkilen, if space leaks out, that means that the opposite or reverse is true, so spaces run into the park to draw local people in to make it a strong and important part of everyday life in the neighbourhood.


This area that has seen a number of public disturbances for a number of different reasons but having written about the recent publication of a new government policy for ghettoes in Denmark it seemed important to highlight the rejuvenation of this public space as a deliberate and very positive intervention by planners for social reasons.

Work started in 2010 and the park was completed in 2012. The team behind the design and its realisation was BIG, the architectural firm of Bjarke Ingels, with Toptek 1 and the Superflex group.

The park is 750 metres long and runs north from the main shopping street of Nørrebrogade with the entrance to the area just to the east of the railway station at Nørrebro, and it continues up to Tagensvej with just one road, Mimersgade, cutting across about a third of the way along. This is a local road and a clear and open crossing seems to work well with cars slowing down or stopping to respect cyclists and families going from one part of the park to the next.

At the south end, at the shopping street, the park is 85 metres wide, so open and inviting people in, but at parts it narrows down to 25 metres so there is a sense of spaces opening out and closing in so, deliberately, this is as far as possible from the idea of a regular and formal avenue.

The cycle route here is important and is well used with cyclists moving quite quickly but again there seems to be little conflict with families with small children using the play facilities here. This being Copenhagen, the awareness of bikes and the way pedestrians and cyclists coexist is clearly recognised … cyclists at other times are pedestrians and pedestrians at other times are cyclists and children learn to ride bikes from an early age so if there is not always a mutual respect at all times there is an almost instinctive understanding by one group of how the other group uses the space. The cycle route here is, actually, part of a much longer cycle route that runs from Valby in the south, up through Frederiksberg to Lyngbyvej in the north so it's a great green arc of almost 10 kilometres across the west and north side of the city.*

There are three distinct sections to Superkilen. The first, immediately north of the shopping street, is the Red Square with a distinctive red surface just replaced with red brick paving. On one side is Nørrebrohallen - now a major sport facility - so this part of the park is used for team sports and activities.

Just over Mimersgade, is Black Market with closely set but wavering and twisting lanes that are marked out with white lines, and then, beyond that, the largest area is a green park.

The cycle route runs with sweeping curves along the full length but footpaths, in some parts flanking the cycle route and in others breaking away, are deliberately less rigid to encourage people to move from one area to the next.

Perhaps the most distinctive feature of the park, and what has contributed to its fame, is the play equipment that varies from tables and seats marked out with board games to exercise equipment. This is an area with immigrant families who have come from a very wide range of countries and the community was consulted so fixed features and seating - some 108 features in all - reflect the ethnic diversity with designs inspired by things in home countries or physically sought out and imported to be set up here. These range from manhole covers from Zanzibar to a Donut sign from Rochester, Pennsylvania and a Monkey-puzzle tree from Chile.

Some of the features are for activity so climbing and areas to run and climb for kids (of all ages) who may be living in small and cramped apartments. There is much here that encourages people to stay and interact with other people in the community so there is are various seats, tables with board games, fixed barbecues for cooking a meal outside and a band stand and the success of this is clear as the area is well used.

There are community facilities along or close to the park and it is hardly surprising that art and design companies have been attracted to the area: JAJA Architects ** and Tredje Natur are here and their trial for climate-change paving at Heimdalsgade is just off the park on the east side in front of a popular café. 

Bjarke Ingels Group
Video on Louisiana Channel
108 objects and their history


* Superkilen will be part of a city-wide system with 110 kilometres of cycle routes across and round Copenhagen
** JaJa used the same striking red colour from Superkilen for the surface of the play area and exercise area they designed for the roof of P-Hus Lüders - a car park in Nordhavn

the harbour and the future of Nyholm

The Danish Navy maintain an important though reduced presence in Copenhagen - with the main naval bases for the country now in Frederikshaven and Korsør - but there are plans for much that is still here to be moved away from the city and recently there have been discussions to decide on the most appropriate use for the historic naval buildings on Nyholm.

This is an important part of the harbour and not simply because Nyholm is prominent on the east side of the entrance to the historic inner harbour but also because the island has an important and symbolic place in the history of the city. On the emplacement at the north end of the islands are guns for official salutes to mark royal and national occasions and the flag flown here has huge significance.

When the royal yacht returns to Copenhagen, it is moored immediately north of Nyholm.

There are important historic buildings here including two of the most extraordinary buildings in the city … the Mast Crane that is an amazing example of maritime engineering and the Hovedvagt or Main Guard House with a feature on the roof that looks like a giant chess piece. Both date from the middle of the 18th century and both are by the important architect Philip de Lange.

photograph taken from the harbour ferry as it pulled in at the landing stage just below Skuespilhuset - the National Theatre.

Nyholm is the island between the Opera House and Refshaleøen and at the centre of this view is the distinct silhouette of the 17th-century Mast Crane

the cormorants are on an artificial reef that was created in 2017 to encourage biodiversity in the harbour. The University of Aarhus has produced a report on the Restoration of Stone Reefs in Denmark


land from the sea

With the ongoing development of the north harbour and the large new island that is planned to, in effect, link Nordhavn with Refshaleøen, it is too easy to think that claiming large areas of new land from the sea for building is a modern phenomenon achieved with modern engineering and modern technology but, of course, in reality, the city has been building out into the sea for over 400 years.

