The studio is less than 20 square meters and has no clean running water. But it’s enough space for multi-instrumentalist, producer, rapper and DJ Pato Siebenhaar.
Siebenhaar’s creative corner is set amongst the historic low-rise buildings on Enghavevej, built in 1863 to house workshops, artisanal studios and abattoirs. Wedged between Enghavevej, Vesterbrogade and Sundevedsgade in Copenhagen’s Vesterbro district, the buildings are some of the last that remain of an almost forgotten chapter of the city’s history.
They risk being lost forever, however, as two new developments threaten to replace the buildings with flashy new apartments and shops.
“Why would you not want to save something made so long ago?” Siebenhaar asks as we walk through the alleyway connecting Vesterbrogade and Enghavevej, past the historic buildings that today house several artist and music studios.
“The most streamed single in Denmark by Topgunn was produced out here,” he says pointing to one of the buildings. “This is a living, breathing creative area. People come to Vesterbro to consume culture, but if they tear down these buildings Vesterbro will no longer be a place where culture is also created.”
Big developments slated
The first of the two developments is scheduled for the last remaining low-rise building on Vesterbrogade 107c, which was built in 1867. The developer, CPHInvest, hopes to level the building and replace it with a five-storey new build with eight apartments and two shops. The low-rise buildings in the yard behind will also be levelled, to make way for parking.
Indie band The Kissaway Trail rehearses in one of the buildings in the yard. Band member Thomas Fagerlund was one of 345 concerned citizens to write to the council during the public consultation of the development.
“Danish music has been produced in these buildings for many years. They are worth far more than new buildings and money. We hope you will consider letting our culture, studio and rehearsal space be!”
The second development involves a complete upheaval. Developer Ejendomsselskabet Enghaven wants to demolish all of the low-rise buildings along Enghavevej, and several within the block, in order to make way for 83 new apartments as well as shops, cafes, restaurants and an open green area. The new development will be called ‘Toves Gaard’ (Tove’s Yard).
Hanne Fabricius, a local writer and archaeologist, says the City Council is responsible for the ramshackle state of some of the buildings. While it considers the buildings worthy of conservation, none are protected, meaning the owners were under no obligation to renovate the buildings.
While this has kept rents down for the benefit of the creative community, their poor condition is now being used to justify their demolition.
“These buildings are some of the the last area of historic Vesterbro that remain – an old area with butchers and bars going all the way back to 1577 when slaughtering animals was banned within city limits,” Fabricius says, explaining that Enghavevej used to be a road through fields where animals would graze, while farms and houses could be found on each side of Vesterbrogade.
She adds that the area has long been vulnerable to developers and argues that the City Council should have ensured its protection. But she’s not surprised that it didn’t. The council has already green-lighted the demolition of far too many historically-important buildings.
“The City Council have no historic insight,” she says.
Fabricius set up a Facebook group to draw attention to the plight of the Enghavevej buildings, which caught the eye of Copenhagen’s deputy mayor for Technical and Environmental Affairs, Morten Kabell, who wrote that he will seek to have Vesterbrogade 107c preserved.
“I hope other parties will support this proposal so we can preserve the marvellous buildings,” he wrote.
Fellow member of the City Council, Niels Efterstigaard Bjerrum, also announced his support. He wrote that he would investigate the possible models for both preserving the buildings and financing the process.
The development along Enghavevej is so extensive that it will require Copenhagen City Council to agree on a new local plan for the block, which is expected to be reached by June this year. Fabricius says that while Vesterbro will inevitably redevelop to remain in a fit state for new inhabitants, it is vital that the city preserve a little history future generations.
“This is all that’s left. We are going to fight those politicians who want to take our history from us.” M