a sense of place


The substantial brick warehouse at Nordatlantens Brygge, on the south side of the Inner Harbour in Copenhagen, dates from 1766. The gable end of the building is towards the harbour but there was wharf and water on both long sides, although the dock on the east side, the side towards the new Opera House, was filled in some time after 1910 … it is shown on a map of that year. Ships tied up alongside these wharves to unload cargoes of fish and salt herring from the North Atlantic and furs from Iceland and Greenland that were stored in the warehouse before being sold and shipped on … the area behind the warehouse is still called Grønlandske Handels Plads.

The fish and the furs have long gone but the area around the warehouse retains the semi-industrial starkness of a working dock with large areas of concrete. That might sound like a criticism but it’s not … there is more of a problem, in a way, if these areas of wharves and warehouses become sanitised and loose all vestiges of their original purpose. Copenhagen grew and thrived on the hustle and bustle and dirt of the docks that brought trade and wealth to the city … it would be odd if that was completely sanitised and all evidence of the working docks removed.

Now called Nord Atlantic House, the warehouse is used primarily as a conference centre and cultural centre for exhibitions and events to promote awareness of Iceland, Greenland and the Faroe Islands.

However, at the harbour end is the renowned restaurant NOMA. 

The warehouse is immediately opposite the harbour end of Nyhavn, - at times the most densely packed tourist destination in the city - but the two are actually a fairly long walk apart with only a narrow bridge on Strandgade connecting this part of the harbour to the rest of Christianshavn. Even the harbour ferry does not stop at the NOMA wharf so to walk from Skuespilhuset, the national theatre almost opposite Noma and at the harbour end of Nyhaven, is actually 2 kilometres.

Despite this relative isolation the restaurant has apparently had a problem with curious visitors peering in through the windows so, to give diners at least a little privacy and also to improve their view out from the dining room, the restaurant commissioned work on areas of planting immediately around the building. The scheme was designed by the Copenhagen architects Polyform.

The garden, completed in the Autumn of 2013, has a number of polygonal areas divided by narrow pathways and these are banked up slightly with low dense planting and rocks, including larva from Iceland, to invoke the natural landscape of the Nordic coastal regions. Each of the small areas reflects the landscape and planting of different Nordic countries. 

There are also several bee hives. 

NOMA has earned their phenomenal reputation through using fresh, local and Scandinavian, ingredients and building on and developing regional dishes … they have a very strong sense of place … in winemaking called terroir … and that is reflected directly in the landscape architecture they have commissioned immediately outside the restaurant. The statement on their web site explains that “in an effort to shape our way of cooking, we look to our landscape and delve into our ingredients and culture hoping to rediscover our history and shape our future.”




Unfortunately the subtle and interesting planting may soon not be enough of a barrier as a foot and cycle bridge over the harbour is due to be completed this year and will provide an easy direct route from Nyhavn to the end of Strandgade and from there by other new bridges to the Opera House. The number of tourists walking along the wharf will increase enormously.




Købmagergade is a main street that runs down from Nørreport metro and railway station - or strictly it starts at Nørreport as Fredriksborggade and then after a block and beyond the square called Kultorvet it becomes Købmagergade. It then continues south past the Round Tower and on to meet Strøget - the famous walking street - at the east end of Amagertorv ... that's where Strøget widens out into a long triangular space that has been the main market place of the city since the Middle Ages.

The new paving of Købmagergade is in small smooth stone blocks in various shades of grey with some sections of the street almost completely in dark grey. There are LED lights set into the pavement around the Round Tower - an allusion to the early use of the Tower as an observatory for looking at the stars. Drainage is through long iron grills set into the paving.

Pavements, or at least the convention of stepping up onto a higher level along the sides of the street, have been removed completely and at most shops there is either no step up into the interior or at most a shallow threshold. This is clearly good for easy access but my slight criticism of the scheme is that the paving seems almost too high in its relationship to the facades or rather that the buildings appear to be sinking down slightly into the ground. The interesting gain is that here you can see that the line of a kerb - very much a 20th-century feature that came with the arrival of cars - reinforces a linear character for a street but here, where actually the width of the street does vary, it becomes much more sinuous and fluid as a number of spaces open out and then close in.

The architects for the works were POLYFORM and the Dutch landscape architects Sylvia Karres and Bart Brand - the team that have also just completed the design of the new forecourt of Statens Museum for Kunst.