Arne Jacobsen, housing

Ørnegårdsvej, Gentofte, Copenhagen by Arne Jacobsen

 

Ørnegårdsvej 22-50 and Sløjfen 22-48 (1957) by Arne Jacobsen for A Jespersen & Son

 

For the row houses in Ørnegårdsvej, built in 1957 for A Jespersen & Son, Arne Jacobsen used a form of curtain wall construction - with large areas of window for front and back walls of the terraced rows that are not load bearing. Generally, this is a form of construction that is normally associated with commercial and office buildings, rather than housing, and with metal, aluminium or steel, used for a framework that hold panes of glass or opaque panels, but at Ørnegårdsvej the large areas of glazing on the front and back of the the terraced houses between the solid cross walls have relatively thin timber frames for the windows with teak glazing beads. 

The buildings are listed and original colours on the exterior have been retained although inevitably many of the houses have been restored and some the interiors altered. Doors and some parts of the frames are painted a dull olive green; and blind panels, concrete reinforced with asbestos fibre, are painted grey but tall thin panels, on the line of the cross walls and rising unbroken through both floors, are black. The effect is rather like a painting by Piet Mondrian but in a rather more muted colour scheme.

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Arne Jacobsen, topography

Rødovre City Hall

 

Rødovre is a suburb of Copenhagen and is about seven kilometres west of the centre of the city but inside the outer defences of Copenhagen - the Vestvolden ramparts - that date from the middle of the 1880s. 

Rødovre became an independent municipality in 1901, presumably a rationalisation of local government that reflected growth in the population in the late 19th century but there was extensive building of new houses before and after the second world war. As well as housing here - Islevvænge with 194 row houses - Arne Jacobsen designed a major group of buildings in the centre that included a new City Hall* completed in 1956; a long range of apartments to the east of the City Hall that date from 1959 and between them a library that was designed in 1961 and finished in 1969.

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topography, Arne Jacobsen, library

Rødovre Library

 

Rødovre is a suburb to the west of Copenhagen and was established as an independent municipality in 1901 but it was in the 1950s that a new civic centre was created with a new City Hall designed by Arne Jacobsen on the west side of a new square and completed in 1956. The first plan was to build a library and a new technical school on the east side of the square, facing the city hall, but only the library was built … a larger building than shown on the initial scheme and set slightly further north on the east side of the square with its entrance door immediately opposite the entrance into the City Hall, to form a cross axis to the square.

Not completed until 1969, Jacobsen’s library is a large, flat-roofed, single-storey building, that is clad in dark green/grey stone. In fact, the walls are built in brick and the panels of stone are supported proud of the structural wall with small steel anchors. 

There are no windows breaking through the outer wall - just doorways on the west entrance front (facing the City Hall) and on the east side of the building, immediately opposite the public entrance, as access for staff and services.

There are five open courtyards that are glazed on all four sides to bring natural light into the reading rooms and offices and meeting rooms set around the courtyards.

It is as if the aim was to create an inward-looking building to avoid the distraction of views to the World outside.

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Arne Jacobsen, new building

The SAS Hotel by Arne Jacobsen

The SAS Hotel in Copenhagen - designed by Arne Jacobsen and completed in 1961 - is perhaps the best known and the most widely published building from the Classic period of Danish design.

So, it is not really necessary to go back over the history and the design of the building here but I took a few photographs for a recent post about high buildings in the city for the web site and one thing struck me that, rather stupidly, I had not appreciated before and that is that it is built out over the top of the main railway tracks running into the central station from the north … or at least the lower north part of the hotel and the car park to the west is built across the tracks.

I don’t know how many times I’ve been on trains in and out of the railway station but never once realised that the oddly gloomy area of concrete catacombs that the trains go through beyond the north end of the platforms is actually under the hotel. I went back to the reference books and found out that, with the building of the station and the construction of new lines between the central station and Østerport station in 1917, the area along Vesterbrogade, north of the Tivoli gardens, became an area of major redevelopment for commercial office buildings. To the concern of the city council, one prominent but oddly shaped plot - a long triangle left along the east side of the railway track immediately north of Vesterbrogade - remained undeveloped. On the back of other planning applications they stipulated that work should also be completed on that triangular plot and, to make the site viable commercially, the area over the tracks was covered and the massive new hotel was completed on the extended plot.

