i was lucky enough to have two friends visiting at the same time last week – i’ve traveled in china, japan, and taiwan with both liz and makie, so it was really fun to spend some time with them here in copenhagen. i think it’s been more than two years since we’ve all been in the same place at the same time! since we’re all in design fields, i got to take them on my now-practiced architour of copenhagen… now with plenty of breaks for fika:

me, liz, and makie take a fika break near the central station

me and liz at lagkagehuset in christianshaven (this is my favorite bakery…they make amazing rhubarb muffins!)

but we did more than just eat pastry! me and liz use our map recognition skills in christiania

makie and i taking photos at the royal danish academy for fine arts school of architecture

liz and makie at the christianshavn canal

me and liz at the danish architecture center

makie and her friend clover on playground equipment near the tietgen dormitory

those chairs spin like crazy!

makie, clover, and liz on the see-saw

testing out the main design features of prags boulevard…lampposts and the prags chairs

makie and i are ready to devour a long-anticipated brunch at kvarterhuset in holmbladsgade

clover hard at work promoting the architour

me, makie, and clover at the kastrup public bath/liz and i at the gemini residence

clover gets a swimming lesson at kastrup public bath/makie and clover

a lovely end to a day of archi-touring…

…and a lovely place for a nap!


our student group inside sjakket’s basketball court building

for our second bicycle-tour field trip, my ‘body culture in urban space’ class visited some different sports and culture facilities in nørrebro, a neighborhood north of the city center that is home to a concentration of different ethnic groups (and that seems to be just at the beginning of a gentrification cycle). we had a beautiful biking day – bright and sunny, and there were people using the outdoor spaces that we visited. having seen six or seven different sports and culture facilities in just two copenhagen neighborhoods makes me realize what a priority this combination of activities (and this type of facility) is in this city. the buildings that we visited are all fairly new, and seem to have been projects in which the designers felt comfortable pushing the boundaries of ‘normal’ urban architecture – perhaps inspired by the intended use of the buildings? – and this definitely makes them feel like energetic and active spaces. we visited three projects on this tour (and rode through nørrebro park, but i was unable to get off my bike and take photos). as in the post about our first field trip, the italicized text is lifted from the course flier, and my own comments are in ‘normal’ type.


#1: Korsgadehallen (BBP Architects, 2006)

“The project is based on two main concepts – an indoor and an outdoor concept, that corresponds to a united whole. The indoor concept is to create an indoor ‘village green’ or ‘common’ for different sport and cultural activities. The Centre for Sport and Culture (Korsgadehallen) consists of a large central area with the necessary dimensions for different playing fields, handball, volleyball, badminton etc. This central space is encircled by a sequence of minor spaces with different characters: the open alcove, the balcony, the staircase, the closed dancing hall, the free standing wall bar, the small niche for a break, the glass facade etc. The construction is made of steel beams that are placed at slightly different angles hereby creating an irregularity enhancing the ‘cave concept.’ This irregular space also creates an informal atmosphere and expresses movement and multi-functionality. The keywords are daylight, transparency and flexibility hereby creating a connection between the different activities and users and a connection between indoor and outdoor areas. The outdoor concept is to cover the ‘indoor village green’ with a new landscape – a green hill for activities and recreation. To make this possible the playing field is placed in a level 3.5 m under street level. This new urban landscape – a ‘village green’ lifted 9 m above the street level is enriched by the evening sun 1-2 hours longer than the same area on the street level.”

i really liked that the roof of this building can be used – and was being used – by a group of school children while we were visiting. the mound/cave concept seems to fit rather well with the idea of a sports center, and it makes the experience of the building more active, as you are always climbing up or down to enter/exit it. the split-level interior also enhances the ‘buried’ quality of the building and was surprisingly well-lit and not dark or cave-like. one of the architects from bbp gave us a tour of korsgadehallen and told us that non-sports activities like concerts and flea markets happen on the gym floor, so it’s not strictly a sports facility. because of the building’s location in nørrebro, a somewhat socially distraught neighborhood, it sometimes suffers from vandalism of the glass windows. we didn’t really get a straight answer from the designer about how the building might be better integrated into the community, but at least our discussion highlighted how important this part of the building process is – that is, ‘selling’ the building, or the idea of the building, to the surrounding community so that a feeling of shared ownership and respect for the space might be established.


