Bedre byggeskik in Valby

Update, July 2015: article on Bedre byggeskik in Faaborg (and more broadly)

Last Sunday I went on the Danish Architecture Centre’s Bedre Byggeskik i Valby walk, the first of three walks hosted by DAC as part of CPH’s Golden Days Festival themed around World War One (of which much more to come). Unlike most of DAC’s walks which celebrate the shiny and new this walk looked at the Bedre Byggeskik/better building movement, set up in 1915 to encourage good craftsmanship in the building of social housing – think traditional architecture/vernacular. Update: on 17 Sep Frederiksberg Stadarkiv hosted a walk around early social housing in the west of the borough – see the great pic.

On the old road to Roskilde, Valby (Wikipedia) and its tingsted date back to the Middle Ages. Until 1901 it was part of Hvidovre, but with industrialisation and not least the development of Carlsberg it was drawn into Copenhagen. I’ve always liked the area – it feels more ‘normal’ than the regularly feted parts of Copenhagen, neither hip nor pretentious, almost like a northern English town in a no nonsense, let’s get on with it sort of way. There’s life about the place, plus a sprinkling of urban grit.

Turns out there may be a reason for this – large areas of housing were built and laid out following the ideas of Ebenezer Howard and his garden cities, resulting in low density and room to breathe. The only drawbacks are the size of the gardens, meaning the houses are pretty close together, and some are now pretty close to the railway lines, with two S tog lines plus the main line to Roskilde passing close by.

The walk was led by Nan Dahlkild, who has written an article on Bauhaus in Denmark, which I shall have to hunt down. Both Bauhaus, in particular its early stress on craftsmanship, and the Garden City movement got frequent shoutouts during the walk, which also benefited from contributions from a couple of locals. Those now much sought after one family homes were previously occupied by one extended family per floor, with a famous photo showing all 28 occupants of one house posing in the garden.

Bedre Byggeskik supported developments built by byggeforeninger, of which there were seven in Valby, with members drawn from particular trades. Byggeforening translates as building society, but here they did the building as well as the financing. For more on the development of housing in Copenhagen up to the explosion of the suburbs see Plads til os alle: fra baggård til beton and accompanying video (Filmstriben).

Stops on our walk included Lyset (1912-14; Wikipedia | dansk), Valby Vænge (1918-19), buildings put up by Valby og Omegns Byggeforening (1898-1903), and finally Den Røde By/the red town, and Den Hvide By/the white town, also known as Trekanten/the triangle (1915-20).

All rather less quaint than Brumleby or Kartoffelrækkerne, and with re/development focused on the Carlsberg area on the border with Frederiksberg and the metro nowhere in evidence, thankfully currently free of building sites. Reuses are being sought however for a succession of old industrial buildings, with both Spinderiet, a shopping centre in the old cotton mill, and Valby school in the old porcelain factory, both proving moderately successful.

General walking type Peter Olesen comes from Valby and has a new book coming out imminently, both på dansk (Ude i Valby) and in English (Out here in Valby) editions. We’ll have to go back, although green areas for the beags within the residential areas are at a premium, with both Valby and Vigerslev parks, which we already know well, to be found on the edges of the kommune. 

For some wonderful old photos (trams!) and the latest developments in the area see Valby og København, før og nu.



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