Old Free Port and Amerika Plads
The construction of the Free Port began in 1891 and the wharves and docks opened in 1894. The development was a direct response to counter the opening of the Kiel Canal in 1895: work started on the canal in 1887 and allowed shipping to move between the Baltic and the North Sea avoiding Copenhagen and its port.
The Free Port was immediately north of the city fortifications at Kastellet and was laid out by Holger Christian Valdemar Møller with two docks running north south and open to the sea at the north end. The west quay or Amerika Kaj, now the site of Amerika Plads, had the main railway lines serving the port along the west side and included a power station. Across the south side, close to Kastellet, are administration buildings from about 1900, of high quality architecturally, mostly in brick and most have been retained with the redevelopment. There is a central quay, Midtermolen, and an outer quay, the Langelinie Kajen with substantial harbour buildings along its length and on the outer or sea side a raised promenade above low single-storey warehouses that have been kept. The long seaward quay, Langeliniekajen (Langelinie Pier), is now a major terminal for cruise ships.
The area around Amerika Plads is now densely built up and has an urban inner-city character with mainly apartment buildings flanking a main street running north south and around a narrow public courtyards to its west. Original port buildings here include a large warehouse block, the Silo, a power station and a rebuilt railway station.
The new apartments include Nordlyset (Northern Light) by C F Møller from 2006 enclosing a courtyard with sharp clean white facades and distinct yellow shutters. There is a large brick and framework apartment block by 3XN, the Kobbertårnet (Copper Tower) from 2004 by Arkitema and at the south end the Fytårnet (Lighthouse) by Lundgaard & Tranberg Architects with its dark grey tile cladding and begun in 2006.
Midtermolen (the central quay) is the least successful visually and already looks rather dated. A development from 1994 by PLH Arkitekter replaced the Dahlerup building destroyed by fire but although its great arc of blue glass on its east side is dramatic, it is rather mechanical and the original Dahlerup building provided a much stronger sense of form and drama at the centre of the port. There are three large office buildings on the west side of the quay - the most northerly with the high semi-circular block - and a line of apartment buildings in pale brick on the east side of the quay.
The Langeliniekajen (the outer or east pier) is without doubt the grandest and most formal part of the new harbour development. There are seven buildings in line running north south and looking west onto the east harbour and east over the promenade to the cruise ship quay and the open sea. At the centre is the impressive warehouse by Dahlerup from 1900 and this determines the scale of the other buildings - specifically the depth and height of the buildings. At the city end are apartment buildings by Schmidt, Hammer & Lassen from 1997 and north, beyond the 19th-century warehouse are the Finance Institute for Danish Industry from 2002 by 3XNielsen with extensive white shutters articulating the facing brick of the facades and, at the north end, an office building in hard dark red brick for ATP by Lundgaard & Tranberg Architects and just nearing completion.
These buildings pick up the form and scale of earlier warehouses on the inner harbour in an appropriate and sensitive way ... if it is possible to use the word sensitive for buildings of this baulk. It gives not only a sense of continuity and a sense of rhythm to the harbour front but it reflects the source of the wealth and importance of the city that came ostensibly from its sea trade and sea power.
These photographs were first published in Nordic Design Review