An urbanist’s Vestegnen (plus Greve)

Copenhagen’s Vestegnen is a perlerække of eight suburban kommuner laid out in a sort of checker board formation like post-colonial African states, divided by wide roads and, increasingly, by motorways and railways, with the coming letbane (runs north:south folks!) the cherry on the cake.

New: the Historisk Atlas theme on Historier om Danmark includes tours on Vestvolden and Tunestillingen

Map: Berlingske | Vestegnens Politi

The kommuner can be divvied up in several ways:

  • east:west in north:south pairs: Rødovre & Hvidovre | Glostrup & Brøndby | Albertslund & Vallensbæk | Høje-Taastrup & Ishøj
  • by Finger/S tog line:
    • A: Åmarken, Friheden and Avedøre (Hvidovre), Brøndby Strand, Vallensbæk, Ishøj (then Hundige, Greve, Karlslunde)
    • B: Rodovre, Brondby, Glostrup, Albertslund, Hoje-Taastrup

Note that Brøndby straddles the fingers. Below I’ve gone for a simple a-z of the kommuner I know least well, with separate pages for Brøndby, Rødovre and my ‘home’ kommune of Hvidovre.

The 1947 Finger Plan divided the western environs of Copenhagen into five development ‘fingers’ along S tog lines separated by green wedges. The two Vestegnen councils closest to Copenhagen, Hvidovre and Rødovre, pre-date the plan, with most of their development taking place up to the 1950s, and can be seen as a rather lost bit between the thumb and forefinger – although Hvidovre is at least on the Matador board.

The plan has dictated the geography of the area – time for a rethink? Funneling everything into CPH is not a great model. There is little connection between the fingers, and social indicators worsen the further down the fingers you go – bring on the letbane! Plus the pockets of green between the fingers have been progressively hemmed in by development (a particular shocker is Det Grønne Kile, a green wedge – and functionless edgeland – sandwiched between a total of four motorways, in the middle of nowhere until you stop and listen to the ubiquitous traffic noise. Some manmade hills to the south; skov planted in 1975, used by Brøndby Golfklub.

Housing: some Corb style 24 hour settlements, but others intended for a working population – they are not mixed developments. Cultural heritage is pretty thin on the ground here, although the kommuner do their best. Plus, the Danish take on placemaking can result in places so unchallenging they are almost invisible to all but their inhabitants, almost non-places.

Are times maybe changing? Kraks Fonds Byforskning’s latest report finds Vestegnen top of Denmark’s inward investment league, due to its relatively low housing costs coupled with proximity to the ]cosmopolitan’ capital.

A-z:

Basic indicators:

  • population:
    • c250K, 25% indvandrere and efterkommer giving an average size of…Danish scale councils
    • by ancestry: Danish: 201,199, indvandrere: 37,411, efterkommere: 20,607
    • by household type: couples: 53,744, single: 54,080, multi-family: 9,731
  • average income (2012):
    • Albertslund: 264.428 kr.
    • Brøndby: 263.406 kr.
    • Glostrup: 292.944 kr.
    • Hvidovre: 285.892 kr.
    • Høje-Taastrup: 285.505 kr.
    • Rødovre: 283.044 kr. (pop: 38.5K)

Albertslund (post | Flickr):

Glostrup (photos):

