Hvidovre Rådhus: a suburban town hall

Our local museum, Forstadsmuseet (the suburban museum/of – or in- the suburbs), has started a summer season of monthly walks in conjunction with Hvidovre Lokalhistoriske Selskab (local history society). The first was to, or rather round, Hvidovre town hall, indviet on 19 April 1955 by King Frederik IX and Queen Ingrid and celebrating its 60th anniversary this year:

Hvidovre kommune (council) as we know it today was created in 1901, when Valby and Vigerslev, the areas east of Harrestrup Å, joined Copenhagen (shame!), although Avedøre remained part of Glostrup until 1974.

In the early days the council met wherever it could lay its collective hat, including private homes, schools and local pubs. From 1909-24 it rented rooms at Hvidovre Torv 7, moving to an old school building at Hvidovregade 24, now Bytoften, in 1924:

This building was extended in 1931 and 1948 as the kommune’s responsibilities grew, but with the population reaching 25,000 by 1951 the decision was made to go for a new building, on pretty much open land at Hvidovrevej 278:

rådhus 1960

Hvidovre town hall in 1960 (source: Arkiv.dk/Forstadsmuseet)

The new town hall was designed by Helge Schønnemann, also responsible for a church and two schools in the area. Rather than a display of municipal pride the intention was to create a working town hall with a modest exterior. Itself now also much extended, forming a civic centre with the 1970s library and community centre next door, it will be interesting to see how this typical 1950s building will be integrated into Hvidovre’s proposed 21st century town centre.

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Hvidovre town hall, 10 April 2015

Our tour was centred around the 1950s wing at the heart of the building, with a staircase leading up the council chamber and 5th floor roof terrace:

On the first three floors are socialist realist style paintings depicting local scenes, painted by Victor Brockdorff in 1977:

Mayors through the years have not been overlooked. This is the rather devilish looking Toft, Ole Toft Sørensen (1944-58):

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The foyer outside the council chamber retains a 1950s ambience and has been used in several films:

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Inside the byrådssal (council chamber) is an impressive painting by Carlo Rosberg, entitled En kommune skabes (a council is created), featuring Hans Christian Andersen and the story of The Ugly Duckling (full story):

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The view from the roof terrace, on a sunny evening, illustrates some of the problems the kommune is up against. The surrounding area is flat and empty, all the way to Amager:

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Thanks to Anja and Dorthe for a hyggelig rundvisning!

Updates:

  • 18 April: trying to come up with British equivalents to Hvidovre I tend to use Croydon, however it’s not quite right. How about Droylsden in Greater Manchester? Here’s a blog on its 1970s town hall, the Concord Suite. I visited in the 1990s when I was working in local government, and they still look after one of my many pensions.
  • 19 April/2 May: photos from the kommune’s home page and stories from Forstadsmuseet: Hvidovres første kommunekontor | Kommunekontoret på skolen.
  • 30 November: more info added, after a second visit inside on the first Sunday of Advent, open house day! see also my Flickr album
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