Copenhagen is a stunningly beautiful city. Without any doubt the buildings are amazing and of course the parks and open spaces contribute so much but then, as I went through masses of photographs trying to decide what makes it so beautiful, I realised that there are two unsung heroes … or at least two aspects of the city scape that probably wouldn’t be at the top of a visitor’s list if they were asked why they had come to Copenhagen.
The first is the light … not just clear, clean, sharp light but often striking the buildings from a low level or reflected off the water.
And the second … well … I’d say it’s the cobbles … or to be slightly more architecturally correct the stone setts.
They are the basic element of hard landscaping in the city. Ordinary pathways are formed with two or three strips of relatively narrow rectangular paving stones, set with their long side in the direction of the pathway and divided by lines of single square stone cobbles. There are often wider bands of cobbles against the front of the buildings and bands or aprons of cobbles cutting across the pavement to mark doorways and arches into courtyards.
In the squares, cobbles can be set in subtle curves forming scallops or there are strict geometric patterns of frames around squares or rectangles using blocks of cobbles of different colours or different textures.
Above all there is very careful attention to details: lines of triangles, marking the stop line for traffic leaving a side street to join the main roads, usually simply painted white, can be formed in large triangles of light stone; drain covers are picked out with a ring of cobbles; drainage channels can be formed by setting slightly different planes to meet at a diagonal run line for surface water or drainage channels can be formed in separate hollowed-out stones.
Larger paving stones are used to suggest where you should walk or, mixed with gravel or planking or grass, suggest where you possibly shouldn’t walk. The pavement patterns of the public squares and streets are carried into the forecourts of buildings or through archways and into courtyards to indicate public access.
Cobble stones vary in colour from pale through dark grey to warm dark browns of sandstones and some have a purple hue. All add texture, warmth and a strong sense of continuity … the patterns - the vocabulary - are almost infinite … the use almost universal.
Copenhagen really wouldn't look the same without the cobbles.