#2: Multi Square (Morten Wassini/House Arkitekter, 2006

The Multi Square at the corner of Ravnsborgade and Skt. Hans gade is used for playing, sports and local cultural events. The square is primarily designed for kids and young people, but the vision was to rethink the playground concept by creating an exciting urban space, which can attract other groups of age and interest too. The central element of the square is a playing field for basketball, hockey etc. The field is defined by a steel and wood construction. Along one side spectators can settle down and on the other side a scene gives space for local theatre and music events. The square also offers a ramp-landscape for skateboarding.”

i love the simplicity of this project. it’s basically a white square painted on a wall (as a screen for projecting movies or images) and a very spare concrete playing field surrounded by a low wall. there were several kids using it when we stopped by, for soccer as well as for sitting and texting friends and skateboarding. it’s not at all institutional (like most of the other projects we visited) and is out in the open, which makes it feel very inviting and public. it really feels as if it belongs to the neighborhood and not to an organization. it’s interesting to compare this park to prags boulevard, a similarly simple (though larger – and evidently less successful) project in the holmbladsgade neighborhood.


#3: Sjakket (BIG and JDS Architects, 2007)

“Sjakket is a rough oasis in the city – a refuge for children and young people, where they are coached by engaged adults, who gives them help and support. The renovation of the former industrial building took place with respect for the existing qualities of the place, emphasizing the rough atmosphere. The renovated building is adapted to suit the activities of Sjakket and other local needs. The complex exists of two curved spaces – the inside was taken out and only the rough concrete walls, columns, bricks and steel curves were left. A long red container is placed on top of the two curved halls.”

this building seemed like an inspiring place for disenfranchised youth – it’s got PLOT’s trendy-funky signature style and has a very ‘young’ and active feeling to it. it’s brand new, having just opened in november, but the employees seem to be happy with it so far (there were no kids there on the day we visited). the two main halls are reused factory buildings that are now joined by a roof deck and a salvaged (and certainly repainted) shipping container that bridges the rooftops. this project makes good use of color – inside the cherry-red shipping container is a studio for recording rap music (painted entierly in bright magenta), while the basketball court has windows in different shades of pink and the boxing/kickboxing room is vivid turquoise. the different colors (besides being kind of fun) help to distinguish the different spaces and give them each a specific characteristic and quality of light.


my classmates on prags boulevard – we rode our bikes from site to site

as part of my “body culture in urban space” seminar, the professor arranged a great field trip to several new projects on amager last week. the course is sponsored by my school’s center for sports and architecture, and is led by prof. réne kural (whose handout i quote extensively below). i think the title is a little enigmatic, so to explain what the seminar is about, here’s an excerpt from the course flier:

“The use of urban space has been under transformation for the last 20 years. There are huge numbers of youngsters (and older – up to seniors) enjoying street-style skating, in liners, jogging, riding, bicycling, etc. This indicates that the city is not just a place for living, working and shopping, but a true pleasure-ground – a place where human movement, emotions and energy is vital for our experience of urban space. In which way will modern planning affect physical activity and how will contemporary body culture influence our life condition in the city? From this perspective, the planning of the future city is a true challenge to architects and politicians.”

it’s a really fun topic, and we have another field trip scheduled for later in april. the five projects we visited last week (below) are all places that i have visited (and blogged) before, but it was nice to see them again from a different perspective. because the course handout put together by prof. kural gave such a nice description of the projects, i just used the handout text below (in italics). my own comments, links, etc. are in ‘normal’ type.

these projects were all part of a neighborhood revitalization program (called ‘kvarterløft‘) in the holmbladsgade area. the various projects we visited were built as part of a strategy to provide high quality recreational and outdoor public spaces that would increase sport and cultural activity in the area while giving the overall quality of life in the area a boost. i’m using the holmbladsgade kvarterløft as a case study in my planning thesis, so this was a really enjoyable field trip for me.


#1: Prags Boulevard (Kristine Jensen Tegnestue, 2005)


Prags Boulevard starts at Amagerbrogade and ends with a view of the Øresund. It is a part of the neighbourhood facelift scheme around Holmbladsgade. The main intention was to have a green area with a high utility for people of all ages. This has resulted in seven activity areas that are placed along the main pathway of the park. Names like The Stage, The Pitch and The Ramp refer to the type of activity which takes place here. Along the entire stretch of the park, there have been placed lamps and chairs especially designed for Prags Boulevard. The approximately 100 lamps have a unique yellow-green neon colour and it is called the Prague Lamp. Another feature are the 700 chairs that can be moved around individually, so you can find a place in the sun or shade.”

prof. kural said that the space isn’t actually used as much as was hoped for. our group thought that there might be several reasons for this, including the generally inhospitable danish weather, a lack of places to buy food nearby, and the absence of mature trees. although i love this project, i have to agree that it isn’t as functional as the idea of the design suggests. i like to think of it more as an awesome bike path than as a park. hopefully over time, it will be used more and more. click here for a link to my earlier blog entry about prags boulevard.



