Getting from A to B via C: Hvidovre to Ørestad

This weekend sees Kulturhavn, Copenhagen’s harbour festival, getting its annual run-out. On offer once more is Valbybåden, a boat trip from Sydhavn through the lock and down Kalveboderne as far as Hvidovre Havn – recommended!

For the rest of the year though transport around what they like to call the harbour is pretty limited – a handful of waterbuses and a fleet of pleasure boats confined to the area above Slusen, ie taking in Islands Brygge but ignoring the rest of Amager. We can only dream of a waterbus from Vestegnen into Copenhagen, like they had from 1928-32.

Due not least to the 1947 Finger Plan transport around the Greater Copenhagen area operates largely on a hub and spoke model, with local train lines passing through the central station. The new metro city ring (current eta: 2019) and other proposed developments should eventually create a better functioning network, but I’m betting that, as in many cities, they are ruing the day they pulled up those tram lines.

The up and coming area of Ørestad on Amager is merely a hop, skip and a jump away as the crow flies from where I am sitting – around 5km. Is it possible to get there by public transport without going into central Copenhagen?

There may be no S tog on Amager but it boasts:

  • two metro lines – in effect one line splitting at Christianshavn, one running down the western side of Amager to Ørestad and the other down the eastern side to Amager Strand and the airport
  • regional rail – all the way from Helsingør and across the Øresund to Malmø and beyond, via the airport
  • a variety of buses (12, 30, 33, 35, 77, 78; 75E, 871; 4A, 500S) – quick segue re buses; A buses run day and night, during the day at pretty regular intervals (4-7 mins); they stop a lot and have quite wacky routes; S buses, on the other hand, have few stops on route, the idea being to connect S tog stations and other hubs
  • the E20 motorway cutting a dash across (exit 19 for Ørestad)
  • limited parking – on-street parking deemed a no-no, meaning more income from ‘iconic’ multi storey car parks

The distance by road to Ørestad, via the motorway, is around 10.9km. It is possible to walk (coming soon!) via Kalvebod Sti, a journey of 8.5km, which would take around 1hr 43, or to cycle, taking around 27 mins (for a Dane), but today we’ll take the bus.

Itinerary to reach Vestamager station for a 16:00 appointment:

  • 14:59: depart!
  • 15:08: 200S from Brostykkevej, arr Avedøre Holme, Center Syd, 15:21, cross road (counterintuitively)
  • 15:28: 500S to Ørestad Station, arr 15:39
  • 15:39: metro to Vestamager, arr 15:47 – however for one stop and a distance of 1.1km may as well walk, should take 14 mins…


The return journey isn’t really feasible by this route, as buses to/from Avedøre Holme tail off outside work hours (ie after 16:00), and, not to put to fine a point on it, it’s pretty bleak out there. But Rejseplanen comes up with a third multi-modal option I’d never have thought of: metro to Bella Center, bus 4A to Sjælør and then S tog to Friheden, which gets the total journey down below 40 mins, mainly due to the increased frequency of the 4A in the late afternoon (yes, I know). I gave it a whirl, and it went swimmingly, not least with the thrill of driving through Bella Sky.


When I first took this journey a couple of years ago it felt like virgin territory, and no doubt the number of trips from Hvidovre to Ørestad is a tad limited, but journeys across are key to opening up a city, integrating suburban wastelands and freeing up space for all those people moving to Greater Copenhagen currently being crammed into egg box style apartments in the city centre.

As activity in Ørestad increases the need for access directly from Vestegnen will grow. The 500s bus tour takes in Glostrup, Brøndbyvester and Brøndby Strand on its way to Avedøre. It will be interesting to revisit this post in another couple of years to see if the options have changed.


B_Tours 2015: Berlin and Leipzig

2017 update: interesting post on how participation works

This year’s walking inspiration from Germany – see posts on B_Tour Berlin and Belgrade in 2014. Twitter: @b_tour_festival | Facebook.

B_Tour Berlin, now described as “a new hybrid form of public art that provide locals with a new perspective of their city and an opportunity to experience it differently”, ran from 26-28 June, with the theme of Re-placing the periphery. 

