valby phototour 2 of 4

November 11, 2007

This time I started out in the northwest corner of Valby, and worked my way south. I visited three developments of very distinct built character, as well as ‘Gamle Vigerselv,’ which appears to be the historical center of an early town that was later consumed by what is today Valby, and ‘Vigerslev Haveforstad,’ or Vigerselv Garden Suburb. Also observed more rail lines and how they are accessed by area residents.

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25. The Ålholm-kvarteret (Ålholm quarter) is characterized by large brick courtyad buildings that take up entire blocks.
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26. More of the Ålholm-kvarteret. The masses of the buildings reinforce the street pattern and make for a clear reading of the block structure.

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27. Vigerselv Haveforstad, or ‘Vigerselv Garden Suburb.’ This is a neighborhood of small, quaint houses and quiet streets; each house has a yard, and there are few multifamily units in the area.

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28. + 29. Houses in Vigerselv Haveforstad.

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30. More houses in Vigerselv Haveforstad. This block has a unified appearance.

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31. Further south, across the train line, was Det Gamle Vigerslev, or ‘The Old Vigerselv.” This appears to be the nucleus of what was formerly a community in its own right. Small in size and scale and varied in character, it is now surrounded by the comparatively larger and unified housing developments of Valby (see photos 32-37).

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32. Streetscape of Det Gamle Vigerslev.

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33. A housing development called Store Vigerslevgård, or something like ‘Greater Vigerslev Square’ (my Danish translation skills may be failing me a bit here…I’ll find out more). This neighborhood is essentially a superblock of large, rectangular multifamily units that are joined at the corners to form slightly diagonal rows of buildings.

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34. + 35. More of Store Vigerslevgård. Notice how the buildings are connected at the corners (33) to form a solid, but modulated row of buildings and how the rows repeat one another (34) across the superblock.

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36. “Rækehusbebeggelsen” is a community of single-story row houses.

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37. + 38. One of the many rows in Rækehusbebeggelsen. At the end of each building was a brickwork mosaic of sorts. Each row had a different, but avian, motif.

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39. Multifamily housing at the border of Vigerslev Haveforstad, where it borders the rail line.

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40. Vigerslevvej, one of the main north-south arterials in Valby.

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41. S-tog (train) station at Valby, just east of Vigerslev Haveforstad.

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42. A pedestrian bridge over the rail lines, connecting Valby east with Valby west.

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43. Looking up the tracks to the north (opposite the train station).

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valby phototour 1 of 4

November 9, 2007

I’m supplementing my interviews with bicycle tours of the neighborhoods I’m investigating. I decided to do this for several reasons: to get to know my study areas better (especially for my interviews), to compare what I’ve seen in the SAVE atlases to what’s on the ground, and to discover areas that are not in the atlases, or that seem to be undergoing change. I did use the areas outlined in the SAVE atlases as points of departure for my survey, but made sure to walk or bike between the designated areas in order to observe what the rest of the neighborhood looks like. I’ll post the Valby phototour as four separate installments. During this first survey, I visited the “old town” of Valby as well as some interesting housing enclaves of singular character. I also had a chance to observe some new projects going up in older areas, and I saw the divisive infrastructure at work, separating the municipality into multiple “slices” of neighborhood.

Here is a map of the neighborhood with the photo locations indicated by number (see photos below):

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1. + 2. The Carlsberg quarter is a mostly residential area of squarish, brick houses (1). The brewery (2) lies in the northeast corner of Valby.

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3. More houses in the Carlsberg quarter.

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4. This is one area whose character wasn’t self-explanatory. It’s labeled “Vebyggelse ved Toftebakkevej of Valhøjvej” in the SAVE atlas…I’ll have to ask further about what exactly it is. There is a row of similar-looking houses, but it’s not big enough to be a planned residential quarter, and I don’t see any signage or iconic buildings. Perhaps a home or business of historic importance?

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5. A detail of the street in the above photo (4).

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6. “Det Gamle Valby,” or Old Valby. There is a clear sense of a downtown main street, and several of the old buildings are a similar yellow color, which gives the area a feeling of cohesiveness.

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7. + 8. Other building types in Old Valby.

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9. Old Valby, just behind the main street. Narrow streets and closely-packed buildings give this area an older feel.

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10. Nordisk Film, one of Valby’s major employers.

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11. Behind Nordisk Film’s fenced-in compound.

