A beloved bridge in Copenhagen created on a cocktail of love for technology and functionalism.
The history of modern Danish bridges generally dates back to the 1930s with the building of Kai Gottlob’s Knippelsbro and Langebro. The iconic verdigris bridge towers, which are also featured on Denmark’s 200 kroner bill, make Knippelsbro one of Kai Gottlob’s masterpieces – but the real credit for realizing the bridge should go to the engineers.
The Bridge Towers
Knippelsbro’s towers are situated on either side of the roadway, and their distinctive functionalist design is a clear reference to the enthusiasm of the day for technology, machines and large ships.
The bridge towers were built at the Burmeister & Wain shipyard in the nearby Copenhagen district of Refshaleøen. They have an iron construction, clad with wood and then copper. Barge cranes were used to insert them into the concrete foundations that were cast for that purpose.
The five-story bridge towers housed guard rooms for the bridge officers and mechanical service engineers, boiler rooms and operating rooms. At the very top – 13.5 meters above the water – there was a balcony with windows all the way around. This was where the bridgemaster managed operation of the drawbridge.
Today, the towers are controlled remotely and are therefore unmanned.
From Bridge Tower to Culture Tower
In 2017, 80 years after Knippelsbro opened, one of the bridge towers underwent comprehensive renovations. The iconic verdigris tower on the Christianshavn side of the bridge was transformed from a break room for the bridge officers into a cultural center for Copenhagen’s residents and visitors.