Copenhagen’s paternoster lifts

Update: more lifts – New York’s elevators define the city

Paternoster lifts, God bless them. First encountered in Dr Murke in 1979, and seemingly a significant part of Heinrich Böll’s legacy – the very lift that inspired the story is the setting a WDR 2 interview show. Definitely a German thing – the final scene of Doris Dörrie’s 1985 film Männer has also stayed with me, and as evidenced by the 789 comments to the recent Guardian story, a thing for many other people too.

It turns out that Copenhagen boasts five paternosters, three of which are easily accessible. Some Google action brings up videos of three of them.

Easiest to visit is probably the KVUC building at Vognmagergade 8, a stone’s throw from Nørreport and just round the corner from the Danish Film Institute. KVUC is an adult education centre, so access shouldn’t be a problem.

Built for a public utility company in best National Romantic style in 1913, the building certainly looks like it should have a paternoster. Heritage Elevator’s video shows students getting on and off in orderly fashion.

Vognmagergade 8

Vognmagergade 8 (pic: Arkitekturbilleder)

Next up, the Axelborg building, at a plum spot opposite the main entrance to Tivoli. Dating from 1920, Axelborg houses a number of agricultural organisations and hosts conferences and other events. Getting into the foyer at least is easy enough. Heritage Elevators has bagged this one too, and there’s a further vid from January 2015. Note however that this paternoster was the scene of a fatal accident in May this year.

While you’re there take a look at the plaque on the wall of the pub on the ground floor, marking the spot where Børge Thing, leader of Danish resistance group BOPA, narrowly escaped arrest in 1944. Axelborg is named after Absalon, the founder of Copenhagen (Axel is the Danish equivalent), and has some notable neighbours. On one side is Arne Jacobsen’s 1960 SAS Royal Hotel, while the other will shortly be occupied by the 16 floor Axel Towers, replacing the Scala building pulled down in 2012.

Axelborg and the SAS Royal Hotel

Axelborg and the SAS Royal Hotel

Getting out of the city centre and moving on a few decades brings us to Frederiksberg Town Hall, inaugurated in 1953 after a 12 year building process. Frederiksberg is well worth a visit – a separate council area with a population of over 100K it is surrounded by Copenhagen but retains a rather different feel, due not least to its own brand of street furniture and a profusion of street trees.

There are tours of the town hall on the first Saturday of every month (see pics), but it is a public building so more than likely you can take a look during working hours. Failing that, there’s a two part video.

Frederiksberg Town Hall

Frederiksberg Town Hall

Paternoster no 4 can be found in Denmark’s parliament building, aka Borgen. Originally all Borgen’s lifts were paternosters, but all bar one were decommissioned in 1990. Assorted parliamentarians have used the lift to make a sharp exit, if not Birgitte Nyborg, while in 2014 a TV 2 reporter lost his equipment down the shaft. There’s a video showing the full circuit.

parliamentarian and paternoster

parliamentarian and paternoster (pic: Kasper S)

The fifth and final paternoster can be found in Danske Bank’s HQ in Holmens Kanal, or so they say. It’s in all the listicles, but no further information can be found.

On a related note, I’m pretty sure Danish escalators go at a faster lick than their UK equivalents, and the ones without steps are really steep – have a go next time you are at CPH airport.

Sources: Arkark.dkArkitekturbilleder, EkstrabladetFrihedsmuseets VennerInden for voldene, Kristeligt Dagblad.

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