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Den Hvide Kødby - The Meat Market

The Meat Market is situated at the edge of the dense city close to the central station. As a complex it is a unique entity to be compared to contemporary modern Danish architecture such as Bellevue by Arne Jacobsen and the airterminal of 1939 by Vilhelm Lauritzen. It is also comparable to international works such as Van Nelle factory in Rotterdam and the car factory of Lingotto in Torino. Still when it comes to modern urban architecture it has no real resemblances. It can only be compared to classical space and places. The project was finished already in 1930. It was the design of the city architect Poul Holsøe assisted by Curt Bie and Tage Rue. Carl Bruun and P.J. Børge where the responsible engineers. The building commission started in 1931, and was finished in 1934 at a site that used to be a gas work. The Meat Market has been listed since 1995. It is a low widespread complex made of reinforced concrete, in contrast not only to the higher surrondings of the traditional constructed city but also to its predecessor the Brown Meat market, of yellow brick. The Meat Market was originally connected to the railroad system with a still existing tunnel in the south east corner of the area. Thus the place and the function of the area has a natural connection to the station area, with relation to work scheme and values of utility, to flow of production and transport. Further it could be said that the Meat market contribute to the development of the area, among other to the DGI-city (gymnastic, athletic and swimming): thus the Meat Market constitute an architectonic and a town like buffer zone between the city and the station area.


As a complex the Meat Market not only broke radically with former aesthetics. The white cubic volumes and facades appears with a precision, that even could be said to be ornamented with a precise graphical signs. Different letters, symbols and logoes appeared both as signs and as light and neon and where a conscious part of the architectural expression. By the help of light the architecture became very present at night.

Though the plans for the Meat Market where there in 1930 they had been planed for a long time. A commission had been selected, and the major, the city architect and other involved had made study trips to Lübeck, Berlin and Dresden. The purpose was to make a more thorough research about similar projects with a certain focus on how to solve problems of hygienic character. Even if the Meat Market was built according to the most modern construction principles of reinforced concrete, steel framed windows and with signs that underlined the products as well as the overall impression of the area, it was not aesthetics but rather concepts as function, production and hygiene that was the starting point for the architecture of the Meat Market.

The Stockholm exhibition of 1930 under the leadership of the Swedish architect Erik Gunnar Asplund became the break through for functionalism/modernism in Scandinavia. The exhibition rejected the moderate and decorative neoclassicism in favour of a new architecture – not only by form but also of material. The exhibition was planned as a city with promenades and buildings of new materials that made free facades possible. Flat and bowed roof form, cubic and organic volumes, horizontal windows, panorama windows; gone was mortar and bricks, gone was weight and forces.

As previous mentioned the Stockholm exhibition was of great importance to the Scandinavian countries. The Swedish cooperative Konsum exhibited a concept for a shop that witk the use of windows, baldacines, and sculptural effects of signs resemble the Meat Market. It is also worth to mention the Konsum house in Stockholm, constructed at the same time as the Meat Market and with similar functions.

The new tendencies had been long underway. Already in 1909 the German architect Peter Behrens put the traditional brick architecture behind his back with the turbine factory for AEG in Berlin, a non-historical industrial building in reinforced concrete with large glaswalls and a façade freed from ornament. In 1911 in Alfeld an der Leine in Germany architect Walter Gropius designed Faguswerk, a shoe factory as a sober cubist formed building with a glass facade almost as a curtain, strict, and very contrasting to the Einsteinturm in Potsdam, built 1917-21, designed by Erich Mendelsohn as an almost exalted amoeba – again without ornament but radically different - another tendency of modern architecture.

Meat Hall

Both when it comes to size and lighting the Meat Hall is a space of unique architectonic quality. It is of importance for the impression of the hall that it appear with a repetitive structure and with continuing surfaces to underline the scale of the space. The size of the Meat Hall is more than 8000 m2 (comparable to the main hall of the central station) and is covered with a shed roof standing on concrete columns in a grid of 9x12 meter and of double story height. The hall was originally a continuing space of almost urban character, where in between floors and subdivided spaces are later additions. The original cast concrete floor has also been changed to tiles of green terrazzo (40x40cm). In many ways it is understandable that the hall has been subdivided, but it could be said to be desired that the use of the building had a stronger relation to the values of architecture and cultural heritage of the Meat Hall, both when it comes to the structure and light as well as when it comes to the material qualities.

The new entry of the Meat Hall is an example of what the architecture of the Meat Market can not take. As previous has been pointed out one of the characteristics of the Meat Market is the sharp edged volumes, the horizontal lines and the straight angels. The construction and form of the entrance in an angel of 45 degrees is like a set of loose Mikado pins, that makes the strength of the architecture so week that it almost looks like a shopping centre of the suburbs – is it an attempt to comfort the consumers entering the Hall. The expression is surely not haphazardly, it is a strong signal – but is it the signal of the Meat Market?

The Poultry Hall

The Poultry Hall is a structure of 10 parallel concrete 20 metre wide arches carrying a roof of concrete shells with top light.The space of the hall was originally and in contrast to the Meat Hall a large volume with plane surfaces.Thus the concrete arches characterizes the hall with an exterior structural shape that even supports the cantilevered concrete canopy , that balances the structure on both side of the hall.The entrances facing the Straw Market as well as the Meat Market used to be characteristic marked with cantilevered roofs/canopies and small kiosks. Both as construction and as spatial experience the Poultry hall has a potential of special qualities.Today there is a supermarket in the Poultry hall.The ceiling is lowered and thus the roof light is blinded and not in use.The Hall is certainly a part of the Meat Market but its function and use value has no direct relation to the site.Thus it could be said that the specific character of the Poultry hall has a week relation to the Meat Market and is badly used.