First up, B_Talk #1 around the festival theme:

The terms “center” and “periphery” are conceptual constructs denoting not only geographical but social, economic and cultural formations. Representatives of artistic and academic institutions will illustrate the challenges these conceptual constructs bear and present their approaches to creating new and thought-provoking conceptualizations of contemporary spaces. Which are their approaches to the problematization of the terms “periphery” and “center” and why is this extremely relevant to every and any city inhabitant?

Presented in cooperation with Ogino Knauss, who run a Re-centering Periphery project, working with VJing as a technique for creating open narratives and developing creative and critical ways to observe, describe and perform the city – see their work in Berlin.

Come in, Vestegnen and Udkantsdanmark!

Next, B_Talk #2 on  Touristification! New ideas for sustainable tourism:

Museum tours, “underground” or “alternative” tours and traditional sightseeing have become common day practices in most urban environments. This panel will investigate the more nuanced effects of tourism on the city. How does tourism and touristification impact spaces, people and local culture? B_Talk #2 will look at the ways in which tourism can become a more sustainable practice and what could be the role of artistic interventions in redefining and challenging touristic practices.

This is of interest due to the increasing #touristification of Copenhagen, lapped up on all sides at the moment, but fashions change. Plus is there an element of benign ‘Nordicism’ at play? I don’t identify with this fairy tale city, nor does much of the imagery reflect the two thirds of the population who don’t live in the capital (back to B_Talk #1). See too Leipzig’s Hipster Walk (below) – lovely Leipzig has now made it as far as the Guardian’s Alternative Europe series.

See this Barcelona story and Nana Rebhan’s documentary Welcome Goodbye:

15 tours in Berlin, including:

  • Eat the wall – foraging on bikes with two Danes who have MAs in Rhetoric and German studies from KU; see interview
  • Mapping stories on the Ringbahn – “during a 37.5 km journey participants are invited to share their personal memories of, and imagined fantasies about, the stops along the way; these intimate offerings will determine the route of the tour and will be collected and edited into a textual atlas of the city”; see interview
  • Plattenbautour (review) – “The ‘Plattenbau’ has a bad reputation. It is perceived as anonymous and boring. The names of individual Plattenbauten seem almost scientific – PH16, WBS70, M10, Q3A –  yet people live in them and call these strange architectural forms home. How do people turn concrete jungles into liveable spaces? What are the small scale, but crucial, techniques they use to bend the alienating into something familiar?…Boring was never so exciting.”
  • A sesnsual expedition to urban voids –  the hidden magic of linear district heating pipes, abandoned industrial landmarks and community gardens within GDR housing blocks
  • Shadow – seen this before, several times; “After a brief exchange of text messages at the beginning of the tour, the participant will find themselves setting out on an adventure in the footsteps of a stranger. At the end there will be a meeting and a surprise. Bring an open mind, curiosity and a phone.”

No B_Tour Belgrade this year, but instead we have B_Tour Leipzig in cooperation with Tanzarchiv Leipzig, from 2-12 July with the theme of movement in urban space, reflecting on current perspectives of city development and stories of public spaces in Leipzig.

13 tours, including, although pretty much all of them are inspiring:

  • Ghost Tracks: Karl-Heine-Straße – the hidden tracks of the urban space, traces left in the present by ghosts from the past and the future; the audience is led through the so called “booming districts“ of Plagwitz and Lindenau via a GPS-based audio tour
  • Kaufhaus Ury – performative installation, reconstructing the ground plans of what was once Leipzig’s biggest department store owned by a Jewish family
  • Hipster Walk – some people call Leipzig ”the better Berlin“ while others have used the terms ”Hypezig” and ”Likezig”; the walk brings a literary, ironic perspective to the notion and status of ”hype” districts and streets which no longer lie on the periphery of public awareness; available via Talk Walks
  • The Living Boundary – “The airport is the ultimate symbol of the modern world. It is an inbetween space that represents the contemporary hunger for speed and information. Kursdorf is an island of memories, nostalgia and dreams hidden behind the highway noise barrier at the edge of the Leipzig/Halle Airport.”
  • The Monday Walks – follows the Leipzig Montagsdemos of 1989 on the city Ring; audio tour, based on interviews with eyewitnesses aimed at triggering the imagination of participants about how urban spaces can be re-appropriated as public sphere, for the expression of democratic rights and as a place of political action
  • Nightwalkers – follow the traces of countless workers in the former industrial area of Lindenau
  • Phonorama – self guided tour through the Clara-Zetkin-Park, where the Sächsisch-Thüringische Industrie- und Gewerbeausstellung took place in 1897
  • Silent Walk – cross the Waldstraßen district, once the main Jewish quarter of the city

