A Monotonous Cityscape?

(Reading time 5 min)

Is Copenhagen risk becoming a monotonous Cityscape? In an architectural pursuit of uniqueness, new developments strive to be the new iconic building in Copenhagen.

Industrial areas transformed to Residential Housing

Like a blank canvas, the architects and city planners have since the 1990’th converted the scrubby ends of Copenhagen into residential areas.   Striving for unique architectural solutions for the ‘modern’ family living in Copenhagen, the city planners develop the areas into new neighbourhoods.

The last decades the rough industrial areas on the former outskirts of Copenhagen and along the harbour has transformed itself. Old buildings are being demolished to make space for new residential areas. Ørestaden, Nordhavn, Sluseholmen, Teglholmen and Carlsberg City are just some of these new districts, which since the 1990’th saw the day of life.

Each new quarter is conducted by a separate master paradigm, but overall they are all designed to meet the requirement of family life in the midst of Copenhagen. And so the city planners and architects are given the task to create housing for the ‘new modern’ families who seek to combine the vibrant city life with family life. Formerly a suburban lifestyle but now also an inner-city life. Every day new projects pop up, and every time is proclaiming to be unique and giving the cityscape of Copenhagen a different idiom. But is this true? Aren’t they all in pursuit of creating unique architectural solutions ending up looking the same?

Atmosphere Requires the Ravages of Time

Many cities around Europe was sculptured and transformed over centuries. Buildings got built, some became transformed, and others again got demolished. Every time to meet the needs of people’s desires and dreams.

For every architectural period and tradition in time the landscapes of the cities have been moulded and sculptured, and in so providing interesting variations and details to the cityscape.

Changes conducted by generations have given the cityscapes imperfection that intrigues the eye.  As silent witnesses of the past, the alterations of the cityscape through time stand as multiple historical layers of meaning which are believed to give cities their unique atmosphere and life.

How to Create a Sense of Atmosphere

To create inviting urban spaces takes time. Hence when it comes to providing an environment with a sense of history, you can’t beat time. A fact city planners and architects face when developing entirely new residential areas on a grand scale.

In Copenhagen, this challenge is met by different approaches.  In the new residential area Nordhavn, north of Copenhagen,  some of the buildings are designed with a built-in patina.

By giving the new constructions, an imperfection from the beginning of the architects is attempting to create an artificial atmosphere. In Sluseholmen the designers tried to beat time and create atmosphere and unique detailing, by using variation in the choice of materials.

Sluseholmen Built With a Variation

Sluseholmen Canal District was one of the first areas to be developed at the Southern Docklands of the Copenhagen harbour designed by the Dutch architect company Sjoerd Soeters. Inspired by Java Island in Amsterdam the waterfront plays a fundamental role.

Inspired by the cityscape of the Copenhagen old apartment blocks significantly for inner city and -bro districts Sjoerd Soeters wanted to create the area with a coherent expression. To achieve this expression, the idea was that each building individually should be architectural designed which should give every building its own unique identity. Therefore 25 different architectural firms each was hired to create novel ideas, which is giving Sluseholmen an idiom rich in variety and detail.

 Variation Becomes a Monotonous Cityscape

Sluseholmen has internationally won several architectural awards and is considered an architectural success in regards to urban planning on a grander scale.  But this solution to artificially create a variety seems to be the new black when constructing new projects. Throughout the city, it is massively copied forming a kind of architectural trend.

A trend which is much similar to the former development of suburban housing in Denmark from the 1960’th and the 1970’th constructed by building companies specialised in the construction of one-family houses.

Initially, this type of dwelling was inspired by Danish modernistic functionalistic architecture from 1940’th. From the start of the 1960’th, several building companies adopted and transformed some the architectural ideas and idiom into what is now significant for Danish suburban housing.


 Teglhomen constructed in the Image of Sluseholmen

This new tradition, of trying to construct new residential housing with structural variation and detailing, is in the same fashion as we saw it with suburban one-family dwelling now being copied and transformed around the city.  And so it seems that all new developments in recent years are being moulded in the image of Sluseholmen.

The Canal District of Telgholmen being one of them. The development began in 2004 but the financial crisis sat a full stop for the construction, and for several years most of the building sites were left windswept. But in recent years the face of the district has changed from the empty plots and abandoned industrial buildings into primary consisting new apartment blocks.

All are they as inspired by Sluseholmen built with the variation as an essential architectural element. Though instead of hiring 25 different bureaus each to design separate section of the site, the new buildings are only conceived by a few hands. As a result, the cityscape of Teglholmen as so many of the new residential areas which have seen the day of light since the early 1990´th risks becoming monotonous.


Rapid Changes creates Monotonous Cityscape

But you need the ask the question if the rapid changes Copenhagen has been facing in the recent years are perceived so differently from earlier times when the city changed from being a small town to a city.

Throughout the history of Copenhagen, the city has from time to time expanded in a rapid paste. The old part of Sydhavnen being one of the areas which developed over a couple of decades. Maybe the Copenhagernes at the time also found the development of the area monotonous, and it only needs the ravages of time to change the persona of the new Sydhavnen.

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