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12. Selveje, a neighborhood of duplex homes. You can see that the homes are divided right down the middle, often with the two halves being painted different colors.

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13. Another of the duplex homes in Selveje.

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14. “Den Røde By,” or The Red Town, is a residential area with particularly wide streets (paved with red gravel, though I’m assuming the area gets its name from the small brick homes that populate it).

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15. Homes in The Red Town. Most have small yards, and often two adjacent houses share joined carports or garages.

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16. + 17. “Den Hvide By,” or The White Town, is a bit more true to its name than the previous area. All of the houses in this small residential area are very similar and are all painted white. This seems to be a slightly more well-to-do enclave than the other ones I’ve visited so far.

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18. More homes in “Den Hvide By.”

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19. The rail line that bisects Valby, running in an east-west direction.

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20. A view across the border of Valby of northern neighbor Frederiksberg’s high rise housing.

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21. Train bridge over one of Valby’s main east-west streets, Valby Langgade.

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22. New residential construction happening in Old Valby.

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23. Another major groundbreaking in Old Valby (not exactly sure what this project is; need to ask).

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24. A large ongoing construction and renovation project in the main public space of Old Valby.

interview/kirsten mølgaard

November 4, 2007

My first interview was wih Kirsten Mølgaard, who works for Copenhagen’s Technical and Environmental Administration. Ms. Mølgaard oversaw the production of several atlases in 1991, and was able to give me an overview of their creation, as well as her own reflections on the process. She was also able to suggest some contacts for further interviewing. Following is a summary of our dicussion:

What was your role in or involvement with the SAVE program?

  • Project leader, along with someone from the state department
  • The creation of the atlases involved cooperation between the state and the municipality

What, if anything, do you feel makes one study neighborhood different from another?

  • The atlases helped to answer the questions: “Is there any identity?” “What should we preserve?”
  • The atlases give a picture of the landscape seen overall; each quarter is different, and has a different dominant structure
  • Valby, for instance, is sliced into triangles, small enclaves of different urban typologies

How were the municipal boundaries decided upon?

  • It was a very pragmatic decision – they were chosen by the municipality; existing boundaries were used for the SAVE atlases
  • You can’t see these boundaries when you are out in the environment

What do you feel is the relevance of the SAVE survey today?

  • Use in local planning, in the creation of local plans
  • Provides a brief characteristic of an area
  • Provides place/traffic analysis, overall architectural values (building value rating)
  • Describes “saved” buildings in a legal way – local plans have to accommodate such buildings
  • Tool for people needing permission to change a “saved” building or to make a new development (if there is no local plan, one must be made up in order to protect it)

How long might the existing atlases remain relevant?

  • Different from part to part (of the city) – changing uses, new development
  • Revisit areas on a building-by-building basis
  • Not as necessary to review the inner city; new analysis needed in areas of change
  • New registrations might evaluate structural integrity of individual buildings

Did participating in SAVE change your perception of any of the neighborhoods?

  • You become more certain of the identity of an area
  • See an area in a new way – visit all corners of an area
  • The group took a bicycle tour of each new area
  • Became more conscious of value and identity

Could you describe some positive and negative aspects of the SAVE program?

  • Positive – they are a useful survey tool, helpful for local planning; spreading consciousness of values of the town – to be able to discuss what is good and bad in an area
  • Negative – done according to the whole country – too broad; hard to rectify between Copenhagen and small towns; “cultural” value on score sheet “empty” (survey done by visual methods – the cultural evaluation should be done using research methods, in parallel with the visual evaluations)

What are your feelings about the participatory aspects of the SAVE program?

  • Had to find people who would be suitable or glad to participate
  • Invited individuals and organizations (“town beautiful”); people with connections
  • Local people were located by calling around – not an open invitation – had to limit the numbers (would be difficult to deal with too many people; administratively difficult and expensive)
  • Sometimes a bit hard – locals were very concerned about specifics and small areas (sometimes provided valuable stories – hints for more interesting information)
  • Difficult to fulfill wishes of the volunteers – there was no voting, only discussion
  • Have to decide what to concentrate on – project group gave suggestions
  • Difficult to get anyone to work between meetings
  • Some volunteers were satisfied, others not – there were different types
  • Honesty in meetings about inability to agree; discussion and sharing of knowledge was the priority

Is there anything else about your experience with SAVE that you would like to share?

