CPH.dk: Copenhagen Airport

What could be more emblematic of a country than its airport? After over a year without flying I’m blowing my saintly ecological footprint (vegetarian public transport user with district heating) in two trips in December. So let’s take a look at Copenhagen Airport, also known as CPH.dk.

On the island of Amager and a stone’s throw (15 mins drive) from here, but with no local train on Amager the usual way to get from a to b is via c, ie by going into town and out again. Flinging the journey into Rejseplanen (“where will you go?”) and knocking out trains reveals an obvious bus and metro option I’ve never considered – bus to Frederiksberg, metro to the airport. Same price, takes slightly longer, but feels marginally more sensible and avoids central station hell. (Bus to Frederiksberg is actually one of my favourite zone anomalies. The bus stop, and several before it, is in zone 1, but walk across the road to the metro station and you are still in zone 2 and can travel several stops further. Go further, pay less.) Or maybe I’ll just cadge a lift in the dog taxi off my partner. (Update: how about a third option with two changes – buses to Ørestad, rail to the airport?)

You can read about the airport’s history on the CPH.dk site, some pretty basic English errors going on there. Founded in 1925, a new terminal, designed by Vilhelm Lauritzen, was completed in 1939. Seen from above apparently it’s the shape of an aircraft wing (pics), but aren’t they all. In use only until 1960, in 1999 the building was moved the 3.8km to Vilhelm Lauritzen Allé 2, where it is now used for VIP arrivals, conferences etc. It’s listed and regarded as “a masterpiece of Nordic functionalism and international modernism”.

When you arrive at CPH.dk you certainly know you are in Scandinavia. A booklet I found somewhere celebrates the opening of Finger D in 2001, the first part of a proposed Terminal 4, and the train station. The aim is for a ren og rolig (clean and calm) airport, simple and functional. It’s a good taster of the prevailing minimalist style for new arrivals, as is the station, which seems to have its own microclimate and exists in a permanent cold, dark and grey state. All in all, not really somewhere you’d want to linger, and rather different from Heathrow, with its lary carpets and dire warnings against rabies.

Bypassing the land of passion and luxury (duty free; who thought that up, such a misnomer for anything vaguely Scandi), shops with nothing to buy and over-priced eating opportunities (could it all possibly be a metaphor?) there are a number of artworks which may be a better way of passing your time:

  • Terminal 1 – dates from 1969 and is for domestic flights; worth a look for Robert Jacobsen’s iron sculpture of Pegasus (1993) just outside and Freddy Fraek’s AbNorma (1989) at Gate 6
  • Terminal 2 – originally from 1960 but has seen a lot of rebuilding; the home of budget airlines with fewer artistic interventions, but by the car park building is Henrik Starcke’s sculpture De Fire Vinde (the four winds) from 1964
  • 2014-12-12 14.08.55

    the girls keeping an eye on things

    Terminal 3 – from 1998, used by SAS and its more pricey friends:

    • at the top of the escalator as you pass to security is Hanne Varming’s bronze Pigerne i lufthavnen from 1999 casting an eye over the people struggling with the self check-in machines, just a little folkelig but a nice touch
    • Finger A – glass frieze of flying people, horses and centaurs by Frans Widerberg and 8.9m diameter mosaic of a labyrinth in marble and granite in the rotunda by Jørn Larsen, both from 1998
    • Finger C – built for non-Schengen passengers in 2001, on two levels with a balcony, lots of daylight and a Jens-Flemming Sørensen fountain
    • Finger D – at Gate D2 there are glass birds designed by Faroese Trondur Patursson in 2001
  • chairs:
    • in the arrivals area designed by Poul Kjærholm
    • Hans Wegner’s lufthavnsstole from 1960 can be seen throughout, with a modernised version from the beginning of the 1990s in Finger C; also in Finger C are Jen Ammundsen’s chairs from 1978; blue, taller, corrugated effect
    • main chairs these days are Twin (resting; more blue) and Partout (upright) by Johnny Sørensen and Rud Thygesen from 1995/6
    • in the lounge area on the second floor of Terminal 2 are a few Take off chairs by Thomas Alken, yet more blue with a matching foot stool
  • the floor – uses merbau and jatoba (me neither) from plantations in South East Asia and the Windies, aimed at lending a warmer effect to all that steel and glass
  • outside restaurant A Hereford Beefstouw there’s a large bronze bull designed by Janis Strupulis in 1996, an artwork and not just an advertising gimmick…he also offers two salmon which can be seen in the Seafood Bar
  • NEW spotted in January 2015, classic Københavner grøn benches in the baggage reclaim area, and in April 2016 even as a #copenhagenbench meme – see my photo

Back on the ground, my 2001 booklet has of course been overtaken by events, not least the opening of the aptly named budget Finger F, or CPH Go, in 2010. No aesthetic niceties here, there’s  even horrors! a linoleum floor. Likewise my destination, Edinburgh, has changed since I was last there just over two years ago. The security area, admittedly too small to accommodate the levels of traffic the city now attracts, has been transformed into all nine circles of hell as part of a £25 million extension. And there’s a tram into town!


Bruno de Wachter walks round airports:

The airport cuts a hole in the landscape. That’s why it is represented as a shaded surface on the map…In order to describe an airport, you have to draw a circle around it. Walking transforms a line on the map into a discovery. In order to discover an airport, you have to walk around it.

He hasn’t done CPH yet, but in 2005 Gåastand took a stroll around the perimeter. Certainly the walk to the cheap car park gives an idea of the scale of the operation, spreading across what remains of old Amager like a virus.

Update: Diamond Geezer has upped the ante by walking the Heathrow flightpath (map | LHR operations). A bit of speedy research has unearthed CPH’s area & runway systems, which boldly states that “aircraft approaches and take-offs mainly taking place offshore” (it doesn’t feel like that when walking in Kastrup) and a section on noise.

But airports have a special appeal as well, existing between time and place as a non-place everyone by definition wants to leave, and where there are few people who aren’t on the time schemes of somewhere else. In A week at the airport Alain de Botton, writer in residence at Heathrow, describes airports as “imaginative centres of our civilisation”, while in The global soul Pico Iyer, living “for a while” at LAX, says:

Airports are both a city’s business card and its handshake…like little dolls within the larger dolls of the city…a gift store with culture shock, the product of a mixed marriage between a border crossing and a shopping mall.

And from Edgelands: “Plane-spotting, unlike trainspotting, is a quintessentially edgelands pastime. As boys growing up in the Seventies, we remember the thrill of visiting an airport. But we never flew.” In my family, we went to the restaurant.

Copenhagen Airport, immortalised in song by Annette Heick in 2007, the same year that Scooch flew the flag for the UK:


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