Hvidovre’s point zero: the water tower

One of the chief sights in our manor is Hvidovre Vandtårn on HC Bojsens Vej, a 36 metre high water tower erected in 1937. From the end of the garden it looks like it’s growing out of our house. It may not be very high, but on the flatlands of Denmark it’s a welcome crease in the horizon heralding home from the train, as you cross the motorway from Amager and even from the plane.

Apparently still in use as a water tower, on the top is a radio repeater added by local radio hams in 1978 and inside are two climbing walls, erected in 1993 on the inspiration of former police commissioner Anton Dalsgaard. (Anton lived locally, dying in 2008 at the age of 93.)

The tower’s role in our everyday is reflected in the number of not very good photos of the thing we’ve taken. We keep finding new ways to look at it:

But hang on, doesn’t it look rather like another round tower? Architect Carl Jørgensen used Copenhagen’s equally iconic Rundetårn, Christian IV’s observatory from 1642, as a model for his construction. At 25m high this round tower is rather more stocky, but it also has a viewing platform topped by a copper cupola (an observatory dating from 1929, itself modelled on Tycho Brahe’s Stjerneborg on Hven, taking the height up to 36m), and an inscription on the front.

Copenhagen’s Round Tower (licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license)

Unlike its Copenhagen cousin Hvidovre’s tower lacks a unique internal spiral ramp, with instead a rather utilitarian staircase leaving room for a 300m3 capacity water holder. And while it may not offer an exciting programme of events or occasional opportunities for stargazing, at least it has room to breath.

A couple of years after we moved in across the road guided tours were offered, on a snowy night in December. Donning a hard hat and taking turns to mind beagle nr 1, we ascended the stairs for a view of greater Copenhagen’s expansive western suburbs, broken only by a lighting display on the local power station.

As chief local landmark it’s the logo for our neighbourhood residents association and a drawing subject for many a local schoolchild – also for my mother in law, who has painted it twice. Listed by the council at category 2 should mean it is safe from being pulled down and replaced by a Lego style house.

2015-10-20 13.26.36

Hvidovre water tower, after Edward Hopper

Built for the sum of DK 76,000, the original plan was to open the tower to the public on Sunday afternoons, with visitors able to enjoy the view from the top, and perhaps buy a drink and a postcard. Sadly this never happened, although the viewing platform was used as a lookout post (again | more) during World War Two. The council makes sporadic efforts to maintain the facade – perhaps due a scrub soonest to bring out its concrete loveliness.

Pleasingly, we have a literary reference – Hvidovre Vandtårn plays a bit part in Bjarne Reuter’s short story Arvo Pärt og de blå altaner, the story of a man who cycles to Hvidovre from Brønshøj once a week. Reuter told the local history society:

Jeg har aldrig boet her i Hvidovre, kender ingen, som bor her, men jeg bliver altid i godt humør, når jeg ser det runde vandtårn fra 1937, som ligner noget fra Folk og røvere i Kardemomme by. Og det er en ros.

(I’ve never lived in Hvidovre, and I don’t know anyone who lives there, but I always cheer up when I see the round water tower from 1937. It looks like something from When the Robbers Came to Cardamom Town [Norwegian children’s classic] – and that’s a good thing.)

Sources: Forstadsmuseet, Hvidovre Avis, Hvidovre Lokal Historie LandskabRundetårn.

Historical pictures of Hvidovre Vandtårn: Arkiv.dk, which also includes a pic of the 1925 vandtårn (again), which stood at the junction of Idrætsvej and Sollentuna Alle, right where they levelled all the shrubbery in March 2016.

More Danish water towers: my Flickr album | Vandtårne i Danmark. Even more water towers: Absence Club | the Bechers | BWTAS.

Updates: Bristol-style proposals for CPH’s Rundetårn (FB comments | Magasinet KBH | Politiken | DR) in the form of a temporary wooden cupola and a slide. Excellent! But not very Danish, and hence droppet…summer exhibition, Porten til Rundetaarn – 375 års historier (Rundetaarn 1642), featuring Peter the Great’s visit in 1716, when he also visited Hvidovre (again)

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