new building

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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streetscape, new building

is zoning in planning now too rigid?


In most ways the developments shown in the exhibition at KADK about housing and welfare tick all the boxes … all of them are imaginative about overall planning with a strong emphasis on sustainability, most are keenly aware of social housing needs, all try hard to provide good, well thought out living space for a family with generous provision for natural light and where possible give good views out for each unit and all the schemes have an imaginative mixture of public and private outdoor space. But the more I thought about what I had seen, the more it struck me that there was one clear omission. Only one of the schemes talked about local provision for work with the inclusion of at least some commercial space. I know that this is an exhibition about housing but there were several area plans and schemes for substantial developments that create large new neighbourhoods. Many developments provide space for cafes and there are a number of gyms for the local community and some plans include retail units but only the scheme by Entasis for A C Meyer Vænge mentions the inclusion of commercial units. I was keen to double check, just to make sure I hadn’t missed anything, so went back to the exhibition today to read through all the summary texts again and look carefully at any layout plans. 

This confirmed something that I had already wondered about as over the last few months I have explored Ørestad, the Free Port, Tuborg Havn and the developments around the south part of the harbour.

Older, well-established workshops and some factories have survived in some of these areas and of course there are office developments often in close proximity to housing and the work by BIG, particularly and very deliberately for the 8 House, layers extensive commercial office space on the lower levels with residential apartments and town houses above. But there were no small workshops or studios.

I’m certainly not advocating here that heavy industry with noise or air polution or businesses that require hefty road transport to deliver materials or to take away finished manufactured goods should be mixed with play grounds and leisure spaces.

It is just that Copenhagen had … and I emphasise the past tense … a strong domestic and commercial mix within the city. The city was constricted to a relatively tight area by defensive walls and so for a start, within the city itself, from the early medieval period right through to the 1960s there were all the trades and businesses associated with the harbour. Is there even a single ship’s chandlers within the city now? Through the medieval period and through the 17th and 18th century, almost everything sold in Copenhagen was made in Copenhagen. More significantly, in terms of the current exhibition, the last period of massive growth and massive development for the city was in the period from the 1870s through into the early 20th century when all the areas beyond the old military defences were built including Vesterbro, Nørrebro and Østerbro. These new buildings then, as with the developments now, were primarily blocks of apartments but in amongst them, in courtyards and on the ground floors were furniture makers, dress makers and, presumably, candlestick makers. Virtually none of these businesses survive within the centre. Rud Rasmussen the cabinet maker on Nørrebrogade, a couple of working potteries on Kronprincessegade and in Islands Brygge and the cabinet makers Københavns Møbelsnedkeri, also in Islands Brygge, are obvious exceptions but for how much longer will they be able to survive rent increases or the pressure to move out to industrial areas well outside the city as developers eye their potentially valuable plots.

Surely there is a strong argument for including small workshops, studios and work spaces as fully integrated within these new residential areas. If wealthy merchants in late medieval Copenhagen lived above the shop why not their modern equivalent? And the potential gains are surely obvious. Everyone talks about a work/life balance but for some the integration of workshop and living space could solve lots of problems … so no commuting for a start and being there when the kids come home from school. Lots of people do now work from home but presumably very few of them can work with anything larger than a computer on a desk in the corner of a living room.

This isn’t a suggestion for a sort of living museum world of performing craftsmen but maybe strict zoning has gone too far. In the same way that children need contact with and an understanding about how food is grown, maybe they need more contact with the world of work. Perhaps local carpenters and weavers and potters would be inspiring. They could be supported with subsidised workshops or tax breaks in return for being there and being visible … how does a child decide that they might like to do a technical training as a furniture maker when they finish school if they have never seen a carpenter working?

If some trades and small-scale manufacturing was  brought back into these areas we really could start talking about the local economy.

And if we are talking seriously about sustainability, surely the survival of trade and craft skills and their integration into the areas where we live could be a huge step forward, or at least an alternative step forward and not a step back, but that can’t happen if there are no spaces for bakers, cake makers, picture framers, illustrators, rug makers or basket makers just down stairs or just round the corner. Bicycle repair shops seem to do pretty well already … but why not more local trades? More makers and doers … as long as zoning can allow for makers and doers.




