Earlier in the week I mentioned that our new house was a murermester villa. As this was a new kind of architecture to us when we started looking at houses, I thought I’d talk a bit about what this kind of house is and about the history.Typically murermester villas were built between 1915 and 1930 and were the first example of a standard designed house. They were built for middle class families in residential areas in a ring around major cities in Denmark. In Copenhagen they are mostly in Vanløse, Brønshøj, Hvidovre, Lyngby and parts of Amager.
The design was a reaction by architects to the style confusion which had dominated the late 19th century and a group of Danish architects initiated various measures to promote the construction of good yet simple classic family houses.
Typically they were built over three floors with the ground floor arrange into four equal sections – one for the kitchen and pantry (at the back of the house), one for the entryway and stairs and the other two for living rooms one of which would have a bay window or way out to the front garden. The first floor would contain fewer rooms as they would be under the roof and there would be a full basement for storage. They would have been originally built without an inside bathroom or toilet. There would have been an outside toilet.
Gardens, which previously would have been for the wealthy, were an important element, especially one at the front of the house behind a picket fence so passersby could admire both the house and garden.
The original aim of a strong and robust home was one that has been borne out by time. These types of houses are still very popular with middle class families now but due to the small nature of the top floor most now have converted basement with some living space in them. They are difficult to extend outwards and in some cases the exterior of the house is protected from being altered.
So what is up with the weather here in Copenhagen at the moment? We have just had the first of three spring bank holiday weekends and it felt nothing like Spring. Wandering around the flea market in Frederiksberg on Saturday we found ourselves in a very wet and cold snow storm after leaving the house under blue skies – my son said it was mean weather and I have to agree. Come on Spring, we need you!
Talking of blue skies, before the Arctic snap arrived at the weekend I was having an explore around some of the back streets in Østerbro and I stumbled upon a little villa quarter tucked away behind all the late 19th century apartment buildings in an area known as Willemoes Quarter. However the biggest delight was discovering these fabulous art deco style three storey apartment buildings – the kind of place Hercules Poirot would have lived in if he had been Danish.
A little rooting around on the Google and I knew a little more. The area is known as the French Garden (Den Franske Have) and despite its appearance the apartments were built in 2008 but inspired by the functionalist tradition of the 1930s (you can read more about the place in Danish here). The look is so convincing that many people (like I did) assume they are from the 1930s and perhaps even designed by Arne Jacobsen. What a fabulous place to live!
There is such a lot of construction going on in the city at the moment and suddenly buildings seem to be taking shape beyond just being a building site. Axeltorv 2 is one of these. It seems that there was a big pit in this location for a long time and now you can see the new towers on the site from well outside the city. My thoughts on the number of high buildings now springing up in the city are for another time.
The location of the new construction on Axeltorv seems to have been a long time coming, the demolition of the Scala building formerly on the site began in 2012. This location has a chequered history and is seems somewhat jinxed. The original Scala was a theatre built in 1864 and between 1912 and 1927 was the location for popular revue theatre productions. It was closed in 1930 and renovated but never regained any real popularity and finally closed in 1957. The original building (above in 1882) was demolished and replaced by a department store which was reopened in the 1980s as a shopping mall with entertainments such as a cinema and casino. By the time we moved here in 2008, this had been closed for a year due to lack of success and another demolition was on the cards. I find this history quite fascinating – that a large venue in such as prime spot opposite Tivoli could keep failing so spectacularly.
There were many proposals for the new building on the site and in 2016 the new Axeltorv 2 from architects, Lundgaard & Tranberg, will be inaugurated. A couple of the towers appear to be very near basic external completion with the addition of shiny facades . The plans are for five independent towers of varying heights, each connected by skywalks with an open public area or urban garden around the base of the towers. The entire complex will sit separate from surrounding buildings so it can be reached from all sides. The architects say the design is reminiscent of the old city ramparts and will be very environmentally friendly.
The complex will house businesses and the ground and first floors will contain ‘high end’ (I quote the architects) shops and restaurants and there are plans for a sky bar or restaurant on the 10th floor of the highest tower. This complex is part of a wider development of this area with Tivoli Hjørnet (Tivoli Corner) coming in 2017.
We spent a week in East Jutland earlier in the holidays. The main reason was to take my son to Legoland but after eight years of living in Denmark, I was embarrassed to say that I have never explored Denmark been beyond the shores of Sjæland so it was time to rectify that. The visit opened my eyes to a different Denmark and over the next few weeks I shall be writing a few posts about things we discovered there and thoughts on it.
