Brumleby: Groundbreaking Housing Oasis in Østerbro


© Per Munkgaard Thorsen,

They arose from a severe cholera epidemic in Copenhagen. Brumleby – originally called The Medical Association’s Housing – became one of the first examples of affordable and healthy homes for impoverished Copenhagen families.

Today, we take for granted light-filled homes surrounded by air. But it has not always been like that. In the 19th century, many people lived in dark and cramped apartments tucked behind the ramparts of Copenhagen. When a cholera epidemic broke out in the capital in 1853 due to poor sanitary conditions, The Medical Association took the initiative to build a series of houses outside the ramparts for disadvantaged families. With their light influx, low height, and green spaces in between, the houses were a healthy alternative to the miserable conditions in which Copenhageners lived in the old city. The location out on the common land, where the cows roamed and grumbled, also gave the housing the nickname Brumleby.

Green is Good

The first of the houses were built from 1854-56 according to Michael Gottlieb Bindesbøll’s drawings. From 1866-72, the complex was expanded with twice as many homes by Vilhelm Klein. The homes were placed side by side in two-story terraces. They were all kept in white and ochre with slate roofs. The groundbreaking aspect was not least all the green open spaces and communal facilities like a bathhouse, assembly house, and woodworking shop.

Model for Housing Construction

The Medical Association’s Housing illustrated a new way of perceiving housing in Denmark. The settlement is one of the first social housing constructions, its design focusing on the residents’ wellbeing. For this reason, Brumleby became a model for later social and public utility housing. Today, Brumleby is still rental homes, and the waiting list is long.

Near Brumleby

Take the opportunity to explore the nearby Fælledparken, where the large football stadium, Parken, towers up in the green oasis. Next to it is the old Østerbro Stadium from 1912 in neoclassical style with its characteristic Greek statues. You can also stroll down Århusgade, take a detour at Randersgade to the cozy Bopa Plads – or continue down Århusgade to the Århusgade district in Nordhavn. Here, old industrial buildings, warehouses, and silos have been renovated and mixed with new buildings, creating a successful mix of residences, hotels, cafes, and restaurants.