Kødbyen: A Post-industrial Cultural Melting Pot
Kødbyen – Copenhagen’s Meatpacking District – is many things. It is white, gray and brown, and it is characterized by its night life, art, gastronomy and industrial history.
Like many other big cities, Copenhagen has undergone a powerful transformation in recent decades. Out with noisy and polluting industry, and in with leisure life in all its forms. The unique cultural environment that can be experienced in the industrial buildings of the past is under pressure, but it can be experienced in the raw and dynamic atmosphere of Kødbyen.
Today, you will still find butchers operating in the meatpacking district, only they have been joined by artists, designers, photographers, film producers and restaurateurs, which have taken over the vacant spaces once filled with swinging butcher’s knives. Many of the gates that were once locked now stand open all night, and Kødbyen has become an epicenter of Copenhagen nightlife.
Creative free spaces are not static, and Kødbyen’s status as the hottest place in town has now been taken over by other locations, such as Refshaleøen. However, Kødbyen still offers a unique combination of industry and culture that you won’t find anywhere else in the city.
Gallery owner Bo Bjerggaard said this about Kødbyen ten years ago: “In five years, I’ll still be here. But ONLY if the butchers are still here. Art and culture are nothing without everyday life around us.” And in fact, the gallery is still there, as are the butchers.
- Den Brune Kødby (the “brown” meatpacking district), comprising the buildings closest to Copenhagen Central Station, dates back to 1879 and is the oldest part of the district. The buildings were erected in a time when public health was in focus due to growing population density and cholera epidemics. In 1888, legislation on the compulsory use of the public abattoir was passed, forcing all private abattoirs to move to the new public facilities in the meatpacking district. Øksnehallen, from 1901, was built as a cattle market for 1,600 head of cattle. Today, the beautiful old hall has a capacity of 3,500 two-legged guests when it hosts exhibitions and events.
- Den Hvide Kødby (the “white” meatpacking district), built in the 1930s, is considered a seminal work in functionalist architecture. In terms of pure aesthetics, the place boasts a great many beautiful details, and it is this area that Copenhageners picture when they think of Kødbyen. In 2007, the white and brown sections of the meatpacking district were listed as national industrial heritage sites.
- However, there is also a third section of the meatpacking district that is still in the throes of an identity struggle. In 2009, Den Grå Kødby (the “gray” meatpacking district) was to be opened to the public like the white section, but because of the old ammonia cooling plant, the opening was postponed for five years. Today, we recommend passing through Slagtehusgade if you want the most authentic Kødbyen experience. Here, you can enjoy hot soup for 45 kroner as you watch a foreman pushing around Euro pallets and herding beef cattle.
Besides wandering through Kødbyen’s back alleys and passageways, you’ll definitely find Space10 (https://space10.com/) worth a visit. It’s a small research and design lab with the mission to make our lives more sustainable. Get a cookbook on the food of the future, or check out one of the changing exhibitions.