#bymidte2650: seconds out!

Update, March 2017: as the Risbjerggård saga rumbles on, the latest from the kommune is that the town hall will remain the ‘tallest’ building in the bymidte (it’s really not very tall), with public access from the top floor proposed…April: still at the pre-planning stage

Updates…29 March 2015: an article in Hvidovre Avis makes it clear that it’s just the four scenarios on the table as a 16 page borgerforslag is submitted…8 April: more on Idéforum 2025’s plan, put together by bl. a. Ole Pihl (“let’s put a stop to just being a suburb”) and locally resident architect Ask Hvas (at BIG, no less; article not online)…14 April: even more…28 April: we’ve changed our minds, Idéforum 2025 _can_ present their plan…5 May: or maybe not (this story, headlined Disagreement in the financial committee, followed two days later with a story headlined Agreement in the evaluation committee). Not exactly a shining example of borgerinddragelse. 16 June: decision re Risbjerggård is approaching – see Hvis disse vægge kunne tale and accompanying vid…23 June: Kommunalbestyrelsen drøfter en ”tredje vej” for bymidtenFagdommerne: Vejledere eller vildledere?…second workshop held 27 August to discuss two latest plans, to go to an open committee at the start of 2016…see response from Ask Hvaslatest plans as at 15 September 2015…and one year on: Et swung og en pyt i bymidten, oh dear

Nearly 18 months ago, around the time of the local elections, I wrote about the lack of a town centre in Hvidovre, the suburb to the south of Copenhagen proper where I live. Now something is stirring!

An area around the town hall has been earmarked as Hvidovre’s new centre. Back in November the council held a workshop as part of a consultation and co-creation process to run until September 2015, with the area then sold for development in September 2016. They’ve done this dance a few times, with this effort actually kicking off in June 2013, but now something might actually happen. There’s a logo and a subcommittee and everything – see Projekt Hvidovre Bymidte (Facebook).

While the process is conceived as community driven, the issue of Risbjerggård, championed by Risbjerggårds Venner and not least the Risbjerggård/Hvidovre Bymidte Facebook group, is extremely sensitive. An old farmhouse dating from 1850, rather rundown and currently managed by volunteers as a cultural centre, Risbjerggård is at the heart of many local residents’ memories and hence the area’s cultural heritage.

On 10 March draft ideas for two scenarios, one including Risbjerggård and one without, were presented by two firms of architects at a workshop which I attended. Both sets of presos were effective, drawing on all the contemporary urban tropes, with much talk of mellemrum (the space between buildings) and fortætninger (increased density), which it was taken as a given would create byliv (city life) and bymæssighed (an urban quality). One firm went so far as to propose creating a new landsby (village), a way down the road from the original, traces of which still remain. This area, the other side of the motorway which has been cutting across Hvidovre like an open wound since 1976, is currently a building site due to the development of a new railway line, and will remain so until 2018.


slide: BCVA

While Hvidovre is firmly on the left hand side of the order vs chaos scale, there is a balance to be found, which needs to take account of local conditions rather than blindly following fashion. Can you really turn a suburb into a village? And, why would you want to? Modernism gave Hvidovre space, air and light – this is something to build on, not to throw away. You don’t have to look too far to see more nuanced views of the area – a forthcoming study visit to Bredalsparken and Strandhavevej, Søren Ulrik Thomsen praising Berners Vænge, and not least Bjarne Reuter:

Man kan se mange fascinerende ting fra sin cykel på Hvidovrevej.

The suburban lifestyle of villa, Volvo og vovse (car, house and dog), is not something to be apologise for – it’s still what many people aspire to. Parachuting in some narrow streets won’t alter Hvidovre’s DNA. Let’s move on.

The proposed development area is fairly central geographically speaking, almost as big as Copenhagen’s town hall square, and pretty much empty – never mind space between buildings, here there’s just space, with local attractions elsewhere. Moreover, communications are poor, with the roads network drawn with a ruler and the proposed town centre sitting inbetween two stations.


slide: Vandkunsten

Improved connections, in particular for walking and cycling, would be a start, breaking up the 4.3km Hvidovrevej corridor. Much was made of creating s/p(l)aces for people to meet, building on the active foreningsliv in the area (clubs and associations are big), but what is really needed? Basically the proposals come down to building some sort of trophy attraction, a museum, a theatre, a tower…and filling things in a tad.

