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6 May 2009

Once again the most beautiful building in Copenhagen

Former insurance building reclaimed position as one of the most beautiful buildings in Copenhagen after DKK 65 million refurbishment.

Article in architectural engineer journal Konstuktøren 04/09
By Niels Bjørn Pedersen

On the fringes of the Copenhagen city centre, between Kastellet and Nyboder, where Oslo Plads splits up into Grønningen and Store Kongensgade, lies a red brick building with black-glazed tiles, white Romanesque palace windows on the ground floor and granite-bordered portal structures with stucco decoration.

Originally consisting of two properties, the building stands today as a single marvellous, coherent new building featuring an array of details for passers-by to feast their eyes on.

The older of the buildings, located at Grønningen 21–25, forms the tip of the triangle. Built in 1910 on the basis of designs by Axel Preisler (1871–1930), this building originally served as the headquarters of Nordisk Gjenforsikring. Axel Preisler was trained as a carpenter but studied to become an architect and worked for Danish architect Vilhelm Dahlerup, among others. He later became chairman of the Architects’ Association of Denmark.

The second building, located at Grønningen 17–19, was designed for Nordisk Livsforsikrings-Aktieselskab by architect P.F. Vilhelm Fischer (1868–1914). When the building was completed in 1914, it awarded a design prize by the City of Copenhagen.

Before designing this building, P.F. Vilhelm Fischer had, among other things, worked for Danish architect Martin Nyrop on the design of the Copenhagen City Hall.

Down to the last detail

Today, the complex of buildings is owned by Mikael Goldschmidt through M. Goldschmidt Holding A/S, which is headquartered in the building.

The company contacted Triarc a/s Arkitekter and asked them to act as consultants on a comprehensive refurbishment of the building enclosures, which took place in 2007–2008 with Ringsted Bygningsentreprise A/S as the general contractor.

Architectural engineer Brian Grundtvig of Triarc was coordinator and site manager on the comprehensive project. According to him, the project roughly included refurbishing some 9,000 sq m of facade, repairing or replacing and painting all windows, replacing 4,000 sq m of roofing, renovating and flashing of dormers, and replacing downpipes, gutters and snow stops using copper instead of zinc. However, the final two metres of downpipe were replaced by hand cast iron pipes. New balusters were cast for the balconies and all cast iron structures were cleaned and painted. The masonry was cleaned using the gentle Gommage method and the joints were checked and replaced where necessary.

“Mr. Goldschmidt wanted the buildings to stand out as some of the most beautiful in Copenhagen and everything, and I mean really everything, was checked down to the last detail,” says Brian Grundtvig.

For example, the sandstone vases on the balconies were copied and new ones were made with built-in copper inserts.

The roofing, which had been in red tiles on one of the buildings and black-glazed tiles on the other, was replaced so that the entire roof is now in black-glazed tiles.

“This lends a coherent, uniform expression to the buildings,” he says, making no secret of the fact that he took great satisfaction in working on a project involving traditional, proven methods and high standards of craftsmanship.

Our showcase

We are welcomed to M. Goldschmidt Holding A/S by Birgitte Cruckov, Personal Assistant to Mikael Goldschmidt, and Henrik Lid, CFO.

Konstruktøren had asked for an interview with founder, owner and CEO Mikael Goldschmidt but unfortunately he was out of the country at the time and therefore unable to participate.

Mikael Goldschmidt is said to have started his career in the basement of a Copenhagen property in 1979 and since then he has carried on business in the property and investment industry.

He was the founder of Atlas Ejendomme, for example, which was sold to the Iceland-based Baugur Group in 2006, after which time he continued his business activities in M. Goldschmidt Holding A/S.

He is reputed to be one of Denmark’s 20 wealthiest individuals with assets in excess of DKK 4 billion.

He is known to act quickly if required by the situation at hand and to take good care of the properties in his portfolio. He previously undertook building refurbishments in and around Snaregade in the centre of Copenhagen that were every bit as comprehensive and beautifully executed as the one at Grønningen.

“We take pride in preserving our building stock and this particular building defines our public image. It is our showcase, if you will. Therefore, it was important to us that the refurbishment would honour the history of the building and that it would be carried out in accordance with old traditions and using only the best materials,” says Henrik Lid.

“This also applies to our newbuilding projects,” says Birgitte Cruckov. She shows us a model of a new building at Lygten in the Nørrebro district, which will house 54 new flats.

“It is essential for us that the construction projects we participate in are of an excellent quality,” she stresses.

Peter Olesen: Congratulations

In connection with the refurbishment of the buildings at Grønningen, Danish journalist, author and architectural critic Peter Olesen said:

“This seems to be a first-class refurbishment down to the last detail, using only the best materials.

Refurbishing this almost 100 year-old property so thoroughly was the right thing to do, because it is so prominent when you come from Oslo Plads heading down Grønningen or Store Kongensgade.

It is a true eye catcher and deserves only the best, originally built from high-quality materials and designed by excellent architects who had trained in the best places with theatre architect Vilhelm Dahlerup and city hall architect Martin Nyrop. It was built by wealthy insurance companies that were capable of rising to the challenge of grandiose and impressive construction at an important site in Copenhagen adjacent to Nyboder and Kastellet.

“Congratulations on this great accomplishment,” ends Peter Olesen.

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