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Reworking the White Meat Market in Copenhagen a foreword

When Leo X commissioned in the early 1520’s Raphael Sanzio to prepare a map of Rome, one of his principal interests was to get a list of the important remains of the roman times to protect. But Raphael was also requested to evaluate which ruins were to be considered of lesser significance. These than could be torn down to give way to the new papal interventions into the urban context of Rome.

It took another two centuries and interventions by Pius V and Michelangelo, Sixtus V and Domenico Fontana or Alexander VII and Gianlorenzo Bernini to transform the antique, early Christian, Medieval and Renaissance Rome into one of the most astonishing European capitals of the Baroque: heterogeneous, complex, rich and unique. Nolli’s plan of the city from 1748 is the most precise representation of this Rome, as determined of the interrelation of sites of the every day life and of monuments, of the anonymous context in continuous change and of the sites, travellers over centuries came thousands of kilometres to visit and to admire.

Much of this uniqueness, more precisely about four fifth of Rome was later destroyed. First by the post-unitarian governments in the last decades of the 19th Century, which in the name of growth paid little or no attention at all to the many layers of history, which had made the city unique. Whereas than Mussolini’s administration and here the monument protection in particular stated that it wanted to build a new city celebrating the built past. This meant, however, to „free“ some selected monuments from all the transformations of time, and to (re)construct images, which in this form never had existed. In other cases, when monuments stood in the way of Mussolini’s urban interventions, these monuments were deprived from their contexts, removed, and rebuilt, often in some abbreviated form, in some spare place, anywhere else. Whereas other monuments were simply not considered, therefore also not documented, but just destroyed, and not re-erected.

It was a direct consequence that the Italian authorities shortly after 1945 decided, that all buildings, the anonymous and the monuments, in their entireness, from a stone in the facade to a window glass to a door handle, became protected per se, at the moment these buildings have turned 50 years old. Which signifies, that today’s Rome is kind of frozen in time.

The example Rome, as briefly as it is introduced here, as clearly it indicates one phenomenon. The forms of progress here listed, ranging principally from politics to speculation, though certainly being different, when considering their specific historical contexts, all have one element in common: they have requested destruction, destruction of the anonymous context, but as well of monuments. One could suppose at this point, that many readers will recognize in the cases from the past just described patterns still active today. And many readers will also recall to have heard often the one argument, which in these situations is always stated, that progress is impossible if the past, in a smaller or bigger part is not removed.

But, can this argument really convince, only because it has been stated so often? Are progress and protection opposites, incompatible by their very nature? We – the initiators and organizers of the Intensive Programme 2006-2007 introduced in this brochure – are convinced, that protection and progress are not opposites, but very well can and should interact.

It is on these grounds, that students and professors coming from the Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts, School of Architecture in Copenhagen, the Fachhochschule Frankfurt, Studiengang Architektur, the Ecole Nationale Supérieure d’Architecture de Nancy, and the Eesti Kunstiakadeemia in Tallinn in this first Intensive Programme year have focussed on a very particular site of the every day life, the White Meat Market in Copenhagen, a listed monument of the Modern Movement. The primary aim has been to develop strategies to protect and to investigate techniques to preserve this monument as well as to think about how to introduce progress.

Change – a quality of the Modern Movement

Slowly sliding change of circumstances changes the conditions and turns rational architecture to cultural heritage. The abattoir and meat market of Copenhagen, a modern industrial area truly planned and conceived as process and tool of production and economy, is becoming an architectural experience of veneration. When preconditions of the surrounding change the interdependency with the city, when infra structure, means of production, and social situation change, and when time make modern architecture romantic, is it possible to maintain content and program in sync with the physical appearance and how is content and program to be considered as integrated with the authenticity of the area?

The meat market was original planned with utmost concern to meet state of the art principles of hy-giene, market and industry. Technical support such as cooling, ventilation and transportation was extremely well organised and maintained by municipality and state. Thus the meat market has constantly been trimmed to mirror daily needs.

