Why modern architecture should stay out of the inner city

Bryghusplads i skumringen OMA rendering - Inside Scandinavian Business

writer icon Sarah Willingshøy Tryde     OMA   |   City     🕐 30. Oct. 2017

20 years ago the biggest selling points for Denmark and Copenhagen were Danish pastry, H.C. Andersen and the royal family. Today a different kind of fairytale is the selling point for the city of Copenhagen.

The world-renowned Danish architect Bjarke Ingels has helped the world to get a renewed appreciation for Denmark through his architecture, Danish style and design. The so-called Scandinavian Lifestyle has not only become a way of living, but a hashtag and a trend growing even faster than we can read through one of HC. Andersen’s fairytales. But as city development and modern architecture is moving closer and closer to the medieval part of the city, how will that impact the residents and tourists perception of Copenhagen? Many industry professionals have expressed that the balance between the modern and historic architecture in Copenhagen is disappearing and eventually will lose the fairytale feel that it was once known for.

Walking through the old part of Copenhagen and you will be surrounded by buildings dating back to 16th, 17th and 18th century. Getting closer to the main canal, a different image is setting the scene. The majority of the buildings along the waterfront are all 20 years or younger. In the inner part of the canal from Ofelia square to Langebro, a stretch of only 1,8 km, there have in the last 21 years, been 10 new buildings, such as The Opera House, The Actors house, The Black Diamond and soon to come the new Paper Island. Adding to the collection, the Black Diamond has over the last 3 years, been getting a new neighbour called: BLOX.

In 2018 it will be inhabited by the Danish Architecture Centre, Danish Design Centre and Bloxhub, an innovation and growth hub whose purpose is to contribute to sustainable global urbanization through innovation in architecture, design and construction. BLOX will also house a fitness centre and apartments.

BLOX has been the centre of a heated debate. Architect and journalist Jon Stephensen can be quoted saying it is a fashionable house already out of fashion, a catastrophe, un-Danish and Copenhagen's most ugly house. The building has been accused of not being relatable or mindful of its historic neighbours and being oversized and disproportionate for the area. Museum director for the Maritime Museum of Denmark Ulla Tofte adds that BLOX can’t relate to the surrounding houses because of the big jump in scale.

“Copenhagen’s human scale is something that is praised by people from all over the world - wherever you find yourself in Copenhagen, you have the feeling that you can cross the street or just look up and then light comes down from several corners of the world. It is unique to the city and when the scale jump as much as it does here, we have broken with a tradition that has been developed since the Middle Ages“. Tofte told Berlingske.

Tofte continues by saying that she believes that the public space between BLOX and FMG (fæstningens materielgård), a building from 1740, will be a "scoop" for Copenhageners. The popular opinion of facebook users is although to agree with Stephensen and Tofte, complaining that BLOX covers up one of the last open views from the canal looking into the old part of the city.

Jesper Egevang, a resident of Copenhagen told Berlingske “... it reminds me of a container building and it might have some qualities if it was in ‘Nordhavn’ or the South Harbor, but placing a giant building on such a small area in one of the most cultural-historical sensitive environments in Copenhagen is in my opinion, a disaster”.

Kim Herforth Nielsen, founder of architecture firm 3XN and Jesper Nygård director of Realdania are of different opinions and believe the new BLOX building to be a part of the cultural centre of Copenhagen, a destination and a move into becoming a more modern capital.

One thing is certain, the residents of Copenhagen will have a new building whether they like it or not. BLOX is noisy, attention seeking and simply craving attention. It is a matter of opinion if new buildings like BLOX, The Black Diamond and The Opera House etc. are stealing too much of the attention and taking over the medieval city, but it is a reality that more and more buildings just like this one have come to stay.

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