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new building, Arne Jacobsen

office building for A Jespersen & Son by Arne Jacobsen

The office building for A Jespersen & Son was designed by Arne Jacobsen and completed in 1955. Just a few streets away from the SAS Hotel, this is an elegant and beautiful building but its apparent simplicity is deceptive … all the details of the facade, the proportions of the separate parts and even the what was then very advanced engineering underlying the construction were very carefully considered. 

Through a precise and exacting process to refine the design, Jacobsen worked very hard to get a building that looks so simple so right by a process of reduction and simplification of not just the overall design but also of all the individual elements.

It is also an important building because, at a remarkably early date, it exploited complex and novel engineering methods with a cantilevered concrete frame that was used to overcome exacting planning stipulations but also made possible an open plan inside the building and incredibly stripped down and sophisticated design for the facades on the exterior. This is not a brutal building but concrete construction at its most subtle and sophisticated.

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housing, topography, streetscape

Bispebjerg Bakke

The apartment buildings at Bispebjerg Bakke were designed by the partnership of the Danish artist Bjørn Nørgaard with the architectural practice Boldsen & Holm. Although the apartments were completed in 2007, the initial idea went back many years before that to a conversation between Nørgaard and the chairman of the Association of Craftsmen so, from the start, an important aspect of the scheme was to have a strong link between an artistic concept and its execution with a very high level of craftsmanship.

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housing

Høje Gladsaxe housing scheme

The Spring sunlight was slightly grey and misty which made the tower blocks at Høje Gladsaxe look almost surreal, almost like CGI. Five large towers are set in line on a hillside in the northern suburbs of Copenhagen. Completed in 1968 they were designed by Hoff & Windinge; Jørgen Juul Møller and Kai Agertoft and Alex Poulsen.

Extensive renovation in 1991-1992 by A5 Tegnestuen included glazing in open balconies on the south sides of the blocks although the walkways across the north sides were left open.

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housing

Brondby Strand housing scheme

The weather was bright and clear so it was a good opportunity to head out of Copenhagen to take some photographs of the Brondby Strand housing scheme.

Designed by Svend Høgsbro and Thorvald Dreyer, there are 3,000 housing units that are split between twelve towers with low-level rows of housing between. It was completed in 1973 but the original appearance was modified when the scheme was renovated by Tegnestue Vandkunsten between 1991 and 1993.

From the photographs it is difficult to judge the scale of the development but the towers are set out along a straight road and look down onto a long narrow park running east west for two kilometres.

library

Gentofte Library, Hellerup

Gentofte Library in Hellerup, just north of Copenhagen, was designed by the architectural firm of Henning Larsen and was completed in 1985. Larsen had graduated from the Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts in 1952 but for 10 months before he graduated he worked in the office of Arne Jacobsen at that point still in the basement of the architects own house in Bellvue, so just up the coast from Hellerup. The influence of Arne Jacobsen can be seen clearly in this building with it’s simple white facades but sophisticated plan, clever use of space and light and the high-quality fittings. There is a freedom of line at Gentofte that is rarely seen in the work of Jacobsen which is based much more on rectilinear forms with almost perfect proportions. What Larsen does at Gentofte is pay homage to Jacobsen by using some of the older architects vocabulary … so the long proportion of the windows at Bellavue and the relationship of window to blank wall, the completely plain white columns

without bases or caps and the recessed large circular ceiling light fittings of Jacobsen’s Rødovre city hall and the restaurant at the SAS Hotel.

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exhibition review, museums + galleries, streetscape

væggen - the wall

 

Last summer the Museum of Copenhagen on Vesterbrogade closed to prepare for its move to Stormgade, close to the City Hall, where it will reopen in 2017.

Until the new museum opens, it is possible to access some of its huge archive of maps and historic images on line or, and much more fun, by visiting Væggen or The Wall that is now set up on Dantes Plads - a couple of blocks south of the City Hall and opposite the Glyptotek.

It is 12 metres long and looks a bit like a railway wagon but smaller and without wheels. One long side hinges and lifts up and out to form a canopy to reveal four large touch screens flanked by smaller display cases. 

One of those cases shows maps and background information about the current location, Dantes Plads, and the other images and artefacts that give a broad introduction to the archaeological work of the museum - primarily their field work to monitor and investigate excavations for either new buildings or the engineering work on the infrastructure of the city such as road works, drainage excavations or the extensive ongoing work on extending the metro.

But it’s the four screens that are the important part. They are interactive and the most obvious way into the material is a scroll of images of people and places that look rather like cut-out paper and cardboard theatres for children from the 19th and early 20th century and below that are date periods and key words for the history of the city. Pointing or touching the screen with a finger brings up a bright narrow spotlight and you can scroll through the images, which actually run across two adjoining screens or bring images to the front to change the selection. 

