The Black Diamond kickstarted the substantial transformation of the harbourfront from an industrial wasteland to an attractive public area. From the dilapidated rear side of town to a shiny new facade.
The Black Diamond is an extension to the building behind it, the Royal Library. It is the Danish national archive and not a common library. It houses historic collections of books, royal correspondence, maps, and so on. With the new building, now it is also to some degree a cultural hub with exhibitions, events and a restaurant.
The library is a national institution, so it was the state that took the first concrete step in this process.
Together, the two buildings demonstrate the turnaround unmistakably and very concretely. The prominent, old building faces the city and turns its back to the workspace that the harbour used to be. The new building faces the water with a promenade in front and steps approaching the water.
Thereby, The Black Diamond is more than suggesting a reversed spatial hierarchy. And the modernity of the new building is in stark contrast to the old building, very intentionally. The Black Diamond is a loud and clear proclamation of the beginning of a new era for Copenhagen.
The initial ideas came about in the early 1990s, and Schmidt, Hammer & Lassen (SHL) won the prestigious competition in 1995. They completed the building for opening in 1999, years later than first planned. And by then, the future was already yesterday’s news – and under construction on many other sites at the waterfront.
Take a look inside
It is well worth the time to go inside, into the central atrium and up the escalator ramp. The atrium is an experience in its own right. But to get the full experience you should take an elevator to the top floor. There, you can enjoy the thrill on the narrow, upper bridge with only a piece of glass between you and a significant free fall.
This space is designed to impress, and I think it does.
Go back to the top of the ramp and cross the interior bridge to enter the old building. That is rich in charming details and decorations, wooden panels and green library lamps. It IS a library and a reading space for students, so please show a reasonable amount of respect and discretion.