A tribute to the beautiful buildings of Copenhagen

For over 100 years, the City of Copenhagen has presented a building award for particularly distinguished buildings and urban environments.

Meet Copenhagen’s City Architect Camilla van Deurs, who explains how the city’s architecture has changed over time – and see the winning projects from spring 2020.

Anyone who has ever visited or lived in Copenhagen knows that the Danish capital is full of world-class architecture. As well as beautifying the urban landscape, the buildings – dating from different periods and in a variety of architectural styles – testify to a long and interesting history.

Since 1903 the City of Copenhagen has presented awards for beautiful buildings, landscaping and urban spaces in Copenhagen. The Copenhagen Building Award is presented in four categories: New buildings, restoration, refurbishment and urban environments.

“We present the awards to honour the architects, engineers and developers behind the projects. Also, we’re keen to support projects and urban spaces that are of particular benefit to the city and its citizens.”

So says Camilla van Deurs, City Architect of the City of Copenhagen and chair of the building award jury.

The history that lives in the bricks

About 600 projects have been nominated over the years, and more than 250 have been awarded. The winning projects testify to the representative trends of their times and tell the story of the changing needs of society,” explains Camilla van Deurs.

“The beginning of the 20th century was characterised, in particular, by the creation of beautiful decorations on building façades and interiors. After the Second World War and into the 1950s, as the welfare state emerged, public buildings began to shoot up and gain recognition as genuine architecture. Therefore, public housing, schools and water towers were often given awards during that period,” she says, adding:

“The 1970s and 80s were an economically depressed time in Denmark, hugely impacted by the oil crisis. It affected Copenhagen in that not many new building projects were embarked upon. Instead, the focus was on reusing buildings and restoring existing ones,” says the city architect, who continues her description of Copenhagen’s architectural history:

“The 1990s saw the advent of pedestrianisation and upgrades to urban spaces such as Strøget, Copenhagen’s main shopping street. By this time, it was no longer only buildings that were considered for the awards, but also urban spaces. Around the turn of the millennium and throughout the 00s, many of the awards went to major cultural buildings. And they are not only for the benefit of Copenhageners, but also represent major national investments, such as the Opera House, the Royal Danish Playhouse and the Copenhagen Metro,” she says.

FACTS: About the Copenhagen Building Award

  • Since 1903 the City of Copenhagen has presented the Copenhagen Building Award for the most beautiful buildings in the Danish capital.
  • The spring 2020 award winners are: CPH Village, Klarahus Produktionskøkken, Grøndalsvængets School and the Elephant House.
  • In 2018, the people’s choice award was presented for the first time. Axel Towers won the people’s choice award that year, while in 2019 it went to Amaryllis Hus, and in 2020 to Hotel Ottilia.

Camilla van Deurs, City Architect of the City of Copenhagen.