Also four B_talks, on art and activism (3 July), urban sounds and imaginary spaces (4 July), creative capital(ism) (8 July) and tracing histories of public space in Leipzig (12 July), not tweeted.

Finally, B_events in Leipzig include a workshop entitled Traces of walking: creating an imaginary sound book of Leipzig, with noTours, augmented aurality:

Jewish wildlife recording pioneer Ludwig Koch made a ‘sound book’ of Leipzig mid 1930s which was intentionally destroyed in WWII. We recreate this sound book (imaginary maps, urban interventions and site-specific soundscapes) retracing Koch’s paths through the city and his urban and natural recordings, inspired by his memoires. Participants are introduced to methods of artistic and sound walking and field recording, using noTours, a free online editor, to create their own sound walks.

Edgelands: the spotter’s guide

Last updated: 13 March 2018

Updates: this has popped up on R4 a couple of times and I’ve loved it each time – a true classic…Mar 2018: David Cooper is preparing an AHRC edgelands funding application “rooted in a scholarly exploration of the cultural and critical legacy of the influential creative non-fiction book, Edgelands” and the role that it and edgelands have played in the emergence of the place writing genre of creative non-fiction; data inc a bibliography of critical scholarship that explores the literature of edgelands, a document detailing the representation of edgelands in other cultural forms inc visual art, music, and film and television, and an audit of other research and knowledge exchange (RKE) projects focusing on the literature of space, place and landscape.

I’ve touched on edgelands before, but now I’ve read the book. I bought Edgelands: journeys into England’s true wilderness (2011; Amazon; reviews by (in) Geoff Dyer (FT) | Robert Macfarlane (Gdn) | Ken Worpole (New Statesman) | Marion Shoard (Observer) | Tom Fort (Telegraph)Karl Whitney (3:am Magazine) by ‘northern poets’ Paul Farley and Michael Symmonds Roberts back in October 2013 when I first started looking into nature writing, but this one is a tad different. Divided into 28 chapters each looking at a single element found in the edgelands, it’s almost a spotter’s guide.

Of an age with the two authors, who grew up in the suburbs of Liverpool and Manchester in the early 1970s, I spent my childhood on the edge of Edinburgh, with the familar edgeland tropes of a nearby main road, an airport and a plethora of golf courses. The book reminds me of the first stop I took on this blogging journey, John Zeaman’s Dog walks man, where Pete the poodle leads John out of the comfort zone of the suburbs into more unexpected territory. Trying to resist both “the pull of nostalgia…[and] producing more ‘ruin porn'” meant that the book came about “thematically, in categories” (source), leading one LibraryThing reviewer to comment that it could have done with more of the personal, but as a series of short pieces, in places taking lyrical flight, it works for me.

Robert Macfarlane describes the book as “wryly contrarian” – not least for being a two hander. By aiming to “break out of the duality of rural and urban landscape writing” and avoiding using the edgelands as a “short cut to misanthropy”, he finds it “re-performs the thought-crimes of which [the authors] accuse traditional landscape romantics”, while Karl Whitney asks whether “just because the edgelands were often the places where we grew up, should they be sites of reminiscence – nostalgia, even?” He finds “the book runs the risk of elevating [the edgelands] to the level of the type of generic and interchangeable space that psychogeography had attempted to combat”.

Edgelands are a thing in English literature of place, with the term usually attributed to Marion Shoard:

The netherworld neither urban nor rural which has taken over great swathes of land on the urban fringe. The rough, unkempt wasteland of the edgelands shares many of the characteristics of wild land in urban areas…

Often vast in area, though hardly noticed, it is characterised by rubbish tips and warehouses, superstores and derelict industrial plant, office parks and gypsy encampments, golf courses, allotments and fragmented, frequently scruffy, farmland. All these heterogeneous elements are arranged in an unruly and often apparently chaotic fashion against a background of unkempt wasteland frequently swathed in riotous growths of colourful plants, both native and exotic.