#2: Holmbladsgade Sports + Culture Center (Dorte Mandrup Arkitekter, 2006)


As with Prags Boulevard the Culture and Sports Centre was also built as a part of neighbourhood facelift scheme. The centre does not only have facilities for regular sporting activities such handball or basketball, but also tai chi or yoga can be practised on the so-called multifunctional plateaux. Apart from sporting activities the centre plays host to concerts and theatre events. The canopy streches like a webbing between the existing buildings and the new, and the transparent material is intended to ensure optimum incidence of light. When darkness falls the building will appear like a radiant crystal with all the shadows inside visible from the streets.”

i also like this project a lot, and this is the first time i’ve been able to visit it when it was actually in use. various community groups use the main court space, and there are other, smaller activity areas for wall climbing, ping pong, and dance. theatre groups and chess clubs also rent the multipurpose rooms. here’s a link to my valle blog entry on some of dorte mandrup arkitekter’s projects, including the holmbladsgade sports + culture center.



#3: Maritime Youth Center (Plot, 2003-2004)


Built as a part of the neighbourhood facelift scheme the Maratime Youth Center plays host to Sundby Sailing Association’s youth section, as well as the kids and youngsters of the area. The centre is a starting point for water activities, and the buildings below the wooden deck has room for more social activities. Depending on how the weather will be, you can either service the boats inside or outside and hold talks and workshops. The wooden deck has an outdoor space of 1600 square metres, which is substantially more than the projected 375. This solution deals with the problem of contaminated soil which is isolated underneath the wooden surface and the money that had to be spent on cleaning up could be used elsewhere.”

i’ve visited this project once before and didn’t get a lot of new information on this trip, but it seems to be a fun, innovative building. it definitely gives off a ‘youthful’ vibe and fits into the beach and harbour area with its wavy form. i really like that one is able to inhabit the roof of the entire building – there were several kids playing on it and sliding down it while we were visiting.



#4: Amager Strandpark (Hasløv & Kjærsgaard, 2004-2005)


The Amager Beach Front is located just of the west coast of Amager. It consists of the beach along the coastal road, a lagoon, an island and 2 parks. Along the island there are situated 4 stations containing all the service facilities you will require on a day at the beach and the curved pathway connects them together. In the northern part of the island the landscape is made up of sand dunes, and at the southern part you will encounter more park-like grounds. Amager Strand Beach has been thirty years underway with the final framework outlined in 2000. With the Metro station stopping nearby the area attracts people from all over Copenhagen.”

what a great beach park. i love how simple the “bunker” structures are and how much emphasis is actually on the landscape of the beach. here’s a link to my earlier blog entry about amager strandpark.



#5: Kastrup Public Bath (White Architects, 2004)


The Kastrup Public Bath takes up the tradition from Helgoland, which had to be torn down in order to make room for Amager Strand Beach. It consists of the main building on water, a new bathing beach and a new service building onshore. In addition there will be constructed a gigantic Amphitheatre on land. A 100metre long bridge leads from beach and out to the Lido. The Lido is constructed from azobe timber which has a high resistance to saltwater. It has a circular shape and a windscreen winding all the way around. The lowest point of screen is 1.5 metres and reaches up to 8 metres. As well being multifunctional and accessible for disabled the structure also offers a sculptural sight for those taking an evening stroll along the beach.”

this project is located at the southern end of amager strandpark. we were there on a pretty crisp and windy day (great skies, though!) and inside the ‘donut,’ it was sunny, warm, and pleasant. though not quite pleasant enough to take a dip in the sound. there were a number of people just hanging out there – picnicking, playing guitar, and so on. that was where we ended the day and then stayed for a while to enjoy the sun and the view. : )



this week i took a seminar at school called “typology of dwelling,” part of which was to take a one-day field trip to different parts of copenhagen, looking at new ideas in housing projects. our professors rented a bus, and we stopped at seven different developments, all either under construction or built within the last few years. the focus of the course was to consider each project at different scales of organization (the urban plan, the single dwelling, the building structure, and the detail) as well as ways in which the different projects might be equipped to handle change over time. it was a really fun trip…here are my photos from the projects that we visited:


#1: Oxford Gardens, Amager (Bplus Arkitekter)


these were rowhouses done on an extremely tight budget. i thought the spaces were really nice, but the detailing, not so much. but i guess that’s what suffers when there’s not a lot of money to be had. a really nice couple let us onto their roof balcony so that we could get an aerial view.



