The Balsam Hill Traveler: Discovering Denmark
For an avid traveler, one of the best ways to understand the colorful past of a country is to behold the different architecture that can be seen in it. You can learn about the traditions, cultural influences, and even political climate of a country over the years based on the evolution of its structures. In this edition of the Balsam Hill Traveler, we take a look at the rich culture and magnificent history of Denmark through the development of people’s homes.
The Half-timbered Houses of Jutland
While early Danish houses featured the same Viking design as that of other Scandinavian countries, it was not until the Middle Ages that the Danes were able to create their own distinct style of homes. Large half-timbered townhouses replaced the old oakwood cottages that used to dominate Denmark’s countryside, such as in Aarhus and in Svendborg. These two-story structures afforded people more room to live in as well as better insulation to combat the extreme cold during winter.
Baroque Architecture in Sealand
During the Renaissance, the Danes adopted Dutch architectural styles for their homes. Baroque soon became the fad of the rich and powerful as they grew more concerned about symmetry and regularity in their designs. This is often highlighted by a projecting central section on the façade of the house.
The Rococo Style of Copenhagen
French Rococo soon followed the Dutch Baroque movement in Denmark. Various architects, led by Niels Eigtved, built fine manors and palaces inspired by the great royal houses of France. One of the best examples of these masterpieces is the famous Amalienborg in Copenhagen, which became the winter residence of the Danish royal family. The simple yet graceful asymmetrical design, highlighted in pastel colors, epitomizes the witty artistic themes of Rococo.
The Neoclassical Movement in Møn
Further French influence came to Denmark in the form of neoclassicism. Brought to the country by Nicolas-Henri Jardin, the movement became popular as a contrast to the naturalistic ornaments of Rococo. Inspired by Classical Greek and Roman architecture, neoclassicism emphasized more the qualities of geometrical figures rather than the intricate details of a design. The small country home of Liselund on the island of Møn is a remarkable example of Danish neoclassical style.
The Nordic Classical in Copenhagen
By the turn of the 20th century, Danish neoclassical style developed into Nordic classicism. It is marked by a fusion between Greek and Roman classical design and vernacular architecture (Nordic, Italian, and German). It was during this period when the first terraced houses in Denmark were introduced. The Hornbækhus apartment in Copenhagen is a great example of this building style.
The Danish Modern
Arguably one of the most popular architectural styles of today, the movement known as Danish modern derives its renditions from a unique combination of vintage design and modern functionality. It first came about right after the Second World War when materials for house building were scarce. Architects had to create cost-effective designs to make good of what they had. This resulted in irregular ground plans, flat roofs, glass façades, and open plan interiors, which proved to be a hit among the masses.
Distinct in its fusion of the classic and contemporary, Danish architectural design embodies a world outside of time. It symbolizes the Danes’ value for their heritage and progressive view of their future.