  • west of Rødovre, north of Brøndby, ie northwest of Hvidovre…Vestvolden marks border with Rødovre, where Roskildevej becomes Hovedvej; an important node in the network of motorways around CPH
  • village of Glostrup, named after its founder Glob, established between 1000 and 1197; 1682: eight farms and 13 houses; municipality established in 1841, ranking as a parish municipality (sognekommune) until 1950 when its status was changed to town municipality (købstadskommune); from 1947 to 1960 the population doubled
  • not dominated by public housing – housing mix is average for Denmark; public housing built around the hospital and Stationsby in the exclave of Avedøre; housing less tæt than the modern fashion
    • Solvangsparken (1946): around Solvangsvej and Egevej, houses from the 1930s-50s, with a view to the hospital
  • local history (films): good info stands around town – lær din by at kende
  • modernism: inc Bikuben Bank (former, 1955, by Svenn Eske Kristensen), see tour for more
  • motel: Glostrup Park Hotel (1967), former Esso motel
  • paths: Glostrup – see Oplev Glostrup; includes a kunstrute
  • shopping centre: refurbished, with the aim of creating a bymidte
  • station: opened 1847 on Denmark’s first railway running from CPH to Roskilde; 1918 station built by Heinrich Venck, with the S tog arriving in 1953; Irma coffee sign outside??
  • Villa Kram: lavenergibyggeri designed by architect couple for themselves
  • walks inc art route

Høje-Taastrup (Wikipedia; Buernes By)

Stationsbyen Høje Taastrup: more radical town planning, in this case the reinvention of the classic Danish town in a postmodern way, sadly a bit of a ghost town, with an about-turn in the case of Nærheden:

  • architecturetourism (Oplev Høje-Taastrup) | SkulpturGuide
  • City 2 (1975) & Copenhagen Designer Outlet
  • Copenhagen Markets
  • Nærheden (Hedehusene; Realdania | At Bo podcast | apologia): projected pop: 8K: “Endeløse rækker af parcelhuse og højhuse med store, tomme arealer imellem skal man kigge langt efter i Nærheden. Her mener man nemlig, at fremtidens forstad skal være grøn, tæt, lav og med gode kår for fællesskabet og det nemme hverdagsliv.”
    • the suburb of the future? small houses targeted at local OAPs and families from CPH with small children; no almene boliger, too expensive for people on kontanthjælp (so not really mirroring the diversity of a ‘real’ city, which can’t be created)
    • variation in tenure, but just for “people like us”, Denmark’s big middle class
    • no double carports (19 car parks) or on-street parking taking up space, cellars or hobby rooms, to encourage residents to use the collective facilities
    • lys og luft no longer valued – but that’s what people like, and what they choose to build; this is just as top down as a 1950s idea of utopia
  • Taastrup: Vandtårn (1908)

Ishøj: diverse population (22.7K), lowest income per capita (kommune)

Vallensbæk (photos): smallest (pop: 15.7K), richest, and, unusually for the area, votes Conservative (kommune):

  • long and narrow (map), hence has borders to five of the other Vestegenen kommuner; the 1970s part (Strand) lies to the south, with the old village (a traditional landsby with a gadekær and two churches) in the centre and older areas of detached housing bordering Albertslund to the north (Nordmark)
  • walks (kløverstier | leaflet | map | kommune)
  • the area also boasts a sø, a mose (home to Thomas Dambo’s Little Tilde) and a strand/marina

And finally…Greve (mapphotos). Just over the border from Ishøj in Region Sjælland rather than Hovedstaden, home to Strandparken’s most westerly marina at Hundige, what is now Greve kommune followed much the same development pattern as the other kommuner on the Køge Bugt finger. Votes Venstre/Conservative.

Subsuming six old villages (Greve, Hundige, Karlslunde, Kildebrønde, Mosede and Tune), Greve kommune comprises a sprawling landscape of detached villas in neat rows, in particular along Greve Strand (takes in Hundige, Mosede Strand and Karlslunde).

Some social housing in Hundige – see Sort land by Ahmad Mahmoud, about growing up in Askerød. Shopping concentrated in station centres, not least Waves in Hundige, with Portalen in Greve the main cultural centre.

Greve Museum (app) has a permanent exhibition about the development of the area.

Architectural and cultural heritage:

  • Greve Svømmehal – Denmark’s biggest swimming pool, built in the form of a pyramid in 1978
  • churches: Hundige (1976) | Mosede (1978)
  • WW1: Mosede Fort