If you are standing on Gammel Strand now, then you are right in the centre of the built up city but if you had stood there at the end of the 16th century you would have looked across a wide area of open water to the low-lying island of Amager about 2 kilometres away and with just a few islands between including the island with the royal castle standing just off the shore.

Even back then Gammel Strand was hardly on rock-solid ground as wharves and warehouses had been built out from the shore as the importance of the port meant more and bigger ships trading here but it was Christian IV who deliberately and with foresight developed the naval dock and used Dutch engineers to set out and construct a series of canals and islands for a new town for merchants that is still at the heart of Christianshavn.

Initially, naval docks were developed on either side of the castle with warehousing for supplies and shipyards and rope works.

Christianshavn was protected across its east and south sides by high banks and a defended gate to get to and from Amager - in case armies landed on the island and attack the city from the south - but the main development of the harbour came in the middle and the late 17th century when these defences were extended in a great arc eastwards and north to provided sheltered and defended moorings for the naval fleet … a segment shaped area that is over 1.5 kilometres from, Christianshavn to the entrance to the harbour at Nyholm, and, at the widest point, almost a kilometre across.

Through the 18th and 19th centuries more and more islands were constructed within this area leaving canals and areas of open water so that naval stores, shipyards, barracks and so on could be moved out from the area around the castle.

With all this major work, commercial merchant shipping also moved out from the centre both north, eventually as far out as the Free Harbour opened in 1904, but also south with new wharves built out from Islands Brygge that remained busy until the 1960s. The last stage of the development, in terms of claiming land from the sea, was as recent as the 1950s with the development of Refshaleøen and its ship yards beyond the naval area and later again, at the north edge of Amager, oil facilities and waste and sewage and water treatment works.

If you are looking at the source of the wealth and the political and economic strength of the city, and therefore, to some extent, the country, then the greatest single resource, over half a millennium, has been relatively shallow and relatively sheltered coastal waters where it has been possible to construct artificial islands so the city can expand and prosper.

That is precisely why any future development out into the sea has to be debated and considered and questioned because it is an exceptionally important resource and like so much else it is running out … or at least the areas close to the city has been exploited. New islands will be more of a challenge, will demand more infrastructure - as they are further from the centre - and will have at least some impact on the character of the city as it is now.

future development on Nyholm

In Danmarks hovedstad Initiativer til styrkelse af hovestadsrådet / Denmark's capital city Initiatives to strengthen the metropolitan area - a government report published in January 2019 - it was suggested that there could be housing on Nyholm but surely the island is too important to be relegated to an expensive development plot unless perhaps new buildings are linked back to the navy so, for instance, for a naval hospital or naval retirement home.

Intensive development on Amager and at the South Harbour was justified because releasing land there for dense housing developments was lucrative for the port and city authority and money raised was used directly to finance the construction of the Metro. There is no such financial imperative for Nyholm and very expensive and, presumably, very exclusive apartment buildings should surely not be the immediate go-to solution for any and every planning scheme in the city.





detail of map from 1860
this shows the Nye Dok - the first stage of what is now the island of the Opera House - and ‘Toldbod Bom’ which restricted access to the moorings of the inner harbour but was also a foot bridge from the city side of the harbour to Nyholm … at the beginning of each working day men would wait at Toldbod and if selected would cross to the dockyard but If not selected there was a possibility of work in the afternoon although only if they waited
What is now Reshaleøen was then open water so from the Kastellet there was a clear view out to the sound and guns could be fired across the entrance to the harbour if the city and the harbour were attacked


1  Rigets flag og batteriet Sixtus / Kingdom Flag and Battery of Christian VI
2  Elefanten / the Elephant - the quay or mole 1728
3  Nyholms / Main Guard House “Under the Crown” by Philip de Lange 1744
4  Masterkranen / Mast Crane by Philp de Lange 1749
5  Planbygningen / The Plan or Drawing Building 1764
6  Marinekaserne / Marine Barracks of 1910 by Valdemar Birkmand
7  Arresten / Judgement? 1891
8  Spanteloftsbygningenby 1742
9  Østre Takkeladshus  / East Thankyou House store for rigging 1723-1729
10  Vestre  Takkeladshus / West Thankyou House 1729
11  Søminevæsntes værksted / Sailmakers' workshops 1878

looking across to Nyholm from the south - from the canal to the east of the opera house

Spanteloftsbygningen looking across the canal from the south east

The Mast Crane from the south with the low but wide Drawing Building to its east

Søminegraven - the canal along the east side of Nyholm from the south

Hovedvagt - Main Guard House or ‘Under the Crown’ from the east designed by Philip de Lange

Workshops at the south-east corner of Nyholm built in the late 19th-century


Forslag til Fingerplan 2019 - Landsplandirektiv for hovedstadsområdets planlægning

Suggestion for Finger Plan 2019 - National land directive for the planning of the metropolitan area

the new Finger Plan has a series of maps to illustrate changes to planning in the area around the historic city of Copenhagen


A major revision of the famous Finger Plan of 1947 was initiated in April 2016 and after a period of public consultation - when the 34 municipalities of the capital region were given time to submit comments - a first version of a new plan came into force in June 2017,

Published on 24 January 2019, this is the next stage of that report and there will now be a period for public consultation through to 21 March 2019.

The Finger Plan from 1947 was a key planning report that set the course and controlled the form and the extent of development out from the city through the second half of the 20th century and its influence has continued into this century so it has had a huge impact on the city for more than 70 years.

