housing, streetscape

Lyngbyvej Housing

323 homes designed by Christen Larsen
begun in 1906 and completed in 1929

The row houses in Lyngbyvejskvartet / Lingbyvej Quarter were built by the Workers Building Association between 1906 and 1929 for workers from Burmeister Wain and the architect was Christen Larsen who had replaced Frederik Boettger as architect to the association.

Lyngbyvej - the King's highway - is an important and historic road that runs out north from the city to Lyngby and from there on to the royal castle at Frederiksborg.

The housing is about 4 kilometres from the centre of Copenhagen. In a modern city this might not seem far but until the city defences were dismantled around 1870, the historic core of Copenhagen, on this side of the harbour, was confined to an area little more than a kilometre from the wharves to the north gate and around 1.5 kilometres across from the east gate to the west gate with remarkably little building outside the defences …. so this was quite a long way out of the centre for workers employed at the engineering works of Burmeister Wain on Christianshavn on the far side of the city or for men working at their ship yards at Refshaleøen.

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Sverrigsgade Workers Housing

Workers' houses on Sverrigsgade were built on a narrow and oddly-shaped strip of land between Hallandsgade and Brigadvej that had been owned by the veterinary school but, shortly after they moved to Frederiksberg in 1858, it was sold at auction, in part to private buyers and in part to LP Holmblad the manufacturer of candles, soap and paint.

A new road, then called Nygade - New Street - was laid out with two sharp angles along the length and Holmblad built houses and a school at the far end of the street on the north side of  which two pairs of houses survive.

Land on the south side of the road was sold to the engineering company Burmeister Wain and they were responsible for the building of the rest of the workers' housing.

There is a drawing in the national archive - Danmarks Kunstbibliotek - of an initial scheme designed by the architect Henrik Steffens Sibbern and dated 1866.

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housing, streetscape



Just beyond Enghave Park and below the site of the Carlsberg Brewery and called Humleby - literally Hops Town - the 235 houses were, in fact, not built for the brewery but were built for the Workers’ Building Society, to provide healthy homes for the workers at the engineering company of Burmeister & Wain. 

Designed for the society by Frederik Bøttger, work started in 1885 and the houses, were completed by 1891.

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housing, Arne Jacobsen

apartment buildings from the 1930s

'Lagkagehuset' Torvegade 1931 designed by Edvard Johan Thomsen (1884-1980)


In Copenhagen, the plan of apartment buildings - the way that rooms in each apartment and the staircases and entrance halls were arranged - developed through the first decades of the 20th century. 

In terms of layout, there was not a sudden change in the number of rooms in an apartment or their arrangement in the 1920s and 1930s but apartments became more compact and certainly less likely to extend backwards from the street block into back ranges. 

By the 1920s, many purpose-built apartment blocks in the city, particularly large new buildings for social housing, were still set out around a courtyard with some buildings occupying a complete city block and most were of five or six storeys but there was a change because where courtyards had service buildings in them, then these were low, only a single storey, to keep the courtyard open, light and uncluttered. 

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Arne Jacobsen, housing

Arne Jacobsen - Ørnegårdsvej, Gentofte


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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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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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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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.

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.

housing, streetscape

older houses surviving in the city


Ny Kongensgade


By the late middle ages, Copenhagen was enclosed by high embankments with outer ditches and the city could only be entered through gateways that were closed at night. Within these defences there was a tightly packed network of streets and alleyways with small squares and market places and with open areas around the major churches. Few buildings were allowed outside the ramparts so, as the population increased, many gardens and courtyards were built over and then buildings were raised in height or rebuilt as taller and more substantial or more fashionable houses.

With a number of devastating and extensive fires in the city and also with commercial pressure to improve buildings, to create shops and administrative buildings, few early houses survive. 