The area around Jægersborggade in Copenhagen and the businesses along Kompagnistræde and Læderstræde in the centre have craft shops and cafes mixed together they show the commercial potential and the attraction of this sort of development but is perhaps more focused on retail and leisure than I mean here and the web site for Northmodern has a post about a Bella Quarter adjacent to the Bella Center with some planning work undertaken by COBE but I’m not sure if or how that will progress and it was certainly not included in the exhibition at KADK.

exhibition review, new building



Copenhagen now houses 30% of the population of Denmark and the city is growing rapidly with 1,000 people moving here every month. Obviously there is a huge pressure to build new housing and with that pressure there is a very clear understanding by politicians, planners and architects that they have to get the new developments right.

An introduction to this exhibition at the Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts puts the problems succinctly:

“The strain on the city leads to rising prices of land, and high construction costs lead to higher costs of accommodation, both in new build and renovated properties. This makes it difficult to build in general, and almost impossible to build cheaply ….. The city is being segregated into enclaves, with wealthy people in attractive, but expensive districts ….. while citizens with lower incomes have to settle in less attractive districts of the metropolis. This is a threat to social welfare and cohesion.”

But, as with the recent exhibition at the Danish Architecture Centre about the problems developing with climate change, this is neither a reason for doom and gloom nor an excuse to do nothing but talk anxiously about how awful it all will be. Rather, work has already begun on a massive amount of new building in the city … this exhibition is about housing schemes well on in the stages of planning so either where building work has started or is imminent. The contrast with the UK could not be greater: although both countries have been through the same economic recession, politicians in England seem to talk endlessly about the lack of housing but do nothing while in Denmark there has been a massive investment in infrastructure and work is progressing to build homes all round the city. And this is not small-scale development. The new area of Nordhavn is in part on land that was industrial dockland and in part is claimed from the sea but this area alone will have homes for 40,000 people and places for jobs for 40,000 people. 

Planners and architects in Copenhagen are well beyond the stage of trying to decide what they might do but clearly, from this exhibition, they are making sure that they do it properly.

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new building

UN City by 3XN

Actually, the reason for walking along the Langelinie quay was not to take photographs of a man painting a cruise ship - that was just a fortunate coincidence. It was the right time of day and the weather was good to take a photograph of the new United Nations building on Marmormolen in the old Free Port. The building appears to be almost finished and cranes on the adjoining site have been removed and the Oslo ferry had not left on it’s late afternoon sailing so gives a sense of location and a sense of scale.

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new building, topography

new development and redevelopment in Copenhagen

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.



  1. The Blue Planet, Kajakvej, Kastrup, 2013 by 3XN A/S
  2. Toldbodgade 13, 2013 by BBP Architects for Lise Aagaard Copenhagen A/S
  3. Ørestad Care Center on Asger Jorns Allé, 2012 by JJW Arkitekter
  4. 8House, Richard Mortensens Vej, 2010 by BIG
  5. SEB Bank, Kalvebrod Brygge and Bernstorffsgade, 2010 by Lundgaard & Tranberg
  6. SAXO Bank, Philp Heymans Alle, Hellerup, 2008 by 3XN
  7. Bella Hus apartments on Ørestads Blvd 2007 by Schmidt, Hammer & Lassen
  8. Tietgenkollegiet, Rued Langgaards Vej 10-18, 2006 by Lundgaard & Tranberg
  9. DR Byen, Segment 3 (north of the concert hall) 2006 by Gottlieb Paludan Architects
  10. VM Husene, Ørestads Boulevard, 2005 by BIG
  11. Copenhagen Marriott Hotel, Kalvebod Brygge 2001 PLH Architects
  12. Danish Design Centre, H C Andersens Boulevard 27, 1999 by Henning Larsens Tegnestue

museums + galleries, new building, streetscape

DAC on line


The on-line site of the Danish Architecture Centre is an amazing resource for information for modern architecture and landscape and urban planning. There is of course the obvious information about the Architecture Centre itself, on Strandgade on the south side of the harbour in Copenhagen, with opening times and information about exhibitions but that is just the access point to a huge amount of data. 

There are at a basic entrance point three separate sections under the headings DAC&LIFE, DAC&BUILD and DAC&CITIES but of course opening and moving through the various sections is fluid. Under the Life section is the Copenhagen X Gallery that gives access to descriptions, photographs and basic information about new buildings in Denmark including actually quite significant basic data about the architects, engineers, client, square metres and even cost that is actually quite difficult to pull together so easily from other sources.