That plan, to control development, was based primarily on existing lines of the suburban railway that radiate out from the centre of the historic city and new development has been centred on railway stations but with a web of green open space between the fingers … protected countryside that has been crucial as space for nature and for recreation that has stopped the expansion of the city from becoming a solid urban block like London or becoming a sprawl of unregulated development.

The new plan is setting out how to allow for but control further expansion of the city and the region through to 2030 and beyond and it will focus on problems caused by climate change that makes green space and the control of surface water and flooding from the sea increasingly more important. Protection of green land is seen now to be a balancing act and new proposals will be controversial as some green areas could be lost - for instance where they are compromised by being close to major transport links - but there appears to be a commitment to add new areas of protected green space and particularly where this has a clear role in enhancing recreational use.

In 1947, the original Finger Plan, set out the principle that development should be along the suburban rail lines with large buildings, such as city halls and shopping centres, close to the railway stations but the new plan will give the municipalities more freedom to plan for larger commercial buildings with some users up to 1000 meters from the stations in the towns of Helsingør, Hillerød, Frederikssund, Roskilde, Køge and Høje-Taastrup.

Three special areas are designated in Nærum, Kvistgård and Vallensbæk, where it will be possible to plan for larger commercial buildings with many users.

Planners and politicians want to strengthen secondary retail development in the metropolitan area with enhanced areas for local retail in Hillerød, Ishøj, Lyngby and Ballerup along with development in Helsingør and a new town center in Kokkedal.

The report includes proposals for major developments on new land that will be claimed from the sea with Lynette Holmen, a new artificial or man-made island across the entrance to the harbour - where there will be housing for 35,000 but also the island will be part of major coastal defences to protect the inner city from flooding if there are storm surges in the sound. South of the city, Avedøre Holme will be a group of new islands that will be, primarily, for major industrial development. It has been suggested that these developments will bring 42,000 new jobs to the city.

Under consideration is a section of new motorway around the city with the construction of what is called Ring 5 north from Køge, to follow a route between Copenhagen and Roskilde. Presumably, this is connected to assumptions that new traffic will be generated when the road and rail tunnel between Germany and Denmark is built. That international link was given final approval by the German region in December and could be open by 2035. An outer motorway west of the centre would be important for the region because it is possible that by the middle of the century a new major engineering project could be justified so building a bridge or tunnel link between Helsingør and Helsinborg in Sweden that would create a Hamburg-Copenhagen-Stockholm axis with the German and Swedish cities just 500 miles or 800 kilometres apart and with Copenhagen and Malmö at the centre point.

The text of the new plan is set out as major bullet points simply because this is a document for the next stage of consultation but it is worth reading, even at this stage, because local citizens should see this as one way, at the very least, of understanding how their city could develop over the next decade and, of course, like the original Finger Plan, it will set the framework for life in the city and for the built environment of the city through to the middle of the century and probably for a much longer time frame. What the report does have, even in this version, is attractive and informative graphics for a series of maps that make the hard data and the stark proposals easier to see in terms of specific areas and their potential extent and their impact on the landscape.



Danmarks hovedstad Initiativer til styrkelse af hovestadsområdet

Denmark's capital city Initiatives to strengthen the metropolitan area

A planning initiative for the metropolitan area of Copenhagen was launched at the end of January and is based on the findings of a committee that has been working since last May.

This includes proposals for the period through to 2030 and is presented under four main headings to cover Housing; Transport; Growth and the environment with recreation

This is an initiative by the city to bolster the capital area including plans to create homes for 200,000 more citizens. There are plans to improve transport links - so this is for the immediate period after the opening of the new inner city ring of the metro and preparing for the next stages for inner city transport including more metro lines but also improving motorway links in anticipation of the completion of a new road and rail tunnel linking Denmark and Germany.

The initiative also anticipates more work on flood risk from climate change and there are plans to bolster tourism with the potential for carefully-controlled expansion of the airport as a growing hub for a much wider region.

These proposals have been set out as 52 points across those four headings and should be read along with the revised Finger Plan for 2019 that also covers the period through to 2030.

the full report can be read on line or downloaded as a pdf file.

Ét Danmark uden parallelsamfund / One Denmark without a parallel society


This was a difficult post to write because it is about sensitive political and social issues but the subject is important and not least because there very specific implications for planning and housing in Denmark that will influence future policies for planning and should have a much wider relevance and for many if not most countries.

In the New Year the government published a report - Ét Danmark uden parallelsamfund / One Denmark without a parallel society - that sets out a policy to tackle problems in some urban areas in Denmark that will now be defined officially as ghettoes.

My immediate image of a ghetto - the picture conjured up by that word - is of crowded and poorly-built and or badly-kept buildings that are occupied by people kept there by poverty, isolated from wider society and from wealthier neighbourhoods, often nearby - so slum housing - so people, for different reasons, trapped and living with high levels of deprivation.

Here, obviously, I have to admit that I have had a relatively privileged and very middle-class life growing up in a very beautiful university town and then in well-designed modern housing in a new town. When I went away to university I went to Manchester to study art history - you can hardly get more middle class - and I loved the grandeur of the Victorian city and lived initially in what had been, in the 19th century, a private gated street of large villas. But that was just two blocks away from Moss Side … then defined officially as being the worst slums in Europe. Worse than Naples or Marseilles or Glasgow. Recently I came across some images of the slums in Moss Side and other parts of Manchester taken by Nick Hedges - a photo journalist - at exactly the time I lived nearby and I was truly shocked because it made me realise that time has blunted my memory of just how grim that area was and my memory had blotted out what was the reality of life for many people who lived there less than fifty years ago.

