Danish Architecture Guide

ARCHITECTURE OF 1000 YEARS

A tour from the harbour to the university and through downtown leads by architectural works and building historical traces from all eras of Århus' more than 1000-year-long history. The city was founded in the 1000th century as a Viking community and a trading centre where the river and the bay converge. The place was called Aros, which means the mouth of the river - and with the passing of time this became the name of the city: Århus.

From the Custom House to the Theatre
We start our tour at the harbour by the city's old custom house, near the mouth of the river where it all began. The main facade of Toldkammeret (the Custom House) is fronted on the water as a greeting to visitors approaching from the sea. The building was designed by the Royal building inspector, architect Hack Kampmann in 1897, and the facade towards the water shows us that the architect was inspired by history. He designed the building with a large centre tower flanked by two small towers - the elements found in the city's old arms. The building is everywhere characterised by functional and elaborate details, such as the exquisite bay windows used for customer service that are placed on the corner towers.

Just south of the custom house we see a small, protected and noteworthy warehouse designed by the municipal architect Fr. Dreiby in 1923. From the harbour we continue towards the city across the railway tracks and Skolebakken's busy traffic flow to Århus Katedralskole (Århus Cathedral School). Before crossing the street, we stop to take a look at the school's facade and end wall towards Skolegyde; here the architect Hack Kampmann has once again used the tower as a motif in an addition from 1905. The school is an excellent illustration of the large time span in the city's architecture, as the oldest part of the school dates back to 1773 and the youngest to 1957.

From the cathedral school there is just a short walk along Skolegyde to Århus Teater (Århus Theatre), which appears on our left. Here we come upon the architect Hack Kampmann once more, this time displaying a creative zest in glass, brick and granite, which makes the theatre building quite exceptional in the city. The facade's triangular gable panel is adorned with a scene from a Holberg play, and in the circular arches at the top of the seven windows in the foyer brilliantly coloured glass mosaics are inserted. The double main entrance to the theatre is encircled by barrel-vaulted arches in granite, and at the apex of the gable a copper dragon is vigilantly guarding the treasures of dramatic art. Like on a stage the theatre facade forms an elegant back scene to the life that thrives in the large Bispetorv Square in front of the theatre.

Apart from the theatre, Bispetorv is bounded by Århus Domkirke (Århus Cathedral), Kannikegade and Skt. Clemens Torv. The square was established in 1880, but its present form is the result of a competition won by the architect Thomas Havning in 1921. The equestrian statue of Christian X was made by the sculptor Helene Schou, while the pedestal was designed by the architect Kay Fisker. On the occasion of Århus Festival the square is covered by a dashing, modern sail construction, Universe, designed in 1996 by the American, architectural design company, Asymptote. Universe is a poetic space of light and sound harmoniously co-existing with the large, monumental buildings on the square.

From the cathedral to the art museum
From the theatre our tour continues along Kannikegade to Skt. Clemens Torv, where we find traces of the oldest buildings in Århus in the basement under the Nordea bank building: a small, archaeological exhibition about Århus in the Viking age. Archaeological findings show traces of buildings in the areas round Århus Domkirke already in the 10th century. The church, which is dedicated to St. Clemens, was initiated about year 1200, and it is built of red monk brick. With the 94 metre long facade, the cathedral is one of Denmark's longest church buildings, and it contains a large number of frescoes and other noble furniture.

We proceed round the back of the church and come to the old town hall and county gaol from 1858. In 1995 the building with the beautiful entrance was converted into Kvindemuseet (the Women's Museum). At the same time as the restoration of the building, a small atrium garden was laid out - Mathilde Fibigers Have; the garden forms the connection to Rosensgade. On our way along Rosensgade towards Hotel Royal we pass the former national bank building on our right; a renaissance inspired building, which in 1989 was converted into offices of the mortgage bank, Nykredit. At our destination, Hotel Royal, the entrance to the hotel casino catches the eye. The two caryatides supporting the baldachin of the entrance were created by the artist Hans Oldau Krull in 1991. Krull has also decorated the little cellar café Under Masken at the corner towards Rosensgade.

If we continue along Rosensgade, we reach the small square Pustervig, one of the city's peaceful oases. We turn right on to Graven with its small shops in the old city houses and continue across Volden to Studsgade. All the way back in the 15th century Studsgade was the northern approach road to Århus. Over the years several merchant's houses were built on this street; one of these is Studsgade 35. The timber frame construction originally dates back to 1750, but has been extended several times. It is a two-storey house, and the double ceiling beams reveal that the upper storey used to be a granary. On the opposite side of the broad Nørreport we find another old merchant's house - called Raaes Gård. Today the house is part of Arkitektskolen i Aarhus (the School of Architecture, Aarhus). North of the house is the school's new lecture hall and exhibition building in glass and steel.

From the school of architecture the ascent to the university begins. First we have to cross the street at the intersection of Nørreport and Nørre Allé and then follow Nørrebrogade to the former Århus Kunstmuseum (Århus Museum of Art). Here we meet for the first time the yellow brick buildings, which are a characteristic feature of the architecture in the University Park.

From the University Park to the church garden
We approach the University of Aarhus along Høeg Guldbergsgade. At the school of hospital nurses we turn into Vennelystparken, which in the late 19th century and early 20th century was an amusement park with a dance pavilion. After crossing through the park we end up at the university's latest addition Auditoriehuset (the lecture hall building), which is built in the same architectural style as the rest of the university. If we throw a look into the foyer, we see an impressive ceiling painting by the artist Per Kirkeby. We walk across the square and up the steps by the lecture hall building to get to Universitetsparken (the University Park). With its simple, scenic landscaping interplays harmoniously with the surrounding buildings. Århus Universitets main building and Statsbiblioteket (the National Library) are beautifully situated at the northern end of the park. After the scenic walk to the national library, we begin our descent to the city. First we pass by Steno Museet (the Steno Museum), which is a museum of science as well as a planetarium.

After that our tour goes along Kaserneboulevarden and Ny Munkegade, where we come by Samsøgades Skole (elementary school) from 1913. Like several of the city's other large schools from this period, this school has a large, fine main hall as the central room.

While walking downhill enjoying the view of the city, we come by Århus Brandstation (Århus Fire Station). The green, curved gates and the characteristic hose tower are some of the features of the old fire station that catch the eye, and today the station is still the starting point when a house is on fire. We continue downwards, cross Nørre Allé and walk along Munkegade to Klostergade. Here we meet the wall around the old abbey garden, and if we follow the wall to the right, we come to the narrow passage, Klosterstien (the Abbey path), which runs along the wall round the garden. Down the path we arrive at Vor Frue Kirke (the Church of Our Lady). Under the church choir we find remains of the city's first cathedral - Sct. Nikolai. It was a Romanesque travertine church built about 1060, which has been rebuilt as a crypt. After this tour past architecture of several centuries we can take a rest in the peaceful gardens by the church.

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