Crucially, they are “the story of our age”, and like every good story, inspire and provoke – see the article and comments on Skyliner’s Pomona article in the Guardian, and the lovely My Pomona (RIP). Attempts to “sanitise or otherwise neuter the edgelands” may sound laudable enough, but frequently tame the unique into something less evocative and less interesting.

The wilderness is much closer than you think. Passed through, negotiated, unacknowledged: the edgelands – those familiar yet ignored spaces which are neither city nor countryside – have become the great wild places on our doorsteps.

The neither/nor aspect evokes the suburb, sliding quickly into the edgelands, the “space left over after planning”. Edgelands are “not meant to be seen, except perhaps as a blur from a car window, or as a backdrop to our most routine and mundane activities”. This can be what makes them real in an over-planned world.

Somewhere in the hollows and spaces between our carefully managed wilderness areas and the creeping, flattening effects of global capitalism, there are still places where an overlooked England truly exists.

It’s not for nothing that the first chapter is on the car -“edgelands are a driver’s dream – few queues, long, straight roads and ample parking” – including the authors’ first off piste musing, the idea of a modified satnav or edgenav with a facility for identifying shipping containers, graffiti on bridge overhangs, landfill sites, blank unnamed pools and routes away from main arterial roads. They imagine walking the abandoned roads of the future, such as the M1 Way, with its service stations converted into hostels.

Some more spots:

  • Containers: domestic storage centres, hotels for things, your own container, anchored in a solid, watertight building, budget hotels with rooms as small and bare as containers, modular housing…everything can be contained
  • Gardens: the ‘reverse view’ you get from a train, passing through cities patterned on roads; trains afford us the best views of allotments, a secret landscape often invisible from our main roads
  • Bridges: “nameless bridge…carries a minor road across six lanes of motorway”; sometimes a name will stick, and sometimes a whole history and mythology, too
  • Wasteland: sites “either lying completely fallow or in the process of being redeveloped…the dreaded landscaping, the overwhelming urge is to tidy up, to make everywhere look like pleasing-on-the-eye parkscape”
  • Ruins: “places which exist in a hiatus between the end of one industrial era and potential future development…they become non-places, quite literally off the map…they atrophy because their blood supply is cut off”, offering a collage of time rather than the heritage industry’s freeze frame, reordered, partial and tidied up
  • Power: and other essential, invisible functions; “power stations are brutal, dirty and ugly, eyesores spoiling the view”, but up close they can be truly appreciated for what they are
  • Hotels: “these places are never empty”, but somehow they are never full either; with many people in a party of one, others in a half life between work and leisure with the lounge as breakout room
  • Retail: motorways with a “boulevard of retail, car showrooms, tile centres, leather worlds, carpet empires and fast food bars”
  • Business: “Nothing in a business park is public. There are no parks or playing fields, no common ground…No one visits without an appointment, because no one is just passing…when the ‘doughnut effect’ has gone into reverse, the silence of business parks will be broken.”
  • Lights: what does the edgelands night look like? Meatpaste.
  • Airports: “Plane-spotting, unlike trainspotting, is a quintessentially edgelands pastime. As boys growing up in the Seventies, we remember the thrill of visiting an airport. But we never flew.”

Is the edgeland a transitory phase and place, less and less likely to be found in a borderless landscape lacking the essence of either the urban or the rural?

Lost lines, lost history? Amagerbanen

Update, July 2015: came across a handy piece on Amagerbanen in Tårnby, plus see Amagerbanens Venner

A recent Sunday outing took us to a lost railway line, Amagerbanen, on the island of Amager a stone’s throw from central Copenhagen and on the fringes of a new housing development.