Since then I have driven through Soweto, seen Baltimore and travelled through much of South America so I am not naïve about the reality of poverty and deprivation - just naïve about how you deal with it.

I feel strongly that anyone and everyone visiting New York should go to the Tenement Museum and people should look at photographs of slum housing in London in the 1930s and in the 1950s and 1960s for a realistic context to understand just how recently that sort of housing was a reality in what are now very wealthy cities. There is a tendency in the affluent west to be blind to just how recently that sort of poverty and that sort of housing existed in their own countries.

In Denmark the definition, by the current government, of specific housing or distinct areas as ghettoes does not, in fact, stem from or define that extreme sort of housing but is about what problems that have developed as people migrate to Denmark but want, as most humans do, to be with people who have a common background and often a common language. Many Danes are aware that, in the worst situations, this can lead to isolation of communities and then on to a cycle of relative poverty and problems with education and employment that can trap people. And when people are trapped they do not benefit, as much as they should, from being an integrated part of Danish society. There is a growing concern that being isolated really does increase social problems - particularly for boys and young adults, and their membership of gangs - and it is that isolation that is described as living in a parallel society.

It is difficult because visitors - and presumably many migrants - coming to Denmark see affluence and see tolerance and see a freedom of life with enviable choices and then make the assumption that that was and is an easily achieved privilege. Actually, it has to be remembered that for older Danes, many can remember the slum housing in Vesterbro - as bad as anything in Manchester - or the slums that were cleared away in the 1950s from the area around Borgergade - not far north of the royal palace - and they know that their high quality of life now has been achieved through social and political changes and not simply dished out. I cannot recommend enough a visit to Arbejdermuseet - the Workers' Museum in Rømersgade - to find out more about working conditions and living conditions for many families in Copenhagen through the 19th and 20th centuries.

Of course the problem for migrants, in search of a better life but finding themselves isolated and trapped, is not just a problem in Scandinavia or for the affluent west but is a global problem and not just about the equitable distribution of opportunity and resources but how you can expect people to be taunted by affluence through advertising and merchandise sold to them, but remain content with what they do or, more often, don’t have.

And, of course, the problems tend to be seen as the consequence of migration from one country or one continent to another but is just as relevant with mass movements of people from rural to urban areas within a single country. This is really about managing expectations and managing numbers.

In Denmark, twenty-two initiatives have been set out by the government for urban areas that have problems seen to come from people living in a community that, for many different reasons, are isolated and parallel communities. Funding will now be available for demolishing some housing and for improving some areas but also there will be measures targeted at education with a focus on vulnerable children. Sixteen ‘ghettoes’ have been identified and substantial amounts of funding have been allocated to make the changes set out in the report.

Much of the programme to deal with these ghettoes is about social housing and about the stock of older housing - some from the 1920s and 1930s but also from the post-war period - so housing that would not be built in that way now … and it's about learning lessons and about trying to prevent more problems down the line through intervention now through education and through focused urban planning.

data to help plan for housing in the future


Danskerne i det byggede miljø / Danes in the built environment is a detailed annual survey that asks Danes about their homes.

Information for the most recent report was gathered in April 2018 when 7,090 people completed a questionnaire from Kantar Gallup A/S for Bolius. The results have been published by Realdania and the most recent edition is now available on line.

These surveys have been conducted each year since 2012 so they now provide an important data base but they also track changing attitudes so they should influence decisions by planners and should prompt architects, builders and designers to assess carefully the real problems people encounter because the surveys show how people perceive problems and show how these are prioritised.


The survey is published with general points and summaries but most of the information is set out in a large number of tables. These provide a fascinating insight not just into day-to-day practical problems people have and about the way they complete maintenance and repairs but also broader issues about neighbourhoods - about what makes a good neighbourhood - and how all these factors together influence how people rate the quality of their lives.

More than 6 out of 10 Danes believe that their home is important when they consider the quality of their life … for 22% of Danes  their home is of very high importance and for a further 41% their home is of high importance when they consider the quality of their lives. 

It is interesting that large numbers are concerned about problems with general maintenance - in fact around 90% - and least concerned about problems with buying or selling a home.

Danes are concerned most about mould and about burglary … and more in Northern Jutland than in other parts of Denmark. To this should be added that tenants are also concerned about rising rents so, from the most recent survey, over 50% of tenants are concerned about rising rents; 30% are concerned about mould and a similar percentage are concerned about a bad neighbourhood.

Further down the list are concerns about bad neighbours and lower still problems with hidden electrics and hidden piping.

There also seem to be major concerns about what is described in the survey as poor indoor climate - so ventilation and, as a consequence, mould or fungi and, along with problems with poor neighbours, these concerns are more significant for families with children.


summary of concerns:

Ventilation and cold 22.5%
Cold walls 18.2%
Condensation and mould 13.9%
Noise 11.2%
Heat or too high temperature 7.0%
Daylight (too much or too little) 6.3%
Smoke (from kitchen, wood-burning stove, fireplace, etc.) 6%
Dust and house dust mites 5.8%
Poor air quality 5.3%
Radon from underground 1.2%


On first looking through the tables there appear to be some strange contradictions so seven out of 10 Danes are satisfied with their neighbours and their neighbourhood but, on the other hand, every third Dane admits that they hardly know or don't know their neighbours.

