Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Probably the best master plan in the world

COPENHAGEN. Most old industrial sites ready for conversion into modern city districts are unwelcoming places, sometimes hard to imagine as fit for human life.
But there are exceptions.
Near Copenhagen’s city centre lies 33 hectares of Danish industrial heritage full of intriguing buildings and fascinating history. This is where Carlsberg brew its world famous beer for more than 160 years before relocating two years ago.
Now the Carlsberg brewery grounds are ready to become Copenhagen’s most pleasant new city district.
And let me correct the headline: The master plan for the new Carlsberg city district has already been picked as a category winner for Future Projects at the prestigious World Architecture Festival 2009 in Barcelona.
There is only one problem. The development project is on hold due to the financial crisis and no decision has been made on a starting date for construction. But there is some progress in the area, with work on public spaces going on and some activities moving into existing houses.
The small Copenhagen architecture firm Entasis won an international competition with over 200 entries with a master plan called “Our City” in 2007.
The plan was adopted by City Hall a year ago. Some 2,000 apartments will be built in the area over the next 20 years, if things get underway according to plans. The vision for the Carlsberg district is focused on public spaces with many activities creating a vibrant urban atmosphere.
Carlsberg will be very different from other new developments in Copenhagen, like the often criticised Ørestad.
“Our Carlsberg project can in some ways be seen as an indirect criticism of Ørestad. The urban spaces out there are on a scale that makes the planned architecture of Eastern Europe turn pale with shame”, said Entasis managing director Christian Cold in interview with the Copenhagen magazine KBH last year.
He describes the Carlsberg plan as the opposite; moving down in scale. This is also what won “Our City” first prize at the World Architecture Festival. The urban spaces of Carlsberg are described as a network of publicly accessible spaces in the form of gardens, squares, streets, alleys and a number of privately owned but publicly accessible buildings.
The plan emphasises “public space first, buildings second” as it says in the presentation of Entasis’ winning entry.
The project is based on “sustainability in all aspects”. The ambition is to make the dense, public-transit oriented district CO2-neutral. But Christian Cold of Entasis puts just as much emphasis on economical and social sustainability for the dense urban district he envisions.
There has to be a mix of prize-levels for the homes in the area, to ensure a mix of residents. Cold underlines that he doesn’t want the Carlsberg district to become another enclave for “Mr and Mrs Weber Grill”, as he puts it.
“There has to be more normal people here, and it’s super important that all kinds of people will have a possibility to move to the area. Otherwise it will be a dead city district”, Christian Cold said in the interview with KBH magazine.
If you are in Copenhagen and happen get a chance to join one of the occasional architecture tours (left) of the Carlsberg grounds – don’t miss it.
This place is full of fascinating history that is hard to match when it comes to family intrigues, entrepreneurial skills, success, philanthropy and megalomania. Even if you are only interested in the beer, you’ll get carried away by the rest.
J.C. Jacobsen, the founder of Carlsberg, began brewing beer on this spot in 1847. The brewery was named after his son Carl and the modest hill it was located on, overlooking central Copenhagen.
The beer became a monumental success and the most famous Danish brand. It made Jacobsen a very rich man, but it also led to a bitter conflict between father and son. The story of this family feud is full of unlikely details.
The young Carl Jacobsen eventually set up his own brewery next to his father’s, naming it New Carlsberg. His father renamed his brewery Old Carlsberg and the fight went on.
Luckily, father and son Jacobsen spent much of their money on architecture and art, trying to overtrump each other.
This heritage is part of what will make the Carlsberg area so special – when it eventually will be built.

Copyright: Carlsbergs byudviklingsprojekt/Entasis
A view over the future Carlsberg city district near central Copenhagen.

The famous Elephant Gate at Carl Jacobsen's New Carlsberg brewery.

Copyright: Carlsbergs byudviklingsprojekt/Utopian Cityscape
"Brewer's Place" in the future; full of urban life in a vibrant new city district.