There are four major areas for extensive new development in the city with one around the harbour to the north of the historic centre with the redevelopment of the old Free Port and the area of major docks beyond known as Nordhavn; a second area to the south on the west side of the inner harbour that includes Havneholmen, Telholmskanal and Teglvækshavnen; the third major distinct is an area on the east side of the harbour called Islands Brygge and finally there is Ørestad - a large linear development down the centre of the island of Amager that follows the south-west line of the metro from a relatively new university area, through the concert hall and television studios of DR Byen and on to the hotel and conference facilities of Bella Center and the end of the metro line at Vestamager station.
The development of Tuborg Havn, north of Nordhaven, is a fifth area of major building work now nearly completed that includes apartments, offices for major banks and a shopping centre. Strictly this is not in Copenhagen but in the independent administrative area of Hellerup but it should be included for the quality of the buildings, for the overall planning, which is different from the other areas, and because it must mark the northern boundary of major building work in the region as one would hope that planners and local people would not want development to continue on to encroach on the important and very attractive coastal area of Charlottenlund and Klampenborg.
The scale of new construction over the last 15 years can only be matched by the expansion of the city in the late 19th century when the old city walls were demolished and there was rapid building of apartments to the west and north of the old city. Between 1870 and 1900 the population of Copenhagen doubled from 181,000 to 360,000 people and housing had to be built for both new people coming into the city and for people already here but living in overcrowded slum housing that was cleared or improved.
Obviously, in recent work, there are new office and commercial buildings and several new shopping centres but again, as in the 1880s and 1890s, it is the figures for new apartments that really are amazing. A recent newspaper article indicated that the long-term plan is for 9,000 new apartments around the South Harbour, 10,000 in Ørestad, 7,400 in Eastern Amager, 2,800 in Valby and 3,700 apartments along the Inner Harbour.
Along with this housing there are major public buildings for culture, including the new Opera House, The Playhouse for the Royal Danish Theatre and major new concert halls. There are new squares, open nature areas, parks, sports facilities and of course, this being Copenhagen, new bridges for cyclists and new cycle routes linking everything together. As a crucial part of developing the city for the 21st century, there is also significant investment in infrastructure with a major extension of the metro system, new works for sewage and drainage and new buildings for waste recycling.
Much of the new development is on land that was commercial docks, areas of heavy industry associated with the docks and even, in the case of the area of Holmen and the new Opera House, former naval bases and dock yards where the navy have moved away from the city centre.
What is probably more important is that areas of reclaimed and marginal land and what is in many cities are functions or facilities that are shunned or hidden have been embraced in Copenhagen so one of the most exciting and prominent buildings under construction is the massive waste resource centre at Amager that, far from being hidden away, will be 90 metres high and will blow giant smoke rings. It is designed to be a family attraction as Copenhagen’s only ‘mountain’ and it will have a viewing platform, cafe’s, a climbing wall and ski runs down from the top.
Finally, of course, new building in new areas of development has not meant that there has been a moratorium on work in the old city or in the more well-established suburbs. Planners and the port authority in the city are trying to avoid the major pitfall seen in rapid development in many cities where huge investment in one area means a mass exodus of businesses, up-market stores and more affluent families to areas that are seen to be more fashionable or more exclusive or simply novel. In Copenhagen there has been a concerted effort to make sure that areas are not abandoned or isolated … the rebuilding of the Nørreport station and with it the revitalisation of that area, the remodelling of Israels Plads, the revitalisation of the Meat Packing District and the chance to remodel the Vestebro area immediately west of the central station following major construction work for the extension of the metro are all examples of the city trying to ensure that no area is left behind.
The fine Autumn weather and now the bright clear blue skies of Spring has been a good time for me to explore some of these areas and take photographs. I hope to cover many of these new buildings in more detail in future posts but the photographs here give just a brief introduction to some of the buildings in the city that have been completed since the turn of the century.