There are some timber-framed houses dating from the 16th or 17th centuries in the north part of the old city and in Christianshavn. These are relatively low and narrow but deep so they have large high-pitched roofs either running back from the street or more often with the ridge parallel to the street but with additional front gables or high gabled dormers to increase head height within the attic space. The timber framing generally forms square panels and the building are usually rendered and most painted traditional colours - usually deep ochre or a dark iron oxide red. Some of the framed houses show clear evidence that they were raised in height with new floors added and new roofs built or the old roof ridge was kept but the outer eaves raised to form a shallower pitch of roof so that a series of dormers could be amalgamated to form a new complete top floor.


Magstræde, parallel to Gammel Strand but one block back showing clearly the narrow plot width

Houses along the quayside of Nyhavn

Town houses of the wealthy overlooking the King's Garden


There are large merchants houses along Gammel Strand, along the quays of Nyhavn and in Christianshavn but it seems clear that as the population of the city increased then many of the older houses were crudely divided up into apartments or in some cases subdivided for single rooms for a whole family.

Fine town houses for the wealthy were built on either side of the main streets through a new area, laid out in the 18th century beyond the king’s square - Kongens Nytorv, and there are substantial houses overlooking the King’s Garden but in the older part of the city, where there was new building, they are often purpose-built apartments, and to the west and north after the city defences were removed in the second half of the 19th century, almost all new buildings are apartment blocks rather than houses for single separate families however wealthy.

There are some curious examples where smaller houses in a street were replaced by large apartment buildings, presumably working from opposite ends of a block by buying and amalgamating narrow plots, but somehow a narrow plot was left so there is now a small house flanked by much taller apartment buildings.

A small house on Rigensgade near the King's Garden between much taller apartment buildings

housing, streetscape



Christian IV understood well that the men in his navy and in his army might be more loyal if they had reasonable accommodation and some rights to housing after they left his service.

Construction of the naval accommodation of the Nyboder housing scheme, designed by the Flemish stone mason and architect Hans van Steenwinkel the younger, began in 1631 and by 1648, the year that Christian died, there were 600 housing units in the streets laid out north of the city, on land just beyond the king’s house and garden of Rosenborg. 

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In the late 19th century some of the earlier rows were demolished and new larger brick houses built - see separate post

housing, streetscape



The houses in Brumleby in Østerbro, designed by the architects Michael Gottlieb Bindesbøll, were built for The Medical Association housing scheme and initially were known as Lægeforeningens Boliger.

There are four rows of blocks separated by wide gardens or avenues with 240 units in the first phase begun in 1853 and completed in 1857. Between 1866 and 1872 a further 310 units were added, designed by the architect Vilhelm Klein. Common facilities included a kindergarten, bathhouse and meeting hall and the first co-operative store in Copenhagen.

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housing, streetscape

English Row Houses

Toldbodgade 71-85


Designed by Vilhelm Tvede for the charity Det Classenske Fideicommis that had been established in the 18th century by an Army General and armaments manufacture Johan Frederik Classen.

This terraced row of eight houses is just north of the royal palace and runs parallel to the harbour but is set back behind warehouses. There is a courtyard or garden to the front, on the side away from the harbour, separated from the street by iron railings and stone gate piers and there are very small back yards with single-storey toilet blocks - presumably for the use of servants.

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housing, streetscape

Building Society Row Houses


Dating from 1873 to 1889 and designed by Frederik Christian Bøttger, there are 480 houses in relatively short and continuous terraces along eleven streets between Øster Farimagsgade and Øster Søgade which, as its name implies, runs along the south shore of the lake Sortedams Sø. 

The houses are popularly known as the Potato Rows or Potato Houses and were built by and for the workers at the Burmeister & Wain shipyard. Workers contributed to a fund and then had their names drawn to see who would move into the houses.