I’d assumed there were only ever buses on Amager prior to the arrival of the metro, but discovered from radio programme Natursyn back in November that a railway was constructed from Amagerbro in the north west all the way down to Dragør at the south eastern tip of the island as long ago as 1907. A trip on the Amager railway originally heralded a day in the country, and its maintenance also came in handy as one of the spurious workplaces devised to keep locals busy during the Second World War. But passenger traffic ceased back in 1947, replaced in some parts by buses, with the line used solely for freight as far as Kastrup up to 1991. The metro has now taken over the track south of Øresundsvej down to the airport, with Øresundsvej station dismantled, possibly to rise again at Denmark’s Open Air Museum.

Amagerbanen is currently in the news because the remaining old tracks are to be pulled up to make way for the holiest of holies, a super cycle path. The path will run between Lergravsparken and Prags Boulevard, accommodating the hordes of eager biking commuters moving into the new high density apartment complexes under construction in the area. Anthropologist Majken Hviid has led walks along the railway in the hope that the old can be integrated into the new, perhaps in the same way as in the Islands Brygge waterfront park in central Copenhagen.

Truth to tell there is little left here for a true psychogeographical musing, the transitions are just too abrupt. Just as at nearby Refshaleøen, the industrial buildings around Ved Amagerbanen, a road following the railway lined with factories and other industrial buildings, tell the story of Copenhagen’s recent history but are out of tune with the city’s post-industrial branding. A few hang on, sometimes with temporary uses which may become permanent, sometimes incorporated into the new as a shiny shell.

You do wonder about development control hereabouts. The flat nature of Copenhagen means it is largely void of terrain, with unsightly areas simply sliding out of sight until they get in the way. The chief attraction in this area is Amager Strand, a colossus of an artificial beach. Within paddling distance is Prøvestenen, a former fort standing on yet more reclaimed land, still in use for the storage of petroleum and an obstinate reminder of the past.

Meanwhile the current fashion for one-note residential solutions, as shown at KADK’s Housing and welfare exhibition, is leading to an ever more predicatable and uninteresting cityscape. Copenhagen Airport

What could be more emblematic of a country than its airport? After over a year without flying I’m blowing my saintly ecological footprint (vegetarian public transport user with district heating) in two trips in December. So let’s take a look at Copenhagen Airport, also known as

On the island of Amager and a stone’s throw (15 mins drive) from here, but with no local train on Amager the usual way to get from a to b is via c, ie by going into town and out again. Flinging the journey into Rejseplanen (“where will you go?”) and knocking out trains reveals an obvious bus and metro option I’ve never considered – bus to Frederiksberg, metro to the airport. Same price, takes slightly longer, but feels marginally more sensible and avoids central station hell. (Bus to Frederiksberg is actually one of my favourite zone anomalies. The bus stop, and several before it, is in zone 1, but walk across the road to the metro station and you are still in zone 2 and can travel several stops further. Go further, pay less.) Or maybe I’ll just cadge a lift in the dog taxi off my partner. (Update: how about a third option with two changes – buses to Ørestad, rail to the airport?)

You can read about the airport’s history on the site, some pretty basic English errors going on there. Founded in 1925, a new terminal, designed by Vilhelm Lauritzen, was completed in 1939. Seen from above apparently it’s the shape of an aircraft wing (pics), but aren’t they all. In use only until 1960, in 1999 the building was moved the 3.8km to Vilhelm Lauritzen Allé 2, where it is now used for VIP arrivals, conferences etc. It’s listed and regarded as “a masterpiece of Nordic functionalism and international modernism”.

When you arrive at you certainly know you are in Scandinavia. A booklet I found somewhere celebrates the opening of Finger D in 2001, the first part of a proposed Terminal 4, and the train station. The aim is for a ren og rolig (clean and calm) airport, simple and functional. It’s a good taster of the prevailing minimalist style for new arrivals, as is the station, which seems to have its own microclimate and exists in a permanent cold, dark and grey state. All in all, not really somewhere you’d want to linger, and rather different from Heathrow, with its lary carpets and dire warnings against rabies.