The surrounding development by Flæsketorvet

The development surrounding Flæsketorvet (the Meat-square) has to a great extent kept the original two storey height, and contain a number of businesses of different sizes. The original Steff-Houlbergs sausage factory, the building where the Hotel-and Restaurant school is now located, has been developed and expanded with further floors over time. The factory building was originally 4 floors that had 4 windows each towards Flæsketorvet, but it has now been expanded to 13 windows, with 9 of them built on top of the original two-storey surrounding development. Furthermore the factory building has been expanded by Kødboderne (the Meat-huts). The added floors has been built with a clear consideration for the rest of the design , and has been regulated to the themes that are the architecture of Kødbyen (the Meat-town). Expansion plans and changes was already from the beginning a part of Kødbyens strategy. In the presentation of the project it is noted that: “The buildings that are meant to be expanded with two floors, are designed with basement, 1st floor, and 2nd floor.” (Arkitekten XXXVII, 1935).

The entire surrounding development, including the Hotel-and Restaurant school, various offices, and retail shops, is regulated to the basic themes of Kødbyen. It is therefore essential, especially for the continually changing wholesale trade, that the areas cogency and variation possibilities are preserved. In that way the character and quality of Kødbyen are maintained. The backside of the surrounding buildings have many extensions, such as stair towers, elevators, additions and arrangements, like a relief of more or less changeable and useable installation character.

The buildings towards Halmtorvet

Towards Halmtorvet the entrance of Fjerkræhallen (Bird-hall) is symmetrically flanked by low pavillion-like buildings, that appear as big continuous exhibition windows. The entrance and exits via Høkerboderne and Slagterboderne are also arranged symmetrically around Fjerkræhallen. Here, where the facility meets the city 24 hours a day, it is obvious that the signale and lighting are important elements of the perception of Kødbyen.


The buildings towards Banegård

Just like the civic houses have their facades and ‘belle etage’, Kødbyen also has its ‘show-off‘ towards Halmtorvet. The facade on the buildings facing the railroad area appears with different funtions and use. The mere fact that there are no signage and light commercials is a contributing factor to the buildings differentiation. This area was Kødbyens own railway area where most of the livestock came to the Brown Kødby. In this area the robust brick architecture created the settings for trade and control before the animals were taken along to the prodution.

The production starts by the slaughtering. The Slaughterhall is located in the so-called Grey Kødby. It is characteristic by being built in a complex construction of concrete structures and yellow brick, which has resulted in the name The Grey Kødby. The Slaughterhall’s robust facade med white lists of plastered concrete could be percieved as an adjustment to the Brown Kødby,but it could also be an expression for the handling of life and death - which was the constant function of the building. From the slaughter- to the coolinghall and the cooling house the stock was finally transformed into foodstuffs.

As such the Grey Kødby functions in more ways as a place of transition. However, since the 1980’s there have been no more slaughtering going on in Kødbyen. The cutting of the meet continue to exist in the cooling house, where as the Slaughterhall has a more peacefull purpose: It is partly used as shelter for a big percentage of the Copenhagen hot-dog stands , and partly used for potato handling, hereby meaning peeling and cutting. Perpendicular to the track area West of the cooling house there is a sharp line between the Brown- and the White Kødby.

Towards the railway the facades are regulated to the same themes and principles that are characteristic for the rest of the White Meattown. The only major change around the railway area is a later and undefinable facility in the South Western corner, which is not regulated to any of Kødbyens otherwise clearly defined architecture. The tracks between the Meattown and Ingerslevsgade have disappeared - but their physical absence have no real meaning for the areas general impression. Quite opposite the tunnel connection in the South Western corner can be said to have a decisive architectural value for the understanding and the use of the Meattown. The existing coverage and ramp are still important for unloading; but visually the facade is charaterized by piles of goods, empty containers, europallets, steel tubs etc. The atmosphere is a bit of a mess, contrasting the Meatsquares more organized charater.


C.E. Bast Talgsmelteri A/SC.E. Bast Talgsmelteri A/S

Opposite the Grey Kødby, on the opposite side of the railway area, there is the building that originally was C.E. Bast Talgsmelteri (tallow-melting house) A/S. After a cosiderable and in many ways exemplary restauration the building is now converted to free buisnesses. It must be added that C.E. Bast Talgsmelteri A/S is of course not required to have the same regulations and veterinary demands, where as it is naturally restaured as any other preserved building.

Opposite the Grey Kødby, on the opposite side of the railway area, there is the building that originally was C.E. Bast Talgsmelteri (tallow-melting house) A/S. After a cosiderable and in many ways exemplary restauration the building is now converted to free buisnesses. It must be added that C.E. Bast Talgsmelteri A/S is of course not required to have the same regulations and veterinary demands, where as it is naturally restaured as any other preserved building.

The Machine house

Opposite the facade of Flæskehallen towards the railway area is the machine house of Kødbyen. The machine house functions as a main artery for among other things control and regulation of the temperature and moisture in the cooling spaces; this is where the about 8000 km long pipe system starts in an ingenious underground system. This building appears with an individual facade, that deviates from the appearance of the rest of Kødbyen. On the lower building towards Ingerslevsgade is the only really connected window band in Kødbyen, and on the boiler room and the machine hall the facades consist of big glass parts, like a curtain wall. With tiny steel profiles and little windows that open, the glass wall in a scenic becomes a part of the function of the Machine house. It should be noted that the Machine house (except for the windows towards Ingerslevsgade and a lacking coverage of the installations on the flat roof) basicly appears intact, with machines arrangements, original doorhandles and preserved exterior light fittings.