Tearing down the neighbourhood

The council is tearing down five buildings. Three of these communal gems are pretty familiar, and all bar one within beagling distance, so last week we took a closer look.

Parallelvej 47

Kindergarten built in 1981 to serve the Nymarken area, a handful of streets made up of detached houses behind Avedøre’s big social developments. Never been there before – tucked behind the main road on the edge of the kommune bordering Vestvolden it’s all nice enough.

The 614m2 building, with its own kitchen, three bathrooms and nine toilets, closed for business on 10 May 2013 as it posed a danger to health. My first thought was asbestos, but a notice on the door blames damp and a bad smell. Two and a half years later it’s all a bit sad, with a broken climbing frame and weeds taking over.

The future of the site is not quite clear. At the beginning of 2014 a proposal for a two storey development made up of 10 low energy houses was approved after appeal, in line with Hvidovre’s policy for tæt-høj developments in areas close to stations. Now, according to the last council meeting minutes, it’s going to be four detached houses (2017 non-update).

Meanwhile, plans to build a glossy new børnehave on Cirkusgrunden, a leftover piece of land closer to the business end of Avedøre, haven’t gone uncriticised. Slated to be ready in 2017/18, here’s hoping Lille Sky will make some concessions to its environment, or it will look like it has landed from Mars.

Not Risbjerggård, Hvidovrevej 243


Hvidovrevej 241

Hvidovrevej 243 is next door to one of the kommune‘s crown jewels, Risbjerggård, an old farmhouse from 1850. Following a sustained community campaign and a vote by the full council, Risbjerggård itself, or at least parts thereof, is saved and will now feature in some way in the new bymidte, but Projekthuset, which dates from 1936 and is actually joined on, is to be torn down. Doesn’t anyone care? It looks harmless enough from outside, but has been neglected and hence just doesn’t fit.

Update, 19 Dec: gone!

Biblioteksvej 60A

Bibloteksvej 60A-C

left to right: creche, fishing club, chess club

Featuring on our five walks reportoire, this part of Biblioteksvej is really just the badminton club’s parking lot plus a back way into Gungehusskolen. 60A, put up in 1972, is one of a row of buildings facing HBC-hallen, including a fishing club and a creche. On Monday the door was off and the facade was coming down. Today it will probably be gone.

Hvidovre chess club met here from 2003, sharing the tenancy with three other organisations, but gave it up in 2014 due to heating costs. The chessplayers now meet in Strandmarkens Fritidscenter, a former school on Enghavevej, along with the local bridge club.

The beags usually have a good sniff here on the lookout for anything tasty dropped by passing schoolchildren on the way back from the 7-Eleven at the nearby petrol station. This time we had a nosey round the back, finding a picnic table and a couple of benches, no doubt used for a beer and a smøg on summer evenings, contemplating the next move or maybe just exchanging pleasantries with the fisherfolk next door.

Disused toilet, Strandvej 31A

Again, rising costs have been the problem here. The red brick toilet at the harbour, one of Hvidovre’s few public toilets, dates from 1957. Due to annual cleaning costs of DK 65K it was closed in 2013, forcing those in need of a comfort stop to pop into one of the neighbouring clubhouses. Understandably aggrieved by this, these now restrict access to paying guests, via “get your door code at the till” systems.

The council installed a new toilet in the summer of 2013, partly financed by advertising. This kept breaking down – an eight year old boy locked himself in and had to be rescued – and was finally burned down a couple of months later by local vandals. It’s been replaced by one of those coin operated jobs, which seems to be functioning OK for now. This story has run since 2009.

Update, 17 Nov: a(nother) local fishing club applied to take over the old toilet building, but were refused permission. For shame!

Byvej 98

A typical red brick house from 1935, nr 4 on Hvidovre’s building register and still occupied by a range of clubs (Denmark is big on clubs), including the bee people and the petanque club, Byvej 98 looks in reasonable shape, so it’s not quite clear what the issue is. Probably, like Projekthuset, it just doesn’t fit any more.