Bypassing the land of passion and luxury (duty free; who thought that up, such a misnomer for anything vaguely Scandi), shops with nothing to buy and over-priced eating opportunities (could it all possibly be a metaphor?) there are a number of artworks which may be a better way of passing your time:

  • Terminal 1 – dates from 1969 and is for domestic flights; worth a look for Robert Jacobsen’s iron sculpture of Pegasus (1993) just outside and Freddy Fraek’s AbNorma (1989) at Gate 6
  • Terminal 2 – originally from 1960 but has seen a lot of rebuilding; the home of budget airlines with fewer artistic interventions, but by the car park building is Henrik Starcke’s sculpture De Fire Vinde (the four winds) from 1964
  • 2014-12-12 14.08.55

    the girls keeping an eye on things

    Terminal 3 – from 1998, used by SAS and its more pricey friends:

    • at the top of the escalator as you pass to security is Hanne Varming’s bronze Pigerne i lufthavnen from 1999 casting an eye over the people struggling with the self check-in machines, just a little folkelig but a nice touch
    • Finger A – glass frieze of flying people, horses and centaurs by Frans Widerberg and 8.9m diameter mosaic of a labyrinth in marble and granite in the rotunda by Jørn Larsen, both from 1998
    • Finger C – built for non-Schengen passengers in 2001, on two levels with a balcony, lots of daylight and a Jens-Flemming Sørensen fountain
    • Finger D – at Gate D2 there are glass birds designed by Faroese Trondur Patursson in 2001
  • chairs:
    • in the arrivals area designed by Poul Kjærholm
    • Hans Wegner’s lufthavnsstole from 1960 can be seen throughout, with a modernised version from the beginning of the 1990s in Finger C; also in Finger C are Jen Ammundsen’s chairs from 1978; blue, taller, corrugated effect
    • main chairs these days are Twin (resting; more blue) and Partout (upright) by Johnny Sørensen and Rud Thygesen from 1995/6
    • in the lounge area on the second floor of Terminal 2 are a few Take off chairs by Thomas Alken, yet more blue with a matching foot stool
  • the floor – uses merbau and jatoba (me neither) from plantations in South East Asia and the Windies, aimed at lending a warmer effect to all that steel and glass
  • outside restaurant A Hereford Beefstouw there’s a large bronze bull designed by Janis Strupulis in 1996, an artwork and not just an advertising gimmick…he also offers two salmon which can be seen in the Seafood Bar
  • NEW spotted in January 2015, classic Københavner grøn benches in the baggage reclaim area, and in April 2016 even as a #copenhagenbench meme – see my photo

Back on the ground, my 2001 booklet has of coursd been overtaken by events, not least the opening of the aptly named budget Finger F, or CPH Go, in 2010. No aesthetic niceties here, there’s  even horrors! a linoleum floor. Likewise my destination, Edinburgh, has changed since I was last there just over two years ago. The security area, admittedly too small to accommodate the levels of traffic the city now attracts, has been transformed into all nine circles of hell as part of a £25 million extension. And there’s a tram into town!


Bruno de Wachter walks round airports:

The airport cuts a hole in the landscape. That’s why it is represented as a shaded surface on the map…In order to describe an airport, you have to draw a circle around it. Walking transforms a line on the map into a discovery. In order to discover an airport, you have to walk around it.

He hasn’t done CPH yet, but in 2005 Gåastand took a stroll around the perimeter. Certainly the walk to the cheap car park gives an idea of the scale of the operation, spreading across what remains of old Amager like a virus.

Update: Diamond Geezer has upped the ante by walking the Heathrow flightpath (map | LHR operations). A bit of speedy research has unearthed CPH’s area & runway systems, which boldly states that “aircraft approaches and take-offs mainly taking place offshore” (it doesn’t feel like that when walking in Kastrup) and a section on noise.

But airports have a special appeal as well, existing between time and place as a non-place everyone by definition wants to leave, and where there are few people who aren’t on the time schemes of somewhere else. In A week at the airport Alain de Botton, writer in residence at Heathrow, describes airports as “imaginative centres of our civilisation”, while in The global soul Pico Iyer, living “for a while” at LAX, says:

Airports are both a city’s business card and its handshake…like little dolls within the larger dolls of the city…a gift store with culture shock, the product of a mixed marriage between a border crossing and a shopping mall.

And from Edgelands: “Plane-spotting, unlike trainspotting, is a quintessentially edgelands pastime. As boys growing up in the Seventies, we remember the thrill of visiting an airport. But we never flew.” In my family, we went to the restaurant. See Manchester Airport’s Runway Visitor Park, and, on another level, Tempelhof (psychogeography | story).