#2: VM Mountain Dwellings, Ørestad (BIG, formerly PLOT)


(libby, these are for you…) the vm mountain is progressing nicely! i didn’t have time on this trip, but i plan to go back to see the model unit that they have on the site. the idea with this building is that each unit gets its own private view and garden…and the parking is contained underneath the units (behind the screen with the mountain graphic on it, lower right photo). i’ve heard that even the parking space is supposed to be pretty impressive (“cathedral-like,” even!). we’ll see…hope it’s finished before i leave.



#3: VM Houses, Ørestad (JDS Architects, formerly PLOT)


one of my favorites, mostly because of the funky balconies. the two apartment buildings look like the letters “v” and “m” in plan, hence the name. these are right next door to the vm mountain and were finished several years ago. i’ve been here before, but this time i got to sneak inside and take photos of the (very yellow) hallways. : )



#4: Tietgen Dormitory, KUA (Lundgaard + Tranberg) tietgen1.jpg

another copenhagen favorite. this is probably the nicest dorm i’ve ever seen. a friend of a friend lives here now, so i’m going to have to try to arrange an interior visit. the manager of the building told us that the architects had no budget for this project – a dream come true! i like the organization of the building – all of the common spaces face the interior of the “donut,” while the individual student rooms are on the outside of the ring to maximize views and privacy.



#5: Fyrtårnet, Amerika Plads (Lundgaard + Tranberg)


although this project is named “the lighthouse” after the tall tower, it is actually a combination of high-rise and townhouse-type apartments. i would definitely move into one of the townhouse units that we visited – an excellent view of the train tracks (above)…with extra sound-proofing.



#6: Sluseholmen, Sydhavnen (various architects, see Sluseholmen site)


the last project we visited is almost an exact copy of a dutch project that i’ve visited, the eastern docklands in amsterdam. they even brought in the same master planner to do the initial design…and proceeded to create eight new islands in the south harbour in order to create that dutch, canal-like atmosphere. i guess i don’t really like that the idea was just transplanted, but the houses seem to be selling out. the photo above is of one of the finished areas (the photo on the lower right shows a new canal yet to be flooded).


jægersborg water tower

February 18, 2008


this is a really fun conversion project by my favorite danish architecture firm, dorte mandrup arkitekter. it’s out in gentofte (a northern suburb of copenhagen), a former water tower nestled among two freeways and a rail line. the firm won a competition to turn the tower into low-cost housing for vocational students. there are apartment units all around the perimeter of the tower, and the firm added the crystal-shaped bays for better views from the units, and also so that it would be easier for the residents to furnish what would have otherwise been very oddly-shaped rooms.  i would definitely live here.


looking up at the water tower


it is right next to the train platform…


the lower levels house a youth center…and i really like the rooster topper : )


det blå hjørne

January 25, 2008


this is one of my favorite architecture finds in copenhagen…det blå hjørne, or “the blue corner,” as it is appropriately named, was built in 1989 and designed by the danish firm vandkunsten. det blå hjørne is located in christianshavn, one of the older parts of the city, and i really like the way that the designers fit this really unapologetically modern (and blue!) building into the neighboring context. i know that vandkunsten won an award from the copenhagen municipality for this project, but i’m not sure about the details. (i’ve put together a slightly longer piece – with more but inferior photos – about this building on my valle blog, as well as two of this firm’s other projects, if anyone is interested.) like its neighbors, det blå hjørne an apartment building…but it’s a kind of funky take on the christianshavn residential status quo. i really like that each “half” of the building mimics the mass and form of the other houses around it, but kind of turns the shape and the idea inside out – for instance, the roof is pitched at the same slope, but in a different direction, so that the “fronts” of the pieces are actually facing the corner, not the street.