To be more positive, one in five have street parties or garden or courtyard parties with their neighbours.

Even in terms of social life in a neighbourhood, there are some interesting differences, depending on the type of home, so 20% of Danes who own their home actually invite neighbours for a meal but in a housing co-operative - where being sociable might be considered to be more important - only 15% invite their neighbours round for a meal although that is better than where people are renting and only 10% invite their neighbours for a meal.

Generally, older Danes say that they are satisfied with their neighbourhood. Does that mark a change over generations - with younger people having less connection with the place where they live or different priorities and a different focus for social life - or does it suggest that feeling settled in a neighbourhood takes longer than might be assumed?

There is a fairly uniform satisfaction across all levels of education and nor does income have a clear connection with good neighbourliness. It is interesting that the people most dissatisfied with their neighbours and their neighbourhoods are those with the highest and the lowest household incomes.

People in the survey indicated that a better choice of shops is important for 18% of Danes - as an average across the survey - but it varied across the country with 24% in rural areas but less, so around 15%, in the city and across the whole survey 16% think restaurants are important so relatively high in general priorities.

In comparison only 6% see better broad band as a priority (10% in rural area and 5% in cities) but this might simply reflect a general satisfaction for present services that seem to be relatively good. In the same way, better schools are a priority for just 4% and better day care for 1.5% but this, presumably, does not suggest that education is well down the list of priorities because Danes do not care about schools and day care but must reflect tangible and clear improvements over recent decades so now, generally across the country, the provision of day care and nursery and then schools is of a high quality and so no longer a major concern.

Although "proximity to nature" is given frequently as an explanation for a choice of home, only every sixth Danes make use of nature or natural areas on a daily basis, and only 40% seek out nature at least once a week.

Again it is probably not surprising that the region of Southern Denmark has the largest share of citizens who use outdoor areas in their neighbourhood most frequently.


In apartments people seem to have higher levels of concern over most categories … 30% are concerned about ventilation and cold, 25% complained about cold walls and 15% about moisture and mould and curiously 8% are concerned about being too hot while 10% are concerned about too little or too much daylight in their home.

In more general questions, people living in older homes, as you might expect, tend to be concerned about cold and people in properties built after 2000 tend to be concerned more about being too warm and occupants of modern homes also tend to be more concerned about air quality.

For homes built before 1930, 24% are concerned about cold walls but for homes built after 2000 that has dropped to just over 4%.

Conversely, feeling too hot in their home was the concern of 5% in homes built before 1930 but 14% in modern home so presumably that suggests modern insulation is good but it is difficult to get the balance right. Possibly, local or district heating systems are not as easy to control but it is interesting that older people opened doors and windows most often to improve ventilation.

For admirers of the Danish concept of hygge, perhaps the most worrying statistic suggests that 12% of Danish households have cut down on using hearths, stoves and candles because they are concerned about air quality.

There are some marked differences by age so it is obvious that younger people tend to consult the internet rather than family or friends about maintenance problems but, across the age ranges, the use of craftsmen to do work has declined from 67% in 2014 to 60% in 2018 so, presumably, DIY in Denmark is on the increase.

If all this seems to suggest that Danes fret about their homes then across the survey, on a score of 1 to 10, general levels of satisfaction with the quality of homes ranged from 6.7 to 8.2.

Finally there were some general statistics that should interest designers and builders because only 21% of the participants in the survey indicated that they felt that maintenance or building work should make the home more up to date and, overall since the surveys began, there had been a decline in number of people undertaking major refurbishments.

Perhaps Danes are less concerned about fashion than magazines and blogs might suggest and rather more concerned about very practical aspects of comfort.


 the report can be read on line or downloaded as a pdf file from Realdania

shopping in Jægersborggade

for some events vehicles are cleared from the street


In the middle of December The Guardian newspaper published an article that listed ten "cool shopping districts around the world". These were "readers tips" so not exactly a methodical survey but nevertheless interesting. Included in the list was Jægersborggade in Copenhagen.

In the UK there is considerable concern about the decline of high streets or main shopping streets in many towns where an increasing proportion of shops are empty or now used by the charity sector but this does not seem to be as obvious a problem in the major Danish cities … in Copenhagen businesses come and go but there are few abandoned shops.

The success of Jægersborggade as a shopping street suggests clear reasons for the difference between the two countries. Most of the shops are independent but generally, throughout Denmark, there seem to be more small independent companies and local brands so if one fails or moves on to another building then the impact is not as obvious. In the UK, even in small towns there are more national or at least large-scale regional brands so if a retail company fails then that has a wider and obvious impact.

Having lived in Denmark for nearly five years it also appears to me that the pattern of shopping is different. In Copenhagen there is a large shopping area in the centre of the city with three long streets of shops, two of which are pedestrianised, and with department stores and international brands along with Danish companies but there is also a strong tradition in the city of shopping in each area or district … so buying food on the journey to or more probably on the journey back from work but also there is regular use of shops and cafes in the afternoon when parents pick up children from school.

Jægersborggade is very popular at weekends but with a large number of cafes and small restaurants it is also lively in the evening but even during the day it is rarely quiet.

It's said that location is everything.

Jægersborggade is just over 2 kilometres out from the centre of the city … far enough out to have it's own identity and far enough but not too far so it is also a nice destination - a short walk or a short bike ride for a morning or an afternoon.