Copenhagen Airport, immortalised in song by Annette Heick in 2007, the same year that Scooch flew the flag for the UK:


Enghave Brygge: Kulturhavn 2014 (2)

where’s she going now?


  • 2015: activities at Nordhavn (guided tours of Århuskvarteret, a bit of messing about in boats) and a tempting voyage from Stubkaj to Islands Brygge
  • 2016: most notable for additional venues reflecting the changing focus of the ‘harbour’, now with five locations at Nordhavn, as well as Ofelia Plads, Operaen and Papirøen
  • 2017: centred around Ofelia Plads, with Teglværket entering the fray and smaller ‘stages’ at Nyhavn, Inderhavnsbroen, Kulturtårnet at Knippelsbro and Søren Kierkegaards Plads, plus a guided cycle tour from DAC, covering the last 10-15 years development in the harbour; of cultural heritage there is precious little, although 20 boats/ships will be moored at Ofelia Plads

Day 2 of Kulturhavn 2014 (day 1) took us to Enghave Brygge, a largely untouched former industrial area inbetween the Fisketorvet shopping mall and the newly developed Teglholmen. Centred round the HC Ørsted power station it’s classic edgelands again, reminiscent of Refshaleøen but bang in the middle of the city. This time I went en famille, ie accompanied by two hot and over-excited beagles, which limits things somewhat.

Picking names apart here is a bit of a challenge. Enghave Brygge is the waterfront part of Kongens Enghave (local history), also known as Sydhavn, part of the official district of Vesterbro/Kongens Enghave. Sydhavn has a reputation as an area with a high proportion of people on benefits, low education rates and life expectancy plus a high incidence of social problems. The waterfront was reclaimed barely a century ago, and in that time has seen heavy industry come and go.

From the south access is via the heavily trafficked Vasbygade, few bikes there. Following a side road round took us back to DieselHouse, where tour buses were disgorging men in check shirts to watch the engine being started, followed by pølser and sodavand or a beer in the sun.

DieselHouse opened as an attraction in 2006. It was built to house the huge engine driving the power station, the biggest diesel motor in the world for over 30 years until it was decommissioned in 2004. A timeline shows the global significance of Burmeister & Wain (aka B&W of the eponymous halls), the company who produced the engine and others for ocean going liners around the world for over a century. B&W is still a player as part of MAN Diesel & Turbo, with 2.2K employees in CPH. A big thumbs up for preserving industrial architecture in such an impressive way.

Behind the power station, and visible from the harbour bus, is the Hall of Fame, a graffiti gallery surrounding an area as big as a football pitch previously used to store coal. One wall is made up of a 170m long piece showing evolution from the Big Bang to the Ice Age, created by Ulrik Schiødt during the summers of 1999 and 2000 and supported by the power station – for now. (Nov 2014: here’s the latest on the graffiti wall. Basically, it’s toast. June 2016: a portion to be housed in the Museum of Copenhagen IDC.)

A man let himself through the wire fence, locking it behind him, and disappeared into Flydende By (Facebook) – turns out this is a group of guerilla climate change activists cum organic architects, set up during COP15 and also given temporary leave to stay.

Rounding the corner we came upon a caravan park, largely inhabited by Italian families working at the Italian supermarket across the road, but on a Sunday afternoon loudly enjoying the Danish sun. A demolition site fronted the harbour – here’s hoping this rather nice building, built in 1918-20 by the splendidly named Uniscrap, will remain. Kulturstyrelsen has recognised its architectural value and cultural significance.

The whole area is in a state of flux with almost an absence of development control, but a local plan adopted last summer reveals what may be to come  in the shape of the Frederiks Brygge masterplan – 2,400 apartments,  37,800 m2 commercial/retail space, a 700m long canal, a station on the planned South Harbour Line of the metro, bridges to Teglholmen and Islands Brygge…put your envelope away now and return to reality.

If it feels odd to talk of gentrification in Denmark there’s still a process of flattening and smoothing going on. At the moment there are still secret places to discover, hidden gems, hidden harbours, hidden rivers. It’s exciting to see parts of a city left to its own devices, creating something full of contrasts, of itself and free from the official interpretation of how things are meant to be. We don’t need another Hellerup, working class or otherwise.

