Art Nouveau in Copenhagen

Unlike Helsinki, where Jugendstil buildings are found throughout the city centre, Copenhagen isn’t particularly noted for “Art Nouveau” style architecture. I’m not sure why this is. One theory I read on the Internet was that the style, which was popular in the late 1800’s and early 1900’s before the First World War, was seen as too German at a time when an anti-German sentiment was dominant in Denmark. However I did spot a small number of “Art Nouveau”/ Judentstil buildings while wandering around Copenhagen city centre.

The Danish version of Art Nouveau is known as Skønvirke (“aesthetic work”), named after the Skønvirke magazine. According to the Danish Wikipedia

The style is a mixture of Jugendstil (German) , Art Nouveau (French) and Arts and Crafts (English) on the one hand and Nordic National Romanticism on the other.

The Palace Hotel, which is opposite the City Hall (Rådhus) on Rådhuspladsen, is probably the best example of the style I saw during my visit

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Constructed from red brick and with its tall, slender tower, the design reflects that of the Rådhus itself, but is more  “graceful”. It was designed by the Danish architect Anton Rosen and built in 1910.

I liked the rounded bays over the three entrances and the rounded curves of the doorways themselves. The carvings and friezes around the doorways

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and the heart shaped windows above the left and right hand entrances

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and the balconies  with their gilded panels and decorative ironwork outside the bedrooms on the second and third floors

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The Rådhus, very familiar to anyone who followed the first series of “The Killing” on BBC4, has a more neo-Gothic appearance. It was designed by the Martin Nyrop who took his inspiration from the Siena City Hall, opening in 1905, a few years before the Palace.

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It was hard to get a decent picture of the building due to construction works on Rådhuspladsen and as the square in front of the main entrance was fenced off due to setting up of a Gay Pride festival due to take place later in the week.

In the square between the two buildings (currently in the middle of a construction site) stands a column with a Art Nouveau style sculpture of two figures playing “lures”, distinctive Scandinavian instruments from the bronze age. The sculpture is designed to remind the Danes of their ancient Nordic civilisation. It was created by Siegfried Wagner and the column was designed by the Palace’s architect, Anton Rosen.

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This building on Amagertorv, a popular square half way down the pedestrianised Strøget, the main Copenhagen shopping street, houses the Cafe Norden.

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It’s directly opposite the Storkespringvandet, or “Stork Fountain”, a popular meeting place. With it’s distinctive domes, it has an almost oriental appearance, with an almost Baroque roof line.

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Other than the Palace and Cafe Norden, we saw very little Art Nouveau influence on the architecture in Copenhagen. Anton Rosen was one of the few architects who worked in the Skønvirke style. There’s another of his buildings the Rosenhuset,at Hellerup, a northern suburb of Copenhagen, built in 1913 as the administrative building for the Tuborg brewery.

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4 thoughts on “Art Nouveau in Copenhagen

    • Actually Copenhagen has a wealth of Art Nouveau/National Romantic/Jugendstil buildings just not in the city centre. Copenhagen only started to expand outside its medieval walls in the mid 19th century and so very few Art Nouveu building are there. However the districts of Osterbro, Vesterbro and Frederiksberg have many of these buildings, also the street named Amagerbrogade has these too. The best area though is between Norreport Station and the lakes, just north of the city centre. I hope you get a chance to come back and have a look around, the city has much to offer for fans of this architecture.

      • Thanks for this information. During our short visit we didn’t get out into the outer districts away from the main city centre.. I hope to go back to Copenhagen at some stage and will definitely be following up on your comments. Thanks for that.

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