Choosing an image or a date or a subject opens the equivalent of a work station with two to each screen so potentially eight across the whole wall. Suddenly you have access to a huge number of images and short captions with information and you can swipe through a sequence of images, move down to open similar subjects or link through to related topics.

Many of the photographs and maps are from the vast collection of the museum but it is also possible for citizens and visitors to upload and tag their own images or you can add comments on existing media or even record a video-blog. The aim is to bring the city alive in terms of its social history. Generally these are not stock textbook or guide book views but show how people lived and how they reacted to their city. Visitors to the wall see those links to real people in the past and can see how life then was very very different or surprisingly and disconcertingly much the same and of course contributions added by the public will over time provide a fascinating window on life and attitudes now. 

Instructions and the information panels themselves can be toggled between Danish and English and The Wall is open every day between 8am and 10pm.

 

Væggen, the online site, gives a good initial impression of what it is like to use the wall and from that site you can access data and upload images … not just material about life in the city right now but also old photographs of Copenhagen or of your family and their life in the city.

streetscape

Nørreport streetscape

In an earlier post I wrote about extensive improvements that have been made to the railway and metro station at Nørreport in Copenhagen. As the final parts of this major scheme of improvement are completed, there is now a clear incentive to restore or improve the buildings that line Nørre Voldgade and form the streetscape or backdrop to the new paved area that covers the three blocks from Gothersgade to Linnésgade.

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topography, streetscape, historic maps

Vesterbro

Sønder Boulevard, Vesterbro

 

In the second half of the 19th century, as the city grew, Vesterbro was one of the first areas that developed outside the city ramparts with new houses, apartment buildings, shops and churches built on either side of the roads running out from the old west gate to the royal palace and gardens on the hill at Frederiksberg. Construction work spread south from Vesterbrogade and streets and small squares and building plots were laid out on either side of what is now Istedgade. Many of the apartment buildings date from the 1880s and 1890s although the blocks along the railway are later. Many were poorly built and were divided up into small apartments and lodgings.  

 

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gardens + parks, streetscape, topography

open space in Vesterbro

Saxopark, Vesterbro

 

Because Vesterbro is such a densely built up residential area, green open space with grass and trees seems, somehow, much more important but when compared with other districts of Copenhagen, there appear to be few large open areas here.

The most important open space is Skydebanen, a large rectangular park has the backs of apartment buildings on both sides so that in some ways it is more like a large courtyard. Its on the site of a private shooting range so presumably originally it was just grass or perhaps gravel but now has mature trees. At the south end It has been extended and opened out to the west but it still seems like a well-kept local secret, hidden away behind the apartment buildings and from the north entered through a narrow gateway beside a school and from the south, from Istedgade, approached through a doorway in a forbidding high blank brick wall that closes off a short street of apartment buildings. 

 

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gardens + parks, streetscape, topography

Skydebanehaven - The Shooting Gallery Park

 

There is an impressive 18th century building onto Vesterbrogade, set back beyond a forecourt. Most people walking along the street would be hard pressed to guess what its function might have been although it was actually built in 1787 for the Royal Copenhagen Shooting Society. Until this summer it was the Museum of Copenhagen which has now closed pending a move to a building close to the City Hall.

Map showing the Kongelige Skydebane - the Royal Shooting Gallery - in 1860

The shooting range itself was a broad strip of open ground behind the building that ran down to the sea shore and can be seen clearly on 19th century maps. Then, the south approach to the harbour was much wider and the sea shore was on the line of what is now Sønder Boulevard.

First a railway into the city was constructed along the shore and then through the late 19th century more and more land and beyond was claimed from the sea and built over so the shooting gallery became rather cut off and in 1887 a large screen wall in brick was constructed across the south end of the gallery to prevent stray bullets injuring citizens on Istedgade. This is the screen wall that still stands at the end of a short street of houses with a gateway at the centre that now provides a partially-hidden access to the gardens and play area on the site of the shooting gallery. 

 

Vesterbro in 1879. Istedgade was still not continuous. The line of the brick screen wall can be seen but it was not constructed until 1887. The railway, marked as ‘Nedlagt Jernbane’ was still then on the line of what is now Sønder Boulevard and the first areas of new land out into the sound had been claimed and a new gasworks and the first buildings of the meat market constructed.