But lets kick off with a bit of architecture. I am becoming something of a modern architecture bore, which I realised when a close friend visiting us seem to glaze over when I started to tell her about the architects behind many buildings in Ørestad. Anyway on our first day in Vejle, the award-winning The Wave (Bølgen) was top of my list to visit.Designed by Henning Larsen Architects, The Wave, a residential complex of 110 apartments, has become the symbol of modern architecture in Jutland. I had expected the building to be in a more built-up area but it was actually a pleasant surprise to find it semi-isolated (although how long that situation will be, who knows). We drove to a spot across the water from it to get a good idea of its shape but I was keen to get up close and personal.
It is certainly an interesting and unique building and I love that all the apartments have this amazing view of the fjord and Skyttehusbugten bay, which is spectacular even on a gloomy summer’s day and it is wonderful to think that this view will never really change. I could sit on my balcony and look at this all day. The Wave is supposed to represent both waves and mountains depending on the time of day. In my mind I expected it to be a bit more commanding but it does certainly fit well with its location. The Wave has a real look of simple beauty about it and when the other three crests are completed (you can see a representation of this here) I think it may well achieve that wow factor. I am a fan of modern architecture as I feel that it challenges our thinking of what is beautiful and what is ugly, and how the unexpected can work.
Hopefully next time we visit Jutland we can find an Airbnb rental here! Love how The Wave looks? Then this picture is perfect for you.
Exploring a city, whether as a visitor or as a resident can be interesting but also slightly daunting if you are unsure of where to go and what to see. There has been such a lot of new development in the city over the last few years and many new and interesting places to explore but how to know the best places and the best routes is often difficult. I was aware that the Danish Architecture Centre offers pod walks and also guided walks, which is great but what if your interests are very specific or you want to organise your own tour?
Slightly tucked away on their website in a section where you can build your own guide of the best architecture in Copenhagen (and also Ålborg, Århus and Odense). You can choose by architects, build year and also types of buildings or spaces. Once you have selected your places the tool puts them on a map and adds a little bit of information and fact file about each place plus you can order them in the shortest route (the route is at the back of the guide). It is then pulled together into a smart-looking publication.
It can then be opened as a pdf to print or share, shared via Twitter or Facebook and you are ready to go with your own personal tour. Or if you are very pleased with your guide you can share it publicly on the website.
This is must if you want to explore the city in more depth this summer. I already have a few tours planned.
The area in centre of Copenhagen known as Frederikstaden is one of the most historic sections of the city characterised by Nyboder, Amalienborg and Marmorkirken yet just one street away is probably the most modern selection of buildings in the whole of Indre By along Borgergade. I walked down this street for the first time a few weeks ago on my way to the new Sticks & Sushi there and the anomaly was so immediate that I felt it needed further investigation. How was an entire street so completely modern? What had happened to what should have been a street full of historic buildings? I know that Copenhagen had minimal damage during the Second World War but I couldn’t think if any obvious reason. My friend Wikipedia stepped in. This street had indeed been part of city planning back in 1649 and had been mainly inhabited by tradesmen and shopkeepers whilst the streets closer to the harbour were for more affluent people. Despite the fact the street was largely untouched by the great fires of 1728 and 1795, their impact was felt as the housing became crowded due to the number of displaced people in the city. It became one of the most crowded slums in the city and a hot bed of crime and vice. By the 1940s the area was part of the largest condemnation projects in the city and was cleared. By the 1950s many modern buildings took the place of the original architecture.The new buildings were not simply thrown up to fill a space. Despite their very modern appearance, the apartment blocks above, known as Dronninggården, were built between 1943 and 1958 and a fine example of Nordic Functionalism and were designed by notable architects such as Kay Fisker and CF Møller.A street with a fascinating history.
Today marks eight weeks since I had surgery to put my arm back together after my cycling accident. I had thought about writing an uplifting post about all the positive lessons I learnt from the experience – there are many but equally there have been some very low points over the last two months. However instead of a moment of introspection, I looked outside at the bright blue sky, grabbed my camera and headed out into the sunshine.
Like many people who live in cities, I often find myself travelling past some of the most beautiful and historic buildings, always with the thought in my mind that I should stop and look but maybe next time. Well, next time came yesterday. After seven years I went into MarmorKirken. It may not be St Paul’s but it is still pretty breathtaking.
I then gazed up at the golden domes of Alexander Nevsky Church, the Russian orthodox church, a few metres away (I couldn’t see a way in for visitors).
I then meandered around Amalienborg, marvelled at how young the guards are and then sat in the warm spring sunshine looking over the sparkling harbour, my face turned towards the sun like a flower and I felt thankful, hopeful and above all looking forward to the rest of the year.