The location of the market was chosen deliberate-ly for its link made to the existing infrastructure. When it came to incoming transportation of cattle and livestock, and the supplying of raw material for the production, the main transport was the railroad. When it came to customers the means of transport were individual cars and lorries.

The situation has changed gradually over time. First of all, the meat market transformed from production and market to mainly market, and incoming transport is no longer by railroad but with big lorries. This not only changes the precondition of transportation but it also changes demands related to hygiene and handling of food. Doors and porches have to be covered and unload and load have to take placed within sealed systems. Since lorries are taller and bigger the covered entrances have had to be remodelled.

When it comes to the social relation to the meat market there are many different actors to consid-er. The municipality is the owner and responsible for planning, coordination and maintenance of the resources of the market. The different tenants, companies and producers are considered by the municipality, and each of these tenants has their special interest in the area. Their needs must be considered, how is it fulfilled, and so on. Neighbours are public concerned and other actors to be considered, and of course it means something for the city as a whole where the supply of food comes from, how it is handled and how it is displayed. Also authorities such as veterinarians and the national food control are important actors to be considered as well, when it comes to making a scoop of the area.
Changes could be technical, social and aesthetic. Terms of reference to consider possible changes of the area, such as care, maintenance, transformation, and for projects are impossible to number, still it is possible to perceive and experience the qualities and character of the architecture and to express consideration for continuity and change.

The meat market is in transition. What used to be a closed industrial area is gradually being transformed into a public space that brings creative use to the future of the Meat Market. It is obvious that qualities of the identity of the area are dependent on tangible as well as of intangible values and that the success of a transition from industrial production to public space is depending on how the identity of the area is taken care of.

Is it possible to change and remain with meaning? What used to be effective calculated industry and market is turning into tourism and experience economy. There is no doubt that it is a challenge for the meat market to remain an integrated part of the changing city. Is architecture economy, politics and business? Frankly spoken, when it comes to the Modern Movement the character and quality of architecture is an ability to appreciate The Challenge of Change.

The workshop that took place in Copenhagen in the two first weeks of May 2007 asked the 31 participants from four European architecture schools to consider the question of environmental assessment, of present state, maintenance and effects of change that a possible project would bring to the Meat Market.

Dealing with the building, the workshop was asked to respond to:

What is the status? How much of the original is still there, how much has been replaced (reversible/irreversible)? How much has been added? How do you judge the transformations that has taken place? Should reconstructions be made? Could new transformations be made? For what purpose is the building best fitted, original/new? Suggest a program for the use of the building. What is the cultural value of the building? How is it integrated in the city?


When it comes to the area around the building the workshop was asked to respond to:

How is the area of the market organized; the traffic flow in relation to the city, the access to the building? How are the buildings organized in correspondence to the inside? How much of this has been/can be transformed (for the worse – for the better)?


Work at site

The workshop gave suggestions both for the specific building with related area, and suggestions how to fit in with the overall plan for the meat market.

The workshop was asked to consider a reuse related to the former/present use as meat market; restaurants, a school for future chefs de cuisine and new uses, such as offices and studios, media labs, design schools, galleries, cinema ... How can the area address itself to the surroundings? How can it remain a strong character, and still be open and inviting? How can it connect to the city and still be very sharp? How can it connect to the flow of the city to infrastructure and other means of communication? Which uses would you suggest for the area, and which for your building? Which qualities would you connect with these uses? What permanent and what temporary qualities makes the cultural value of the area?

The students where asked to identify different actors to gather and consider information given from these. Thus different, tenants of different profession, buyers, service suppliers, owners, municipal authorities, heritage authorities, architects of maintenance, designers concerned with the change of the meat market etc. were taken into account.


Intensive Programme 2002-2005:                                                       Web Development: Jan Przerwa, August 25, 2016