By Jeppe Villadsen, journalist, 2006
Copenhagen's rococo climax
Founded in 1747, Frederiksstaden is a district of Copenhagen. As many magnificent building projects from that period, the purpose was to glorify the absolute monarchy. King Frederik V took the initiative for the building of an entirely new district complete with palaces for the nobility, bourgeois houses, a church and hospital - and quite appropriately, the fine new district was named after him.
The backdrop to this grand project was a coincidence of fortunate circumstances: Denmark was in the throes of an economic boom, and important businesspeople wanted a new development close to the port with residential buildings, administration and storehouses. And last but not least: the king wanted to celebrate the 300th anniversary of the royal house of Oldenburg with a project that would attract attention.
The entire system of streets in Frederiksstaden is rectangular. The octagonal Amalienborg Palace Square constitutes the monumental centre. This is where the two main axes of the district - Amaliegade and Frederiksgade - cross. Edging the octagonal square, which we know today as Amalienborg Palace Square, four nobleman’s palaces were built, identical on the outside, but different inside.
Controlling the facades
The king’s court architect, Nicolai Eigtved, was the architect for the entire project. He demanded highly rigid designs: all building heights, windows and cornices were to be aligned, and Eigtved himself was either to design or approve all building projects in order to ensure homogeneity.
Frederiksstaden is seen as a sublime climax in European city planning and architecture. Without comparison, it is the finest work of Danish rococo architecture and measures up to projects from the same period in cities such as Paris, Vienna and Berlin.
Did you know?
The man behind such famous architectural pearls as the Christian Church and Frederiksstaden, architect Nicolai Eigtved, is not pictured anywhere. The film director Nils Vest claims, however, in the documentary film The Architect who was gone - or who was Eigtved to prove that Eigtved's worst rival, architect Lauritz de Thurah, had inserted a figure in his tomb, which was supposed to represent Eigtved as a devil.
The committee's justification
By the Committee for Architecture, 2006
Frederiksstaden is one of the most important northern European rococo complexes. It has been developed along Copenhagen’s harbour on a plot with clear borders. The street grid is right-angled, and the main axes of the plane meet in an octagonal plaza, on which four monolithic palaces are located on the diagonals of the plaza. Saly’s equestrian statue of Frederik stands in the centre of the plaza. The church is the starting point of the transverse axis which connects the central plaza with the harbour. The district’s burgher houses are constructed in accordance with a facade scheme, in which the individual houses are symmetrical, with a uniform floor structure, which produces continuous horizontal lines in the streetscape. By virtue of its simple main concept, Frederiksstaden constitutes a robust and nuanced urban totality of open and closed spaces.
In Frederiksstaden, basic architectural dimensions are developed into an overarching narrative. It is an interpretation of the location and of society, brought together into a symbol of the urban space’s architectural composition. The spatial juxtaposition of harbour, plaza, statue and church connects the image of society’s hierarchy with the sea and sky. The horizontal plane of the plaza is in line with the horizon, and the diagonally rising flight from the equestrian statue to the church dome connects the locality with the opening of heaven. The story of the city, citizens, community and the divine, common basic values is clearly and simply unfolded through complete mastery of the architecture. Outside the central story, Frederiksstaden’s enclosed streetscape stands with open perspectives towards open skies.