  • Problem of understanding the project – main ideal was to get an overall, superficial survey of values, buildings, etc.
  • A few years after it started, there was a financial incentive given to renovate “preserved” houses (based on the SAVE findings) – this was never the intent of the project; it was never meant to have an economic effect
  • Need to be rules about choosing information to transfer to local planning efforts – this was also not the aim of the project, but has become a use of the atlases

This interview was a great start as an overview. I’m looking forward to speaking with some people who were involved with specific neighborhoods. I’ve noticed a few recurring themes that have come up when speaking to those who put together the atlases. One is that of the project’s priorities. Both Gregers Algreen-Ussing and Kirsten Mølgaard emphasized that the greatest value of the atlases is their function as discussion-starters; the sharing of information was one of the key points. Also both mentioned the misuse of the atlases after they were published. They were never intended to be plans or bases for decisions, just tools to help engender discussion. This interview also raised a new question about the selection of “volunteers.” It had been my understanding, based on what I had read and my discussion with Gregers, that an advertisement for volunteers had been placed and that the call had been made public. However, my interview with Kirsten suggests that they were hand-picked, which puts the project in a slightly different light from the participation angle.

The municipality of Copenhagen is divided into 15 administrative, statistical, and tax city districts. I have been informed that the boundaries were chosen more for pragmatic purposes of administration than for the division of distinct communities or environments from one another (they are not “communities” or “neighborhoods” as much as they are municipal divisions). However, these divisions have served the purpose of breaking the municipality into manageable pieces for projects such as the creation of the SAVE atlases. Although the intent of the boundary delineation was not necessarily to separate the different areas by character, some of the districts do exhibit cohesive architectural character, and all of them can at the very least be discussed in terms of the character of its built environment, whether is be cohesive or not. I have chosen the following three districts as the departure point for my project in the SAVE atlases:

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Amager is an island that is connected by several bridges to the “mainland” of Zealand (Copenhagen is situated partly on Amager, and partly on Zealand). The island has long been populated and well used thanks to its rich soil and proximity to Copenhagen, but it was only in the late 19th century that Copenhagen began to expand onto the island. In 1902 the built up areas were incorporated into Copenhagen. Much of the island that exists today is the result of a public works project that added a large amount of land to the city that was reclaimed from the sea. The island’s built environment is quite diverse; it comprises Islands Brygge, a very cohesive older residential quarter of brick apartment blocks, a construction area called the Ørestad (a “new town” extension of central Copenhagen), many residential areas situated along the main commercial strip of Amagerbrogade, and a new artificial island and park, Amager Strandpark (Amager Beach Park).

Valby is located in the southwest corner of municipal Copenhagen. The main square of Valby, Toftegårds Plads, is a center for community events, including the lighting of a Christmas tree during the holiday season. However, Valby does not have a singular architectural or environmental characteristic; rather, it is subdivided into many pieces by large infrastructure (wide arterials, train tracks) and is in some places separated from neighboring areas by greenbelt parks. Some of the individual pieces of this somewhat fractured environment have very distinct environmental character, however – small pockets of look-alike single-family houses can be found in one area, while another might contain new high-rise apartment blocks; some streets have a clear commercial and pedestrian character while others are clearly intended to serve the automobile. Valby is also home to major industry such as the Carlsberg headquarters, Lundbeck (a pharmaceutical company specializing in CNS compounds), and the Nordisk Film production company. Overall, the area is a diverse mix of environmental characters, connected and separated by infrastructure and services.

Nørrebro, located closer to the center of Copenhagen, is an up-and-coming residential area whose population is composed of a diverse mix of ethnicities. The environmental character is Nørrebro is somewhat more cohesive than in the other two study municipalities – many of the buildings are 4-6 story brick residential blocks, which gives the streets in the area a characteristic proportion and feel. This neighborhood is somewhat infamous for a certain degree of crime and social unrest among its population, but it also has a bustling and healthy street life, with many active commercial strips and animated public spaces. This includes several public squares on which daily or weekly outdoor markets are held. Nørrebro is not as well off as the neighboring municipalities of Frederiksberg and Østerbro, and most of its building stock is quite old, though in fair condition. Nørrebro is one of the three “bridge quarters,” the main residential areas that exist outside the city’s ramparts (and are separated from the city center by a series of lakes and bridges). The overall character of Nørrebro is one of bustling commerce (both formal and informal), tall residential blocks and well-defined street spaces.