A number of other buildings have stalled due to neglect and rising costs over the years, including the main post office on Hvidovrevej and the police station at Hvidovregade. There’s also a former old people’s home at Langkildevej 5-7, dating from 1975 and closed down in 2009. Owned by Copenhagen council, the site has been for sale for over three years, and it’s hoped that a new local plan adopted in May this year permitting housing on 50% of the site, both good old tæt-lav bebyggelse or flats, will finally kickstart things. Updates…Feb 2016: 64 house terrace on the way?…April 2016: now it’s 29.

We’ve had a good look round – as well as the main building there are two rows of sheltered housing behind. With nameplates still on the door, and in some cases curtains still hanging, it almost looks like the residents have just popped out to the shops.

In an area with a low tax base it’s probably inevitable that things drift in the hard times, but still, along with all the houses and trees going it seems there’s an unstoppable urge to follow current fashions with little heed to the area’s cultural heritage. Hvidovre has form here – unlike neighbouring kommune Brøndby few old buildings survived after 1930s council leader Arnold Nielsen commanded: “Riv det gamle lort ned!” Avedore landsby was only saved as it was part of Glostrup at the time.



Arkitekturens Dag in CPH

Bumped for 2014, with the theme of welfare – see programme. Exhibition and guided walk in the Greve suburb of Hundige, built on the familiar pattern of an S tog with shopping centre, library and cultural centre attached, plus visits to two homes, one from the 1960s, when increased prosperity made it possible for people to buy their own homes, and one from the 1970s, the boom years of social housing. See also the Husker du? app.

Moving north east round the bay the Kroppedal Museum also has an exhibition on in Ishøj Bycenter, with locals invited to add their stories on Facebook. Arkitekternes Hus has visits to Brøndby Strand and Bellahøj, both currently being renovated. Finally, there are social housing pearls all around Copenhagen if you know where to look – ie up. The Design Museum has a Se op! self guided walk around the city centre and Christianshavn with accompanying map, seemingly only available in a paper version on the day. Boo.

Denmark no longer participates in Open House weekend, which took place in London and nearly 20 other cities; lovely review of the work of Ernö Goldfinger.

1 October is Arkitekturens Dag (World Architecture Day), of course it is. 2013’s theme is Room for growth, how architecture and urban planning can contribute to the economy. welfare and environment. Lots of things going on including guided walks, who knew. Here’s some linkage:

  • harbour tour with city architect Tina Saaby – tracing ‘growth’ over the last 10-15 years from an industrial area to a recreational opholdsrum; proposed for the future are a metro line to Sydhavn, more bridges, developments at Enghave Brygge and Papirøen
  • lecture by the Generøs By boys (Politiken‘s architecture editor Karsten Ifversen and architect/photographer Jens Lindhe; Facebook)
  • Sound settlements – lecture about social housing in the Øresund Region, including Albertslund (website); see also Brøndby Strand: hvorfor ser det ud, som det gør?
  • Tomme huse – event in the central library on the theme of empty houses, inc presos on Givrum.nu and by the Abandoned boys (Jan Elhøj and Morten Kirkhoff; urbex in DK and beyond; see also Copenhidden Meetup)

Five walks: March

Me and the beags have a repertoire of five walks we do on weekdays. After four or so years we’ve got to know the area within a certain radius pretty well, although it’s shrunk rather since the arrival of beagle nr 2 – sniffing time seems to have doubled at least. In March, we tracked our walks on Viewranger and took some photos aimed at capturing the mood – roll/click for more info.

Update, June 2015: we can now do these routes blindfold, and are trying some variations – more soon! In the meantime, Running Hvidovre did their own version, made up of a Linieløbet (dvs Hvidovrevej, 8 km), Bjergetapen (Hvidovre Havn, 5,9 km), Vandløbet (Kalveboderne circuit, 14,9 km), Kirkeetapen (churches, 10,2 km) and Finalen (stadium and circuits, 3,2 km).

