a brief introduction to my study areas

November 3, 2007

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.

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