As in so many cities, in Copenhagen main roads radiate out from the centre. Jægersborggade is between and runs parallel to two of these main roads with Nørrebogade less than 500 metres to the east and Ågade just over 500 metres to the west. This is important in that Jægersborggade is not on a main traffic route but also, although the shops are - how to put this in socially aware Denmark - more middle class and more expensive, this is in part possible because for all the people living in the apartment buildings along the street and nearby, this is not their only shopping street … there is a launderette but apart from that the street can have more expensive and more specialist shops because supermarkets and so on are near on main roads just three or four blocks away.

approaching the street along the main pathway through the cemetery of Assistens Kirkegård

Jægersborggade from the north

typical apartment buildings along the street

select an image to open in slide show


More important, Jægersborggade is not actually a through road or a cut through for traffic … at the city end is a main cross street Jagtvej which is a relatively busy section of an inner ring road but Jægersborggade is one way, with traffic only allowed to drive in the direction of the city so there are no cars turning in from the main road and at the end furthest away from the city is a park.

The street is 330 metres long and around 14 metres or about 45 ft wide and with buildings of six storeys along each side it has a distinctly urban feel but it is narrow enough so you can see across to what is happening on the other side and cross backwards and forwards without having to worry too much about moving traffic. Cars parked on both sides is not ideal but the pavements are relatively wide - not far off four metres - so there is space for people to stop and window shop without blocking the path and many of the cafés have seats and tables outside.

This part of the city dates from around 1900 and it is a street of traditional apartment buildings so above each shop there are five or six relatively large and now highly sought-after apartments. Most of these buildings are also of the traditional form with the apartment buildings built with a central doorway from the street leading to a lobby and central staircase with an apartment on each side at each landing. That means that the street has a large number of people actually living here and they come and go through the front doors so the street feels occupied and busy.

It is difficult to be certain without looking through historic plans and photographs but many of the shops appear to have been shops from the start although some of the ground-floor spaces are still bike stores and service rooms for the apartments. All these ground-floor spaces are relatively low and are actually down from the street level so there are two or three steps down into the shops. In many parts of the city there are more steps, sometimes a steep flight of six or seven steps, so there the commercial spaces are half below ground and half above.

This is a distinct Copenhagen form of apartment building and, curiously, that also contributes to its current success as a shopping street. The shop units are narrow - some frontages little more than 4 metres wide with just a doorway from the street and a single narrow window - most just two rooms deep and are relatively low so they are ideal for a small business but not so good for a national or international company that so often has clear prescriptions for size, appearance and arrangement for retail units in their global brands.


many of the shops combine what they make or produce with coffee and other food and drink and in some unusual combinations … here beer and vinyl - as in music LPs - and shoes with coffee

The architecture is typical of the period with strong features including heavy rustication of some lower levels, classical style architraves around doors and windows, strong emphasis on windows to staircases and cornices and plat bands. This has been enhanced with strong and bold colours and there is good control and good design for shop signs. Some shops have modern plastic-framed windows and doors but a good number retain original fittings. Developers in 1900 acquired plots so there are various styles along the street and many of the apartment buildings were built in pairs creating an interesting vertical rhythm so the pattern will be shop with apartments above, steps up to door with staircase, shop with apartments, shop with apartments, step up to door with staircase, shop with apartments above.

The street is also interesting because it is not long continuous rows on both sides … on the west side there are a number of short, narrow, pedestrian cross streets running through to the parallel road and on the east side - opposite these cross streets - short open courtyards running back into the block.

With so many apartments and so many sought-after apartments, this is a family-friendly area so not just a street for young, single, affluent professionals to come to from elsewhere in the city but many young families live in the street or in adjoining streets. There are good small local schools and at the end of the street away from the city is Nørrebroparken with superb play equipment so this is a dynamic residential area.

Athe other end of the street to the park, at the city end of the street, and just across Jagtvej, is Assistens Kirkegård, a large and famous city cemetery - Hans Christian Andersen and Søren Kierkegaard are buried here.

Now to English readers it will seem perverse or even downright weird to suggest that a shopping street could be popular and successful because it is close to a cemetery but in Copenhagen cemeteries are well kept and important and very beautiful public spaces with mature trees, grass areas and pathways where people walk and sit on benches and appreciate the trees and the plants and some even look at the memorials. If you walk or even if you are on a bike and come from the city centre then you can come straight up the broad central avenue of the cemetery and at the top are large gates, and then pedestrian crossings to left and right to get over Jagtvej and there, facing you, on the other side is the start of Jægersborggade.

Believe me, it makes for a pleasant afternoon to saunter through the grave yard, walk up and down the street, have a coffee at one of the places with tables outside - to watch the world, or at least a good chunk of Copenhagen life, walk past - or maybe have a beer at the bar of Mikkeller & Friends just round the corner .


the play area in Nørrebroparken at the top end of the street


select any image to open a larger version in a slide show


There are serious points to be made here about planning for shopping in the city.