“corner” detail…plus a selection of urban artwork ; )


det blå hjørne in its neighboring context…

today i tried out the harbour front podwalk on the cphx website. i think this is a great idea…i don’t know if cities in the u.s. other than nyc (seattle? chicago? minneapolis?) do this, but it’s a great way to do a “self-guided” tour of the city at your own pace, on your own ipod. i modified it into more of a pod-bike-ride, and it was pretty cool. there are two podwalks available from cphx, and this one focuses on five new projects on copenhagen’s inner harbor. (cphx also put together a series of do-it-yourself bike tours, which are awesome!) the reason i alternatively titled this post “den sorte havn” (or “the black harbor”) is because three of the projects very dark in color. in close combination, they strike me as a little bit odd, though i’m not sure why. maybe i’m just used to super-transparent public projects in the states. anyway. i’ve included links to the podwalk audio with each project, so you can do a virtual tour (a pod-chair-surf?) through my blog! here we go…

introduction to the harbour front pod audio



harbour bath pod audio

the harbour bath was designed by the danish (former) firm plot. part of the havneparken (harbour park) on islands brygge, this project was opened in 2002 as part of the deindustrialization of the inner harbour. as shipping technology changed, the older warehouse buildings on the harbour were converted into housing and office buildings. the municipality also cleaned up the water in the harbor, and now what was once an industrial shipping lane is a body of water that is clean enough to swim in. very nice!


so, it’s a bit cold in november for anyone to be swimming, and the pool is closed for the winter…but here’s a photo from another site of the habour bath in use. in truth, it looks pretty fun. hopefully i’ll get a chance to try it out before i leave in june…i’m actually moving to the neighborhood of the harbour bath in january, so it will be just a short walk away from my new place. : )



black diamond pod audio

this is a new, rather high-profile project by danish firm schmidt hammer lassen. it’s actually an extension of the old library, which is located directly behind it and not really visible in the photo. the building is clad in black granite with transparent materials at street level so that is seems to “float” above the ground (still not totally sold on this). it does make it look a little less bulky, i guess. the slice of glass in the center is the main atrium. i’m a little embarrassed to admit this, but i haven’t been inside yet. i think it’s because i’m still waiting to get my danish social security card in the mail, after which i can get myself a library card and actually use the library.


a view of the black diamond from the southwest. there’s a really nice plaza (foreground) that steps down to the harbor, providing lots of places to sit and relax. also, the building allows the street christians brygge to pass through it under a series of overhead bridges. you can just see a tiny piece of the old library to the left of this photo (the brick building).


detail of the bridges over christians brygge.



nordea pod audio

this is the danish headquarters of nordea bank (the only non-public project on the podwalk). henning larsen designed this campus of buildings, which was completed in 1995. the firm tried to make the buildings both modern and contextual, and paid particular attention to the massing and spacing of other structures on the harbor. i think they did a pretty good job; materially, it relates to the black diamond rather well (this was built first, though, so maybe it’s the other way around), and the forms complement the existing harbourfront structures.


more views of the nordea hq: two of the office buildings with vor frelser kirke (our saviour’s church) in the background/view northeast up the harbour


playhouse pod audio

this is the new playhouse for the danish royal theatre, which is currently under construction (though almost finished!), and was designed by lundgaard and tranberg, yet another danish firm. actually, i learned from the podwalk that until very recently, copenhagen was closed to international designers (for 250 years!)…i don’t have the exact dates on this, but i’ll be sure to ask around about it.


another view of the playhouse from across the harbour



opera pod audio

it was tough to escape my shadow today. (sigh…that harsh winter light in northern europe.) the last building on the tour was the new opera, which i’ve mentioned in my blog before as being somewhat controversial. the opera, like the nordea headquarters, was designed by henning larsen. it was offered to the city as a gift by the shipping magnate mærsk mckinney møller on the condition that he could have complete control over the building’s siting and design. the city agreed. møller proceeded to locate the new opera on the harbour, directly along copenhagen’s royal axis, so now it sits in line with the frederikskirke and amalienborg palace. (i was also told the the city did an eis for the site and determined that the construction of the new building would have NO negative effect on the harbour whatsoever, and that the site was perfectly fine to build on as it was…a bit sketchy, if you ask me.)


there’s that shadow again…these are two views (from the side/from the front) of the main atrium space of the opera house. rhiannon and i actually got rush standing-room tickets and saw la bohème here in october. it was really fun, and definitely worth it. though i’m not a huge fan of the building’s exterior, the inside is actually quite nice. here are links to some of rhiannon’s excellent interior photos: (operainterior1.jpg, operainterior2.jpg).


the opera from the rear


harbour front conclusion pod audio

my personal conclusion is this: the podwalk gets two thumbs up. more places should have podwalks and bike tours, and i hope cphx makes some more (in english, too, please!) for copenhagen, because there is so much great architecture to see. i really liked the theme that this one had of the changing harbour, and being able to see a number of projects that tell the story of its transition from an industrial area to a public amenity.

and for those of you who are getting bored by all of this architecture, relief is on the way! it’s off to norway on friday, so there are travel photos in the blog’s future. : )