On paper, Danish reads almost identically to its sister-languages Swedish and Norwegian, but hear a Dane speak and it sounds nothing like them. So, at first glance, Copenhagen might seem another well-ordered, well-mannered, Scandinavian city set under clear light over a blue sea, but experiencing it reveals a unique place that melds Nordic qualities with sophisticated continental traditions.
A visitor walking (or perhaps more appositely, cycling) through Copenhagen will find it difficult to think of another city in Europe which has worked so hard, but apparently effortlessly so, at designing a place fit for the purposes of modern citizenship. It is this commitment that makes almost every aspect of living in the city a collective and individual pleasure – and a sustainable one.
Copenhagen continues to draw on the affordances of its littoral location to provide a bucolic natural environment; the vibrant but harmonious historic centre privileges pedestrian life; outstanding buildings of every era sit easily beside each other in a highly considered public realm; first-rate museums and galleries embellish the city; and its various neighbourhoods, schools and housing are all bound together by an excellent transport system, and a citizenry of cyclists who outnumber car-users.
Running through all this is an aesthetic sensibility that combines clarity of line and shape with an informed elegance. Stretching back to the brick and copper buildings of the Renaissance, through the Rococo wit and inventive Neo-Classicism of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, and on through early-twentieth-century Arts & Crafts and Nordic Classicism, this carefully nurtured and supported design tradition has evolved into Denmark’s now long-sustained tradition of humanist Modernism.
Fly at c. 10.00am from London Heathrow to Copenhagen (British Airways). Settle into the hotel in Nyhavn. Afternoon walk through the historic centre and around the waterfront from the 17th-century Børsen, unique 18th-century Christian’s Church and crypt (Niels Eigtved, 1755), to the great hall and gardens of Arne Jacobsen’s Bank of Denmark (1970–8), the Black Diamond Royal Library (1999), Danish Architecture Centre, Vandkunsten’s Torpedo Hall housing and Henning Larsen’s Opera House (2005).
Drive to the neighbourhood of Norrebro to the landscaped Assistens Kierkegaard including the grave of Søren Kierkegaard. Continue to PV Jensen-Klint’s extraordinary expressionist Hanseatic-gabled Grundtvig Church (1921–40). Lunch overlooking the Øresund (sound), and visit Jacobsen’s Bellevue and Søholm developments, as well as the remarkable Nærumgårds allotments. End at the beautiful Ordrupgaard Museum and Art Park, with the home of the great 20th-century Danish designer Finn Juhl, as well as a fine art collection (French Impressionist and Danish Golden Age) in a manor house extended by Zaha Hadid (2005).
A day on the Øresund shore. Visit Jørn Utzon’s hugely influential Fredensborg courtyard houses (1959–62) set around a common building and shared landscape. Continue to the Louisiana Museum of Modern Art (1958), built up over generations into one of the world’s most organic compositions of art, architecture and nature. Then to Helsingør and Bjarke Ingels’ Danish Maritime Museum (2013), dramatically inserted into an historic dry dock overlooking Hamlet’s Elsinore Castle.
The morning walk in Copenhagen includes the Strøget, the model for pedestrian-centred urban design the world over. See the Nordic Classical police station by Hack Kampmann (1924), Jacobsen’s functionalist SAS Hotel (1960) including the Orchid Bar, Martin Nyrop’s National Romantic Rådhus (1905), ending at Bindesbøll’s inventively unparalleled neo-classical Thorvaldsen Museum. Free afternoon, suggestions include the Ny Carlsberg Glypothek (Hack Kampmann, 1897) with an extension by Henning Larsen (2000), Statens Museum for Kunst with an extension by C. F. Møller Architects (1998) or the Danish Jewish Museum (Daniel Libeskind, 2002).
Drive to Jørn Utzen’s Bagsværd Church (1976), alongside the Sydney Opera House considered his masterpiece. Then to Amager and the School By The Sound (1935–38). Designed by Kaj Gottlob, this elementary school’s celebration of light and air set a tone for progressive education. Follow the ongoing development of Amager West and its new university quarter and extraordinary housing by Bjarke Ingels including the Mountain Dwelling, VM Houses and 8 House. Fly to London, arriving c. 5.30pm.
Some of these visits are by special arrangement and there may have to be changes to the itinerary.
Professor Harry Charrington
Architect and Head of the Department of Architecture at the University of Westminster. He read Architecture at Cambridge, where he was the founding editor of Scroope: Cambridge Architectural Journal, and subsequently combined academia and practice in both England and Finland. He has a particular interest in the history of modernism. He obtained his PhD from the LSE on Alvar Aalto and has published widely on his work. His book Alvar Aalto: the Mark of the Hand won the RIBA President’s Award for Research 2012.
Price, per person
Two sharing: £2,570 or £2,430 without flights. Single occupancy: £2,960 or £2,820 without flights.
Flights (economy class) with British Airways (aircraft: A321); coach travel; accommodation as described below; breakfasts, 1 lunch and 3 dinners with wine, water and coffee; all admissions; all tips; all taxes; the services of the lecturer and tour manager.
Phoenix Copenhagen: a traditional 4-star hotel close to the Amalienborg Palace.
There is quite a lot of walking on this tour and standing in museums and buildings. It should not be undertaken by anyone who has difficulty with everyday walking and stair climbing. Average distance by coach per day: 25 miles.
Between 10 and 22 participants.
Before booking, please refer to the FCDO website to ensure you are happy with the travel advice for the destination(s) you are visiting.
'A wonderful mix of substantial Danish and international architectural content, excellent facilitation and good fun.'
'Harry is a real gem and it is a privilege to travel on his tours.'
'This was my sixth tour with Harry Charrington who is an outstanding lecturer. My first was Finland in 2010. I continue to go on his architectural trips as this is my main interest. I had hoped for a Danish itinerary for some years so this was a real treat.'