Palads: A mural of the city’s clashes on taste



The more than 100-year-old Palads cinema has frequently challenged and provoked Copenhageners’ relationships with good taste. And it is unlikely to stop doing so just yet.

Most Copenhageners will, at some time, have sat in one of the 17 darkened movie halls with a high-school sweetheart, a group of friends, or with their children and the smell of popcorn.

This is perhaps why Palads means so much to so many, and why a plan to replace it with a large and modern project by Bjarke Ingels and his architect firm BIG had to be buried following massive protest. Nordisk Film owns Palads, and it has been more than difficult for them to get the cinema to make ends meet. Therefore, work is underway with proposals for conversions and extensions. 

However, it can be hard to see the qualities in the new proposals for those who believe that what the city really needs is to preserve Palads’ original style. And many people do.

The good taste of the Academy

Many people associate Palads with the classic Copenhagen, but when it was first built in 1918, there were many different ideas about what ‘classic Copenhagen’ actually was. There were architects at the Royal Danish Academy who were trained to look at earlier styles from Europe – and Palads is part of this tradition. The outside of the building is symmetrical, with Baroque inspiration. Walk inside the main entrance and you will be greeted with a majestic stairway with features of the Italian Renaissance.

However, when Palads was built, another faction of architects felt that all this was academic nonsense. Many of them were preoccupied with Danish craftsmanship, and they were taking the first steps towards what would become the characteristic Danish modernism. So, the reluctance of architects today to shout from the rooftops to preserve Palads as it is, is probably because its shape and style of the building are somewhat random, and not particularly well thought through, seen through today’s eyes.

Postmodern pastel palace

Palads was adorned with its pastel coloring in the late 1980s. At that time, Copenhagen was extremely grey and poor, and the city was almost dead on weekdays after 6:00 pm when the shops were shut.

Nordisk Film let the artists Poul and Aase Gernes paint the building, which was previously colored in classic white in the neo-Baroque style. They painted the lot in pastel and pink to the absolute horror of many. The joyful, playful colors were so un-Copenhagen that the protests long drowned out any public enthusiasm.

Today the colors are an integral part of Palads. It is hard to imagine Palads without its gaudy exterior. The recent proposals for enlarging the building with more functions have also incorporated the colors. No matter what happens to the gaily colored cinema building, one thing is certain: It’s not going to happen quietly.