But can you really create a town centre?

Urbanists have for some time now been drawing attention to the ‘over-scripting’ of public space in modern urban regeneration schemes, so that all conflicts and loose ends are designed out of the development, and people are subtly organised and choreographed into patterns of use and timetables decided by others. This disallows for that sense of wandering, of going off-piste, and of discovering a neighbourhood or district by serendipity. (source)

A third scenario is also on the table, resurrected from an earlier round of discussions and hence less subject to current fashions. Including a curved lake behind the town hall it is a variation from the build, build, build meme, and I like it! An email of 19 March from the council states that feedback from the workshop was in the direction of more green and water – lip service was paid in the idyllic pictures in the presentations, but in the scenarios, not so much. Trees are, of course, my thing, and it would be nice to see the council taking the opportunity to develop a træpolitik so it is clear what’s going on. One easy answer to some of the town centre questions – just plant some greenery in the road!

road layout

slide: Vandkunsten

A committee will sit in judgement over revised scenarios on 21 April, with the full council meeting for discussion on 24 June. A further workshop will be held on 27 August to discuss the chosen scenario. The Risbjerggård issue, originally presented as a binary option, still dominates, but it doesn’t have to be all or nothing – one of the firms came up with some imaginative yet realistic solutions maintaining a sense of the building.

Meanwhile,  innovation platform Innosite is about to launch a rather lame looking competition thing around Hvidovre as the new Hollywood (the winner: Inside the camera and an unknown bird, me neither; presumably they’ve printed out Seismonaut’s film tourism handbook, on Filmby Aarhus), and Hvidovre Kunstråd has funded some public art for the area around Risbjerggård, which is described as currently anti-public space, due to traffic noise (minimal), with nowhere to sit and nothing to look at. Better not get in the way of the Friday petanque players, when it’s very much their space.

Old stuff, inc six themed workshops held under the auspices of Ideforum Hvidovre 2025:

  • Ole PihlRisberggårds Venner
  • Givrum – evaluation report and idekatalog for events and activities led by locals (story | again)
  • 21 January – local journalist Jens Harder Højbjerg from Vestkærs Alle 22 (married to Rushy Rashid) presented his ideas on Hvidovre 2025, calling for a higher profile from the council; Hvidovre as part of Rødovre, due to the brændt ud of Hvidovre C, ecommerce meaning the death of local shopping and streetlife on Hvidovrevej, Avedørehavnevej as a Berlin Wall between Hvidove and Avedøre, the high speed train travels through Hvidovre Landsby without stopping
  • 28 January – Poul Sverrild on Hvidovre’s DNA; assorted vids w bad sound: one | two | three | four, Hvidovre Avis report
  • 4 February – Hvidovre Bymidte’s DNA, revisiting all those old ideas with a fascinating set of slides; here’s the latest jazzy version, plus Risbjerggårdsvenner’s plan
  • 18 February – visit to Spinderiet and Valby Tingsted; see also Urban Lab on Stedsidentitet
  • 25 February – writing/drawing workshop
  • 4 March – summing up, but Erling’s not happy
  • BCVA round 1: den moderne landsby – slyngede gadeforløb og intime byrum og attraktioner, som filmmuseum og udsigtstårn, med f.eks en restaurant i toppen
  • Vandkunsten round 1: nye pladser og mødesteder ved Risbjerggård, rådhuset og sundhedscentret, som bliver forbundet med en stræde, som giver oplevelsen af en by, nærhed og aktivitet; hvis Risbjreggård rives ned kan Hvidovrevej slå et sving, så det ellers monotone vejforløb bliver brudt; et nyt cirkelrundt hus kan være nyt kulturelt samlingspunkt; her er flere pladser at mødes og lave aktiviteter på; det hele forbindes af et stræde

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