Copenhagen Gallery

Tietgens Ærgrelse

After years of tentative approaches Tony Fretton's highly disputed project opposite Marmorkirken (the Marble Church) has been built.

One does not just build something new in historically sensitive areas of Copenhagen without a second thought.

The real estate company Realea had to realise this after presenting a proposal in 2005 for a new building on the undeveloped corner site opposite Marmorkirken, colloquially known as "Tietgen's Vexation".

In the 19th century C.F. Tietgen, a Danish financier, funded the completion of Marmorkirken and the symmetrical ensemble of buildings surrounding it, designed by architects F. Meldahl and Albert Jensen. However, he was not successful in acquiring the fourth and last corner site of the church square, reportedly because the original owner raised the price every time Tietgen made an offer.

That's why the site was dubbed "Tietgen's Vexation"; it presented itself as a gaping void, but nevertheless housed Mary's Corner, a hot-dog stand, for a number of years.

Over the years several projects have been put forward, but none has been realised. In particular, high demands on the architectural quality of the project for the barely 200 sqm small site made the task both exacting and expensive. With Realea and the British architect Tony Fretton it finally became possible to put together a proposal that the stakeholders in the area could agree upon.

Metro, marble church and opinions

"The project possesses the qualities that ought to be essential for a building on this sensitive location in the historic quarter," wrote the Copenhagen City Administration in its review of the project for the Technical and Environmental Committee. Several decades of debate show that the small site really is a sensitive issue to many people. And it goes without saying that many opinions have also been voiced about Fretton's project.

The project, which has gained complimentary mention in both Danish and foreign architecture magazines, caused no less than 29 objections to be lodged with the local authorities which had to be considered in respect of the new district plan. After many attempts Tietgen's ambitious plan has finally become a reality - although with a different appearance than the financier imagined back in his time.

Twisting history

The internationally acclaimed architect Tony Fretton has extensive experience of designing buildings in historically sensitive areas. He worked towards the final proposal by carefully examining the architecture of Meldahl's building across the street. He then proceeded to undress it, so to speak, and removed some of the original elements as a means of "upsetting the traditional rules in a work of contemporary architecture" - without taking focus away from Marmorkirken as the most important building in the area.

The facades are designed as a reinterpretation of Meldahl's Neo-baroque fronts, respecting the sub-division into bays and floor levels of these as well as the height of the surrounding buildings. The building is made of dyed fibre concrete to match Meldahl's sand-coloured cement rendering. On the facade towards St. Kongensgade Fretton has sought to create a harmonious transition to the small 18th century houses by reducing the relief effect and by using more closely spaced windows.

Informal details and surroundings

The structure mirrors that of the opposite building, but apart from that there are several references which are far less conspicuous - for instance the small informal gardens behind the building. Moreover, the relationship with the historic surroundings is continued inside the building. The apartments giving onto Marmorkirken are laid out as traditional Beaux Art apartments, grandiose and with a view of Marmorkirken. The apartments facing onto St. Kongensgade are simpler with views of the street. The building will provide a café or a shop on the ground floor, offices on the first floor and apartments on the second, third, fourth and top floors.

The City Improvement Society of Copenhagen's building award

In 2010 the project won the City Improvement Society of Copenhagen's building award. The building was described as a respectful building, of a simple architectural design, at once modern and timeless, full of exquisite details. The judges stated: "the building not only blends in with the very demanding architectural and historic surroundings, it also makes a great contribution to this sensitive part of the city with its poetic, positive and welcoming architectural statement".

Last updated Tuesday, January 21, 2014