For a start, as a shopping street, Jægersborggade is certainly very pleasant but it is not unique in Copenhagen. Other streets are different in their layout and their architectural style but are equally good destinations with their own interesting independent craft shops, gift shops, small fashion shops, coffee shops and cafes and restaurants. These would include:

  • what is called the French Quarter around Værnedamsvej, at the city end of Frederiksberg Allé

  • Sønder Boulevard, a wide street beyond the meat market with a central strip of park is a popular destination on a summer afternoon. This part of the city will continue to improve with the opening of new metro stations

  • nearby Istedgade … although it has relatively heavy car traffic, once you get away from the part close to the central station, has good design and second-hand shops and cafés and bars and the end away from the city will change as work on a new metro station at Enghave Plads is completed and the square is replanted

  • Islands Brygge, in streets back from the harbour, has small cafes and craft shops

  • in the north part of the city, the streets and squares in Østebro, east of Trianglen, that again have more and more good bakers and specialist food shops and craft galleries

And there are more. This is not simply saying how wonderful Copenhagen is - although obviously it is - but the point here is that all round the city there are small local shopping streets that are lively and extremely pleasant.

In part that is because the city planners have a policy that no area should drop behind, in terms of public facilities or quality of hard landscaping or public transport. If there was just Jægersborggade it would quickly become swamped by it's own success so the aim has to be to get a well-spread patchwork of traditional shopping with supermarkets and so on and then, nearby, destination streets of specialist shops with places to eat and have coffee.

Of course, there are critics of all this in the city because it is clearly a form of gentrification and older residents in older working-class areas do feel that their housing, because it was cheaper than housing in existing more middle-class districts, is being colonised and some do feel they are being driven out by relatively young families and, ok, relatively affluent and relatively trendy professionals even if it brings life and businesses to the area.

This is what is now by some called placemaking and it is difficult for planners to get the balance right. For a start planners cannot vet who takes on the lease for a shop although there are controls on certain types of use.

These are also changes driven by social factors that cannot be controlled by planners … significant changes to how and when and why people shop. This change in shopping patterns was identified by Joseph Pine and James Gilmore around 20 years ago in an article Welcome to the Experience Economy in the Harvard Business Review where they talked about an evolution from shopping for consumer goods that was changing to people wanting an increasing number of services in shopping areas, from advice to learning and health, and that moving towards a search for 'experiences' so for the high street or shopping area people want opportunities for fitness, entertainment and eating out. They talk about staging experiences that sell and that would certainly be one way of looking at the success of Jægersborggade.

Curiously, as a final thought, shopping centres - of the covered indoor arcade type - further out of the town centre - usually with parking for cars to  draw in people - are still popular and successful in Copenhagen although it is interesting to see that one of the older shopping centres - Fisketorvet - that opened in the south harbour area in 2000 is about to be extensively remodelled. It is of a fairly standard form, inward looking, with a bright and light interior on two levels and with food courts and a cinema but the outside is grim and now very dated in its style so the plan is to build new outward-facing shops around the outside that will integrate the shopping area into a rapidly growing district in the south harbour with many new apartment buildings.


Den Hvide Kødby Lokalplan nr. 562 / The White Meat City - Local Plan - report 562

the Local Plan covers both the White and the Grey markets ... this is the boundary between the Brown Market to the left and the Grey Market to the right


select the image of the cover above and this is a link to a pdf file of the report published on line by the city

the oldest part of the meat market is Denbrone Kødby that was built out over what had been the foreshore with a new quay for ships beyond that marks approximately the line of the present railway as it approaches the main station from Roskilde


At the end of June a local plan - number 562 - was published by the city for Den Hvide Kødby /  the White Meat City district of Copenhagen. 

This is the west part of a large area of market buildings and slaughter houses that developed here from 1879 onwards when the meat market was moved from a site further north, closer to the lakes.

The market, sometimes referred to now as the Meat District, is west of the present central railway station and immediately south of a long open public space called Halmtorvet that continues on west into Sønder Boulevard and forms the north boundary of the site. 

Den Brune Kødby, the Brown Meat market, was the first part of the market to be built and is in brick. The buildings to its west - sometimes referred to as Den Grå Kødby or the Grey Market and included in this plan - were extensive additions to the market from around 1900 in grey or white brick and Den Hvide Kødby or White Meat City - primarily low and mainly flat-roofed buildings in concrete with white facades was a large addition to the meat market dating from the 1930s. 

In part because these are essentially industrial buildings but also because of the clean simple outlines with no decoration, then, in terms of style, this part of the market built in the 1930s is generally described as an important example of Functionalist architecture.

Note that the popular reference to the east part as the Brown Meat market only emerged after the construction of the additions of the 1930s - to distinguish the different parts the names refer to the colour of the buildings and not to the colour of the meat.

The area is owned by the city and this is certainly important for the long-term conservation of this area and for appropriate controls on detrimental development .

Changes to the market began around 2005 as meat processing here - from the sale of animals and their slaughter and on to finished meat preparation before selling on to shops and commercial buyers - declined. It is still an important part of the day-to-day life of the area but creative industries and restaurants and cafes began to move in alongside the whole-sale food markets and as new neighbours for the meat traders.

The plan acknowledges this:

"The local plan area together with Den Brune Kødby has a special atmosphere and authenticity with business, cultural and school and leisure activities in conjunction with the original food-producing wholesale businesses. Market functions, galleries, bars and musicals help create city life 24 hours a day."

The local plan for the brown market (Local Plan 262) was produced at the end of 1995 and this report on the White Meat market area should be read alongside the City of Copenhagen Municipal Plan published in 2015.

In 2014 a planning decision was made to allow the building of some homes on part of the site … up to 25% by area but mostly on upper floors. In 2017 there was a first official proposal to build a new school on land at the south corner and both will mean the demolition of some existing buildings.

