The name ‘Havneholmen’ literally means ‘harbour + the islet (small island)’. It is a new name for this small area that is a former industrial landfill. Coal was landed here for the gasworks located nearby (where the meatpacking district was later built).
For a later period, a fish market was located here, from which is the present shopping mall is named ‘Fisketorvet’ (‘the fish market’).
The canal that today separates the islet is part of the development that had begun with the shopping mall, opened in 2000. In a way, this simple canal indicates a change of tides, and more canals would follow.
The tide had changed away from architect’s and planner’s theories and more or less utopian visions, towards an undogmatic, pragmatic and profitable thinking.
On the upside, it was an acceptance of popular needs and demands, resulting in spaces that people actually appreciate. On the downside, it was a more narrow-minded view, serving more commercial interests and disregarding broader interests, such as long-term urban planning, social responsibility and historic authenticity: ‘Let’s build what people want (to pay more for)’.
Water turned into an attraction
By the turn of the millennium, Copenhagen’s developers had become very aware that water was, in fact, attractive and valuable. Quite recently this place was a polluted, noisy, and smelly workspace. But with the industries gone and accelerating urbanisation, the potential for new, profitable developments was enormous.
The water transformed from a problem to a quality surprisingly quickly.
The masterplan (by Swedish Wingårdh) proposed new and narrow canals with the promise of a charming atmosphere and the water contributing to public life. And a promise of return on investments. Indeed, apartments here (and anywhere along the waterfront) are not for the average income!
I think Havneholmen is the one project to achieve the best result in this new situation.
The project amounts to 236 rental apartments with an average size of 100 m2 (~1100 ft2). So what is, in fact, a massive and dense complex is visually broken down to a human scale with the many balconies sticking out and recesses and corners added to and subtracted from the main volume.
The white stucco facades associate to a Mediterranean coast village more than to a Nordic, urban setting. But the buildings appear less massive and more acceptable on this protruding and eye-catching place.
Expensive but accessible
The apartments are expensive! But (unlike the Gemini Residence project on the opposite side of the water) they share a bit of the prominence, by allowing public access through the beautiful inner courtyards to the wooden platforms towards the water.
Passing through, it’s hard not to catch a glimpse of the living spaces of the ground floor apartments. So take a walk through the courtyards, and enjoy the glimpses. But – just for good measures: show some respectful discretion.
These are private homes after all, and the sharing of space like this only works as long as visitors know how much or little interest they can pay to the homes and possessions of others. It’s a delicate balance, and I know the line is not necessarily obvious to other cultures.
For instance, taking photos into the apartments is definitely crossing the line… (please don’t!).