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Through the lock: Kulturhavn 2014 (1)

Update: the boat ran again in 2015 and 2016. But from 1928-32 it ran more than one weekend a year – Strandgreven (see pic) sailed from Langebro via Hvidovre (15 mins) to Greve (hence the name) and in some cases the whole way to Køge. It had a capacity of 175, and sailed five days a week during the summer. A further boat sailed to Kongelunden on Amager, a 45 minute voyage.

During last year’s Kulturhavn we took our first visit to Refshaleøen, and look how that ended up. For the past year we’ve been exploring stretches of what’s known as Copenhagen harbour, something I find hard to get my head around. For starters, where’s the harbour? As a stretch of water between two bits of land, much reclaimed in stages over the years in a rather haphazard way (they’re still at it in Nordhavn), I’d go with ‘waterfront’ rather than ‘harbour’ as a designation. Redevelopment has stepped up a gear of late after years of neglect, with shiny new things appearing amongst the crumbling industry. This year’s Kulturhavn, CPH’s harbour festival, had a whole host of delights at nine locations (north to south):

No activities at Nordhavn (maybe because it’s a working harbour) and beyond? There’s always next year, but for once it’s good to see attention focused on the southern end of the city. Mind you, accessibility is an issue the further south you go. The harbour buses were free for the duration and supplemented by shuttle boats, but even with increased departures they were packed and people with bikes were turned away. Travelling by boat is a leisure time activity rather an integrated part of the public transport system, which still has its back to the water. Update: here’s a rather more lyrical take on the harbour bus.

For a cultural event I’m still looking for a better balance of activities offering a sense of what came before rather than dancing it away. Steam ships used to sail to Aalborg, Bornholm and Oslo from Admiral Kaj – there must be any number of stories to tell, but  local history seems to be a local affair.

On #some we’ve got FacebookInstagram and YouTube, no official Twitter. Kulturhavn is part of The Blue, an Øresund wide event running throughout August in KøgeHelsingør, Helsingborg and Malmø. I’m pretty excited by Ven Runt on 9 August, otherwise it’s mainly fish and a tie-in with the Malmø Festival (15-22 August). It will be interesting to compare and contrast with Totally Thames, London’s new river celebration.

So…our Kulturhavn 2014 focused on the three southernmost locations. On Saturday I took the harbour bus from Den Sorte Diamant/Black Diamond to Teglholmen – inner Copenhagen with its fairytale towers quickly giving way to faceless modern architecture, the bland office buildings of the now derided Kalvebod Brygge followed by the current fashion for stacked boxes on a slant. Thanks goodness for a power station:

But the Metropolis building at Sluseholmen looks like a keeper – it may have caused a jarring disconnect on a recent walk at Amager Fælled, but from here its sensual curves are a respite from the rabbit hutch apartment buildings of the sterile canal city and a point of interest contrasting with the happily retained taxi drivers’ beach huts at Bådklubben Valby. It’s big and bold, on its own terms:

Bypassing the new developments we are in a classic edgeland – Copenhagen runs out, separated by a lock (Slusen) from Kalvebod bay and Vestegnen:

This weekend you could sail through Slusen, under Sjællandsbroen, past the marinas fringing Valby Park and on to Hvidovre’s harbour, at the foot of the final bridge to Amager on the other side of the water. Much of the land here is reclaimed and featureless, so it’s a figurative journey perhaps of most significance to locals, including those whose dog walks make this area a regular beat:

On return, unable to fight my way onto a harbour bus and not inclined to take an actual bus, I walked towards Sydhavn station, through the building sites and fenced off industrial estates a stone’s throw from Sunday’s destination, Enghave Brygge, but inaccessible for now:

a tall ship glides past at Sydhavn

tall ships glide past at Sydhavn

Postscript: harbour history is thin on the ground in Copenhagen, but the new(ish) Museet for Søfaart in Helsingør maybe thinks it’s got it covered, plus trophy architecture. Not been there, although I have been to its rather more staid predecessor in Kronborg. There’s also a Navy museum, Orlogsmuseet, on Holmen (aka Christianshavn).