mid-century buildings

historic buildings, mid-century buildings, topography

Kultur Tårnet …. one year on

Since 1620, there has been a bridge at the centre of Copenhagen harbour. Knippelsbro was constructed to link the old city to what was, in the 17th century, a new and prosperous settlement of Christianshavn that was being built on land claimed from the sea and - from a new south gate of the city - there was a way across and on to the island of Amager.

Over the centuries the bridge was rebuilt several times but these all crossed the harbour at the level of the quay so there was restricted headroom for boat traffic to pass through unless the bridge was opened. This became a problem in the early 20th century as the wharves and quays south of the bridge dealt with more and more goods so more and larger commercial shipping was coming through the harbour and as the number of people use the bridge to cross backwards and forwards increased with the building of large new apartments blocks along Islands Brygge and south of Christianshavn with new housing in Amagerbro and then in Sundby.

A new bridge - the present Knippelsbro - was constructed and opened in 1937 with the designs by Kaj Gottlob. This has a much higher deck level - with long ramps up on either side to take road traffic up and over the harbour - so more shipping could pass through without opening the bridge - the current harbour ferries pass under the bridge without it having to open. There were two copper-clad towers - with that to the north for the main control room for opening and closing the centre span and a south tower contained sleeping accommodation for the bridge master and his men.

From the 1940s and through the 1950s and 1960s, the docks to the south of the bridge prospered with commercial quays extending down on both sides - so the bridge must have been manned throughout the day and the night - but with the decline and then the shutting of commercial wharves on the inner harbour, the number of times the bridge was opened each day declined and the south tower became redundant and was left empty and unused.

Lars Erik Lyndgaard Schmidt and Malthe Merrild saw the waste of abandoning such a prominent historic monument and came up with possible ways of using the building.

Last year, after several years of them putting considerable pressure on the city and after opening for a trial period to see if there was sufficient public interest … there was … and after extensive restoration work, the tower was opened to the public.

It is now an amazing viewing platform from where you can see up and down the harbour but more than that it's a very unusual venue for events; a very unusual place that can be hired for business meetings during the day and, despite the tight space, it's a venue for gastronomic events and concerts.

 

Today marks the first anniversary for Kultur Tårnet. Congratulations.

Arne Jacobsen, mid-century buildings

Arne Jacobsen - buildings for Novo Nordisk

 

In a period when most major architects have an international career, working on commissions almost anywhere in the World, it is relatively unusual for any to return to work for the same client again or to add new buildings to an earlier commission but Arne Jacobsen worked for the company Novo Nordisk through his career, designing first a villa in Klampenborg in 1933 for Thorvald Pedersen, a founding director and owner of the company, and then factories and housing, for workers in the company, and one of Jacobsen’s last commissions was a finishing plant for Novo in Mainz in 1970, the year before his death.

At one site, in an outer district of Copenhagen in the west part of the city and on the north edge of Fredriksberg, Jacobsen designed three separate buildings for Novo over a period of well over 35 years and it is fascinating, with that single group of buildings, to see distinct phases in the architect’s career. 

Of course the buildings also reflect wider changes of style over a period that covers almost the complete span of Jacobsen’s professional life but you can see how ideas were developed from other buildings he was working on or how he returned to certain ideas and, in revisiting, took the idea in a different direction. Also, of course, the buildings reflect how the form of factories changed in this period with rapid advances in engineering; major changes in production methods and simply changes in the scale of production that required ever larger and ever more specialised buildings to house specific processes.

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