Buildings can also be tagged and added to a personalised guide book with maps and downloaded as a pdf or sent as an email to others so pretty useful if you are planning to look at a number of buildings with a number of friends or colleagues.

There is information about new buildings in Copenhagen and its immediate area, as well as buildings in Aallborg, Aarhus and Odense.

All the buildings are indexed by year, by architect, by location and so on and can also be found from links on maps.

There are even pre-recorded pod guides for running or walking and for at least four years DAC organised an annual architecture run of 6 km in which up to 1,000 people took part. Have to confess that my first reaction was only in Copenhagen could you find something like that.

Exhibitions at DAC can be tracked back to 2003 so again an amazing resource now and a good starting point for research.

There are also other interesting pages like the book lists … for instance one compiled recently by Kim Herforth Nielsen of the major architectural practice 3XN.  Short comments about each book explain how the books have influenced the work of the practice.

News links cover not just DAC and Denmark but news about major projects and exhibitions and symposiums around the World. There is a strong focus on the development of cities, future possibilities in urban design and, of course, sustainability.


Danish Architecture Centre 
In May 2018 DAC moved from Strandgade to Bryghuspladsen 10, 1473 Copenhagen

historic buildings, new building, museums + galleries

Statens Museum for Kunst - the building

The original art gallery was designed by Vilhelm Dahlerup and Georg Møller. Building work started in 1889 and was completed in 1896.

Following a competition, a new addition to the gallery, on the side towards the park, Østre Anlaeg, was designed by C F Møllers Tegnestue and was completed in 1998. The restaurant is by the designer Peter Lassen with the artist Bjørn Nørgaard.

A major remodelling of the forecourt has just been completed with the work designed by Karres and Brands, a Dutch partnership from Hilversum, with the Danish architects Polyform.

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new building, streetscape, building materials

Forfatterhuset Kindergarten

Forfatterhuset Kindergarten opened in 2014 although work continues on the landscape of the street immediately around the school. It was designed by the architectural practice COBE and is in on the north side of De Gamles By buildings in a square that is open on the north-east side to Sjællandsgade. The buildings around mainly date from about 1900 and were originally built for a hospital for the elderly. The new nursery school is in a striking and novel form but picks up the deep red brick colour of the earlier buildings.

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streetscape, new building, building materials

a challenge for new buildings in the historic centre of Copenhagen

Cities have to be dynamic to survive and to thrive and even in the most historic and the most carefully protected cities some demolition of older buildings and rebuilding is inevitable. 

In Copenhagen any demolition and all rebuilding deserves and requires very sensitive and careful consideration but the reality is that preserving everything is impossible. The demands and requirements of modern life … particularly pressure from population growth, pressure from increased levels of traffic, alterations to give access for all, new standards for safety and security, the pressure for realistic running costs or reduced environmental impact … can all put huge and sometimes unachievable demands on the stock of historic buildings.

streetscape, new building

Torvehallerne, Israels Plads


Just a block to the west of Norreport metro and railway station is Israels Plads - a large square that was laid out in the late 19th century once building immediately outside the defensive walls of the city was allowed.

Across the north side of the square is Frederiksborggade, a busy road of shops and apartments leading out to the lakes and the bridge to Nørrebro. There are large and quite grand apartment buildings on the two long sides of square but the south end is open to Ørstedsparken - a green space with mature trees and a large lake that remains from a section of the moat that ran around the outer side of the city defences. 

There was a greengrocers’ market on the square from 1889 until 1958 when a large new vegetable market opened at Valby.

As part of a major upgrading of the area, two new food halls designed by Peter Hagens and between an area of outside market opened in September 2011 at the north end of the square. The buildings have simple thin elegant framing supporting shallow pitched roofs and are completely glazed creating good large light spaces that are divided into aisles lined with stalls like many traditional indoor markets.

The food halls are now well established and extremely popular with stalls outside for vegetables and flowers and stalls inside for bread, coffee, wine, fresh meat, cheese and of course fish, along with stalls for cake and drinks. 

Cafes and restaurants in the halls and around the square are particularly busy for lunch and in the evenings when people stop here for a drink on the way home from work and the food halls are now a popular destination for tourists.