Women’s Building: Women’s Liberation and Rhythms from the Deep


Laura Stamer

For many years, you could hear the sounds of jazz emitting from deep under Niels Hemmingsens Gade. However, the place would have been nothing without Denmark’s uncrowned queen of decency, Emma Gad.

In 1934, a woman won an architecture competition as one of the first in Danish history. The woman’s name was Ragna Grubb, and she must have had an iron will, because back then it was unheard of for a woman to run her own architectural studio. But she had strong supporters.

The Women’s Building project was supported by author and social commentator Emma Gad. Her progressive idea of ​​using the profits from the “Women’s Exhibition” to build a Women’s Building was adopted in 1895. Some of the proposals for the contents of the building were abandoned subsequently in the long process of raising money for the construction. In 1936 the Women’s Building was inaugurated, with meeting rooms and offices for several women’s associations, restaurant “Karnappen”, Hotel “Cecil”, banquet halls and shops.

If you peek through the glass door around the back at no. 8, you can still see the names of some of the rooms in the building. The upper floors continue to be home to associations that work to support women’s causes, although the stairs leading up to the them are not as well-trodden as they once were.

In contrast, many people have taken the stairs down to the basement, enticed by cocktails, grooves and the last vestiges of the decadent 1930s at the legendary music venue, Jazzhouse.

Today, the venue is called Hotel Cecil in honor of the women’s hotel that it has replaced. The location now caters to a wide range of musical genres, and another bar has been opened at street level, but if you step inside and have a look around, you can still sense the spirit created by the women in the 1930s.


  • Hotel Cecil is open Thursday – Saturday, from 4 pm until late into the night. It is also open for events.
  • Women’s Building spans from no. 8 to no. 10. The original facade with its pale tiled pattern was damaged when the house was retrofitted with new insulation. But inside it is still possible to experience the original style.
  • After her marriage Ragna Grubb transformed her practice and engaged herself in the design of single-family houses, interior design and furniture, as well as restoration work.
  • Today, several of the largest architectural firms in Denmark are owned by highly respected women, including Lundgaard & Tranberg Arkitekter and Dorte Mandrup Arkitekter.
  • Copenhagen Jazzhouse moved from Niels Hemmingsens Gade in 2017 and can now be found in the world music venue Global in Nørrebro. It is still part of the proud traditions of the Copenhagen jazz scene.


Helligaandskirken, the church next door to the Women’s Building, offers a wide range of free events both during the day and evening. For example, there are often late-night services with meditation or calming music.

During the day, you can get a fantastic view of the city from the café at the top of the exclusive ILLUM department store on Strøget near the Stork Fountain on Amagertorv. It is on the left corner of the Stork Fountain on Amagertorv.


Copenhagen, Inner City


Ragna Grubb