Copenhagen Police Headquarters
The Copenhagen Police Headquarters marks the culmination of neoclassicism in Denmark. At the same time, the building represents the end point of this architectural style.
The construction of a new headquarters for the Copenhagen Police was handed over to the architect Hack Kampmann in 1918. However, when he died in 1920, the work was transferred to his son Hans Jørgen Kampmann, as well as Holger Jacobsen and Aage Rafn. The latter was mainly responsible for the final result.
At this time, many architects were preoccupied with neoclassicism. In its disciplined, terse language of form, they found an opportunity to work with archetypal architectural effects without the overload that had characterized both the period of national romanticism and the time before.
Typical for neoclassicism is the juxtaposition of opposites: square and circle, light and dark, high and low, horizontal and vertical. This juxtaposition is also found in the Copenhagen Police Headquarters.
The exterior expression of the building is strict and stern with the dark grey (now lighter) facades and regular rows of tall, identical windows. This expression was intentionally sought by the architects, as the building was meant to blend in with the dismal surroundings such as the freight station, coal bunker, office buildings, and sheds.
The exterior of the Police Headquarters stands in sharp contrast to the two inner, bright courtyards. The large circular courtyard has a diameter of 45 meters and is bordered by an arcade with 44 Doric double columns. The smaller square courtyard contains a tall niche with the sculpture ‘The Serpent Slayer’ by Einar Utzon-Frank, and is dominated by the vertical lines of eight colossal columns, which are in deliberate contrast to the round courtyard.
Inside, repetition and symmetry reign in the dark terrazzo floors and oversized door frames, which are executed with an extraordinary level of craftsmanship precision.
At its inauguration in 1924, the Police Headquarters was seen as a masterpiece in its genre, yet the building was met with heavy criticism. It was perceived as an anachronism, a symbol of power that failed to interpret the time that was moving towards functionalism.
Already in the mid-1920s, neoclassicism in Denmark was fading. The culmination and conclusion of this period became the Copenhagen Police Headquarters, which encompassed the entire repertoire of neoclassicism.