The Black Diamond kickstarted the substantial change from a dilapidated rear end 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 at remote storages – everything that is published in Denmark. With the new building, now it is also to some degree a cultural hub with exhibitions, events and a restaurant.
A new beginning
Together, the two buildings demonstrate the turnaround unmistakably and very concretely. The prominent, old building (from 1906) 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, suggesting an entirely different situation.
Impossible to not notice, 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 the harbour front and to no small extent for Copenhagen.
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 a prestigious competition in 1995. They completed the building for opening in 1999.
So when the building opened (years later than first planned), the future was already old news, and development was well underway on many other sites at the waterfront.
Take a look inside
It is well worth the time to go inside from the south entrance, 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 find an elevator and go to the top floor, where you can enjoy the thrill of standing on the small upper bridge with only a piece of glass holding you back from 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.