Walk 1: Risbjerg Kirkegård

Walk 2: Friheden

Walk 3: Avedøre

Walk 4: Hvidovre Havn

Walk 5: Vigerslev Park

Lines lost: Barnton

On 1 August Deveron Arts hosted Lines Lost, an event at the Edinburgh Arts Festival made up of a guided walk and discussion on the relationship between art and walking and the history of the railways in Scotland.

The walk followed the Innocent Railway Path, the route of Edinburgh’s first railway line closed in 1968, and was led by Stuart McAdam, whose Lost Lines project is based around the Beeching railway cuts of the 1960s. A series of performative walks aims to bring into focus the contemporary issues surrounding the Beeching legacy, part of an investigation into slow travel as art practice.

Other speakers on the discussion panel:

  • Nina Coulson – co-founder of the MOVEMENT gallery based on Platform 2, Worcester Foregate Street Railway Station
  • Derek Halden – civil engineer involved in path infrastructure projects connecting people and places, railway projects connecting places to cities and community station projects connecting paths to railways
  • Ellie Harrison – artist and coordinator of the Bring Back British Rail campaign
  • David Spaven – campaigner and transport consultant, co-author of Mapping the railways

All this reminded of nothing so much as Barnton Station, at the top of the road, as we used to say, opened in 1894 and closed in 1951. When we moved to Barnton in 1967 the building was occupied by John Menzies – I can remember going up the stairs with my father to the toy department to buy a treat. At some point in the 1970s the building was pulled down and a concrete box put in its place – Menzies had to move into a portacabin for the duration. It’s also now closed.

© Copyright Ben Brooksbank and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence

Next door is the Barnton Hotel, opened in 1895 and closed in 2004 when proposals were made to turn it into flats:

Still waiting…see the Barnton Hotel thread on Derelict Places for inside shots, taken by Monkey Girl in 2008

The station was the terminus of Caledonian Railways’s suburban branch line from Craigleith to Davidson’s Mains and Barnton – various other remnants of the line remain, and there were hopes for re-opening at one point, but the bottom’s rather fallen out of Edinburgh’s light rail project.

Updates: June 2014: just discovered Urban Ghosts Media, which has posts on Morningside Road and Dalry Road stations, plus Craigleith Station. And the Embra tram, such as it is, is now GO! May 2015: the Fife Psychogeographical Collective follows an old line near Dunfermline.

Refshaleøen: CPH’s industrial heritage

Yesterday we visited Refshaleøen, a wilderness area just over the water from the Little Mermaid. An artificial island dominated by an abandoned shipyard, the area is being shined up in the name of the experience economy. As part of Kulturhavn, a harbour festival and the latest of a seemingly endless parade of same in CPH over the summer, there were guided walks and free waterbuses on offer.

Kulturhavn as a whole was nicely done, with events over the weekend at six harbour/dock locations:

After collecting the route map we went for the self guided walk option. Or rather beagle guided – drifting with beagles is often on their terms, and on a hot day compromises have to be made so they don’t completely exhaust themselves. One of our beagles is a horror in the car but a deep thinker at heart, and after some initial pulling paces himself to take it all in. The other one seems to do his thinking in the car, where he is happy looking out of the back window, but once he gets out it’s all systems go until exhaustion hits, when he lies down and won’t budge.

We pretty much followed the designated Shipyard Route – see Værftsruten for details of the 15 locations – but will have to come back on a cooler day to take in the details. As a whole the ‘island’ has a bit of everything – views across the water to Copenhagen ‘proper’, industrial chic, a trendy beach bar (Halvandet), windmills/fishing, although access is an issue. Copehagen’s heritage as an industrial harbour city is an interesting one, rather different from the fairytale image.