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housing, streetscape

late 19th-century terraces

Krusemyntegade running up to the Jerusalem church on Rigensgade


There are several streets in Copenhagen that date from the late 19th century with family homes in terraced rows that have been built following a pattern that is very common in England at the same time. That is, all the houses are directly onto the pavement without a front garden and although the plots are the same width and all the architectural features are close in style, it is clear that along the terraced row the plots were sold to individual builders who put two, three, four or sometimes more houses in a section that are identical but vary slightly from the adjoining houses along the street.

The larger houses differ slightly from the English type in that they are generally wider with two and sometimes three windows to the front on the ground floor lighting a main front room and because the houses are wider there are rarely ranges extending out to the back although there are often detached washhouse and toilet blocks in the back yards. 

The English versions, being generally narrower, usually have a long thin entrance hall leading to a staircase in line in the back half with a front room onto the street, usually a sitting room, a back room alongside the staircase, either a dining room or a main kitchen and a narrow range to the yard with a third room that was either the kitchen or if the kitchen was in the middle room, a scullery or so-called back-kitchen. 

There is one short terraced row near the harbour called The English Row Houses but these too differ from standard English houses in plan and form.

Olufsvej just below the Brumleby houses and close to the football stadium in Østerbro

housing, streetscape

Nyboder - rebuilding in the late 19th century

The Nyboder housing - on the north edge of the historic city and close to Kastellet, the fortress or citadel - were houses built for the navy. The first of the houses were constructed in the early 17th century and through the 17th and 18th centuries more rows were added with a series of parallel streets with long narrow yards between the rows of houses. 

In the 1880s several blocks of the old Nyboder houses were demolished. New streets of apartment buildings were constructed between Borger Gade and Store Kongensgade and a new church, Sankt Pauls Kirke, was built facing a new square with new naval houses constructed along three parallel streets close to the church including Haregade, Gernersgade and Rævegade. These houses are much larger than the earlier Nyboder row houses and were subdivided into apartments.

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The church of Sankt Paul from the square with the new houses from the 1890s beyond and the gable end of one of the 17th-century row houses to the right



Studiebyen housing quarter


Built for KAB (Copenhagen Public Housing Association) between 1920 and 1924 to designs from Edvard Thomsen, Anton Rosen, Ivar Bentsen, Thorkild Henningsen and Kay Fisker. 

Nearly 6 kilometres (3.5 miles) north of the city, There were 104 houses including a number of villas and two long rows along Rygårds Allé that face each other, running north south, with a large road-width gateway at the centre of the west row for access to a small group of semi-detached houses. All the houses including the rows have small front gardens and back gardens. The landscape was designed by G N Brandt, the municipal gardener in Gentofte.


more photographs and a longer assessment


Bakkehusene housing scheme


About 4 kilometres (2.5 miles) to the north west of the city on a slope that faces south east and looks down on and across Copenhagen, this was the first scheme built for KAB (Copenhagen’s Public Housing Association) that had been founded in 1920. The Bakkehusene scheme was designed by Ivar Bentsen and Thorkild Henningsen and completed in 1923. 

There were 171 low-rise houses in short rows running away from a large, tree lined rectangular green that rose up the slope from Hulgårdsvej. The row house was a traditional rural form found in villages and small market towns although a few survive in Copenhagen, notably in Sankt Pauls Gade - some of the earliest houses in the Nyboder area and dating from the early 17th century - and in a short row at the south end of the Frederiksholm Canal.


more photographs and a longer assessment

housing, gardens + parks, streetscape

Søndergårdspark housing scheme

Søndergårdspark was constructed between 1949 and 1951 for the Danish Public Housing Association. 

Designed by Poul Hoff and Bennet Windinge, the plan and style of the houses were a development of schemes before the war at Studiebyen in 1920-1924 and for the Bakkehusene housing scheme completed in 1923 but at Søndergårdspark there was more emphasis on a rural form of landscape with informal planting of trees and shrubs and the houses set at slight angles around a large open public space, like a village green, rather than along a street or around a formal square.

For more photographs on the Søndergårdspark housing scheme - the first in a new section here looking at housing in the city