This local plan tries to quantify these changes and it indicates that the commercial wholesale food markets and food businesses will be 40% of the usage but the plan specifically acknowledges the potential that the other buildings have for small craft-based industries.


during the summer there are  weekend food markets with stalls set out around the main square



The area is surrounded by parts of the city that are themselves undergoing major re-development with changes or new building on former brown-field sights so a coherent policy statement and a long-term plan for the meat markets was required: any plans for the White Meat market also has to be seen in close relationship to developments on the other side of the railway along, Kalvebod Brygge; radical changes along the north side of the area with work on Halmtorvet and along Sønder Boulevard and long-term changes that will come to this part of the city with the opening of a new line of the metro next year. It was construction work for the metro that was the reason why the central part of Sønder Boulevard for the full length of the street was behind massive green fences for years as engineering works for the new line were completed.

The published plan has extensive maps that identify the historic buildings and the text describes briefly how the different areas and structures were changed or adapted as their use has changed.

An important part of the discussion is about how the squares and open spaces and the roads and paths through the area are laid out and how they are used now and then suggests how they can be improved.

This is because the plan has to be integrated with what are, in some cases, competing access requirements for transport into and through the area … so there will be new bike parking at Dybbølsbro - the railway station to the south - bike routes that are cutting through the area have to be considered - so people coming from one place outside the area and going to somewhere outside - and the requirements for safe road systems around the school. There will be tight and necessary restrictions to protect the new metro line tunnels so weight limits for commercial traffic and very clear controls on nearby excavations for new buildings or underground services.

It is implied that demolition of some buildings within the area may be allowed for what is considered to be appropriate new buildings so overuse and density of use might become more of an issue … part of the attraction of the area is that it is often empty of people and is an amazing place to explore but that is difficult to maintain or justify in terms of sustainability. There could be a problem with overshadowing and sight lines through and out of the area being compromised by new buildings immediately outside the area. The present sense of large and open spaces are crucial to the character of the area and a serious mistake is being made now with the overdevelopment of the Carlsberg site, where important historic industrial buildings have been swamped by new development, and that should not be repeated here.

The report spotlights issues about dealing with potential pollution on land that had heavy industrial use - there was a gas works here and a large cooling plant using large quantities of ammonia - and there will be ongoing problems with bringing more people and a school into an area that is used for industrial processes that means some heavy commercial traffic.

There are very clear recommendations for controls for a wider area that is primarily domestic but with social and entertainment uses so premises here can be shops and cafes but not banks or estate agents.

The implication is that if an existing building is demolished then the new building must be of the same overall height and number of floors above ground and have the same roof form and have similar facing materials.

There are some general points about the protection and conservation of important historic buildings that apply throughout the historic city but this report also points out problems specific to this district so roofs can be green - sown with moss and so on - but not with gardens or living spaces and roof-top service features like ventilation and lift turrets will generally not be allowed to maintain an appropriate silhouette or outline for the buildings in the west part that gain much of their character from having flat roofs.

Existing trees, several of which are what are called specimen examples, will be preserved but there are suggestions for planting new trees. For the city as a whole this is clearly a good policy but in this part of the city it was and still is a working area that has practical and often stark urban features and there is a problem if planting, however desirable from an ecological point of view, could make the streetscape here softer and more domesticated and polite than it has ever been.

The plan recommends keeping original windows and original glazed doors - in part because of the intrinsic high quality of some of these fittings - that should mean a long potential period of use - but also recommends keeping original glass for the quality of the light and the quality of the external appearance that is rarely matched by modern industrially-produced glass.

When discussing architecture in terms of style, or even when setting out the history of a complicated group of buildings like this, it is much too easy to describe a design as say Functionalism without then actually considering what that means. The meat markets were essentially an amazing and highly efficient factory system so if you want to understand why these buildings were designed and built in this particular form then look at the film made of the working market in 1936 but be warned that it is not a film to watch if you don't like to think about what happened to your meat before it went into the plastic tray for the supermarket. The film also raises interesting questions about architecture used to create an impression that wasn't true in its reality - so here Functionalist architecture implying clean, hygienic and efficient design for a process that was far from that. How can a local conservation plan limit the extent to which any important historic building becomes sanitised and divorced from its original function ... the very reasons it was built like that and looks like that? 

Strategy for Den Hvide Kødby 

Den Hvide Kødby - Lokalplan Nr.562

history and old photographs

film of the market in 1936

select any image and the photographs will open in a high-resolution slide show




People from other cities and other countries will easily and quickly understand planning policies that talk about creating a green city but it is fascinating that in Copenhagen the planning policies now talk automatically about developing a green and blue city. Open water is now seen as a very positive resource in an urban landscape. If you live in Copenhagen that is hardly surprising … the removal of pollution from the harbour - so people can and do swim anywhere - the long beach front of Amager and Hellerup and now Nordhavn have all been and are continuing to be much appreciated as a public asset and the lakes on the west side of the city are really important in terms of their ecology, in terms of their visual contribution to the streetscape and as a place to walk and relax and socialise so it is hardly surprising that water is now included in all planning assessments but of course this also tallies with the need for detailed planning to cope with climate change and cope with storm rain that often means the construction of new urban water features. Here, in this local plan for the meat markets, controls are outlined for protecting services and plant in buildings if there is a storm and drainage will have to be designed so that in the event of a major storm - often described as a once in a hundred years storm - then the surface water of any flood should be less than 10cm deep.