 

After the construction of the screen wall, work began on the Skydebanegade apartments that were built over the south part of the shooting range, on the south side of Istedgade and completed in 1893. 

Skydebanehaven is now an important green space in Vesterbro with a very popular playground for children at the south end. Several blocks of slum houses at the south end on the west side were demolished in the 1950s and 1960s as part of an extensive slum clearance programme and the space was opened up to link through to streets beyond. The space is open but not completely successful … the north part of the shooting gallery feels much more like a large Copenhagen courtyard but, at the south end, the space seem to leach out and break down on the west side creating odd chopped off rows of houses and odd views of the backs of houses that were not designed to be seen.

Even so, this is an amazingly important and much used green space.

 

The children's play ground at the south end of the shooting gallery with the screen wall beyond that was built in 1887 ... apparently to protect people walking along the street beyond from being hit by stray bullets

 

Skydebanegade

Completed in 1893, according to a plaque on a parapet, Skydebanegade is an ambitious and theatrical housing scheme with a complicated plan for apartments in buildings on both sides of a cross street that runs between Sønder Boulevard and Istedgade in Vesterbro. The development was presumably speculative, by a builder called Victor Jensen with the design from an architect called Oscar Kramp.

The street is only about 180 metres long but by pushing back deep narrow open courtyards running back from the street into the facade, with three set backs on each side, the entrance frontages are increased significantly in length- from 180 to 375 metres on the west side. This is not a unique arrangement in the city - deep open courtyards are used as a form of planning in several buildings in Jægersborggade - but nowhere else is it used in such a coherent and dramatic way.

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housing, streetscape

clearing the Skydebanegade courtyards

Demolition of buildings within the courtyards behind the Skydebanegade apartments is interesting because of the size and extent of the buildings removed and the dramatic effect that had but it should not be taken as typical for one rather curious reason: the Skydebanegade apartments benefitted enormously from the work even though the courtyards were not actually on land that they owned originally. The distinctive zig zag plan of the apartment blocks, with alternate open courtyards to the street and between them open courtyards to the back forming an outline that looks almost like a Greek key fret pattern, was built right up to the east and west boundaries of the land acquired from the shooting gallery. The courtyards actually belonged to the properties facing onto Absalonsgade to the east and Dannebrogsgade to the west.

Some of the large buildings in the courtyards may have been workshops and there were certainly stable buildings shown in the east courtyard that was accessed from Absalonsgade - two smaller stables with four stalls in one and 11 stalls in the other but there was also one long range which seems to have had a central passage way with 15 stalls on each side and a large yard to the front so there were, possibly, 45 horses in all kept in the courtyard with all the noise, smell, and manure that would imply. The stable with four stalls appears to have two carriage or cart sheds adjoining so may have been used by a carrier or delivery man. Riding horses and carriage horses might well have been kept in some courtyards. One advantage, though possibly on balance not a great advantage was that there would have just been hay lofts above the stalls so the buildings would not have been that high so would not have cut out much light to the buildings around.

Long thin buildings shown in the narrow courtyards of the Skydebanegade buildings were presumably toilets - the plan here is at first-floor level or above as the archways from the street at ground level are not shown - so the narrow strips of building are drawn as if looking down on the roof. In the apartment buildings themselves, there are small square, until, internal rooms shown close to the secondary or back staircases and these might have been inside toilets and possibly shared between several apartments but given the date of the building which was completed y 1893 inside toilets and toilets flushed by water are not likely to be an original feature if only because the very first flush toilets in the city are said to date from 1893 and were in apartments in the much much grander street of Stockholmsgade in Østerport.

When the buildings in the courtyards to either side of Skydebanegade were demolished, a range of smaller apartment buildings facing along Dannebrogsgade were also taken down and not rebuilt leaving the courtyard on that side open to the west.

It is difficult to calculate from just the plan but counting the staircases in the demolished buildings with apartments on both side of each landing, and assuming that there were almost-certainly five stories to each range, then around 300 apartments were demolished when the courtyards were cleared.

With the new open spaces of the large courtyards many of the apartments overlooking them were given new balconies. The gardens are laid out with different small areas of planting to enclose picnic tables, children’s play equipment and shelters for bikes. Planting, areas of raised ground and carefully planned and well laid paths and paved areas add considerably to the attraction of the space which, as with so many of these courtyards, provides an oasis of calm just off the busy and noisy streets.

Work on the courtyards and on the restoration and upgrading of the apartments started in 1989 and was completed by 1996.