Even newer Nørreport station?

In January 2015 we made one of our first urban beagling excursions, to the ‘new’ Nørreport station. Seven years later, it’s in line for a rethink.

CPH’s answer to Clapham Junction, Ny Nørreport opened on time and on budget after a three-year refurb costing DK 400 million. The new station was very much talked up at the time, feted for creating one of the largest and longest public spaces in the city and (almost) opening up a busy intersection, hence integrating Nørreport with the pedestrianised part of the city centre.

The design was based around an analysis of the routes taken by the station’s users, likened to animal tracks or water flowing round rocks, with ‘deposits’ in the form of pavilions and bike stations. Instead of one single building the station is made up of six curved canopies, the largest the size of a small family house. Under two are service centres, including a staffed ticket office, a free! public toilet and two kiosks. The canopies are covered with stenurt (sedum), designed to absorb rainfall and work as insulation, as well as offerng a different appearance depending on the season.

From ground level things aren’t quite so lyrical. The station’s iconic red sign remains, but the six covered islands have largely taken the place of any form of street life around the station. The small stalls selling fruit and coffee, pølsevogner and exotica such as Tonis Lángos’ Hungarian potato bread which had taken up position in front of the station building over the years have moved on.

A further issue is the bike station solution. Modelled on flowerbeds and designed to recall the canopies, bike rack islands are located up to 50cm lower than the rest of the concourse, taking them out of the normal sightline; capacity is however limited, Even more dominant are the 11 ventilation shafts which zigzag across the concourse, lit from the inside, covered in glass and surrounded by hurrah! benches, finally installed in summer 2016.

The concourse may have been envisaged as airy and aesthetically pleasing, but the resulting public space is not really accessible or usable, hardly somewhere you would choose to linger. At the same time it lacks the identity and coherence of a place of transit–somewhere you pass through on the way to somewhere else.

Meanwhile, there have been no improvements to the travellng experience; below ground things remain as grim as ever, and the narrow, dimly lit platforms quickly become overcrowded, It’s hardly state of the art.

The likes of Monocle praise Copenhagen’s sleek lines and design-led approach to urbanism, only occasionally revealing the everyday reality beyond the city break or international ‘expat’ lifestyle. If you are looking for the essence of a city, with diversity and buzz, or simply for people who look different from you doing different things, you’d be better off heading elsewhere.

Incidentally, Beagles 1 & 2 were six and four at the beginning of 2015. Beagle nr 3, who will be two in June, has already earned considerable urban and suburban beagling credentials, while nr 4, at nearly four months, has already visited a small housing estate and inspected the source of a lost river.


Sources: Nørreport og Nørre Voldgades historie (tag; paywall). DAC. 2020 critique: Arkitekturforeningen, Danish Design Review.

See also Politiken’s 2015 review (paywall), which awarded five stars out of six, citing the station’s ‘organic qualities’ offering a range of repetitions and variations, entrances and exits, a station which can’t be viewed as a unity – or even as a single place. The canopies were found to be reminiscent of Arne Jacobsen’s petrol station at Skovshoved, creating a new high space over a bigger and more human concourse.

In Monocle’s Tall Story 300: Sights and sounds, Andrew Tuck “ponders what lessons old photographs of cities can teach us about our contemporary metropolises”. See foot for the perpetual motion of Nørreport in 1950, courtesy of KBH Billeder.

Timeline:

  • 1918: the station opens as Frederiksborggadestation, a stop on Boulevardbanen, the first service running through rather than simply into the city; built underground, the station was marked by two soup terrine-shaped pavilions at street level
  • 1932; new funkis station constructed
  • 1934: the S tog opens; 8 million passengers per year
  • 1937: 24 million passengers per year
  • 2002: the metro opens, with a dedicated entrance on Frederiksborggade
  • 2015: the new station serves 80K S tog passengers a day, plus 20K mainline and regional train passengers and 40K metro passengers, not to mention all the nearby buses

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