Rainbow Square (Regnbuepladsen) – Significant Symbolism in Shades of Gray

Urban spaces


The area by the Vartov building was previously a part of the City Hall Square (Rådhuspladsen). However, after a renovation in 2013, the space needed a new name. That proved more difficult than anticipated, and it wasn’t without protests and heated debate that the space eventually was named Rainbow Square – in Danish Regnbuepladsen.

If you cross the City Hall Square towards Vester Voldgade, you’ll find Rainbow Square. Pass by the small grove of cherry trees, which despite their central location seem somewhat anonymous. Overlooked, amidst the hustle and bustle of the area. Rainbow Square itself mainly consists of cobblestones, gray tiles, and granite blocks to sit on. At first glance, it might not seem like much, but if you look closer, a whole story full of symbols will unfold.

History of the Square

The Irish architectural firm Hall McKnight won the competition to transform the space in front of the Vartov building in 2009. Previously, it was mainly used for parking, but now the aim was to introduce air and trees. The Vartov building with its red brick walls is the oldest structure on the square. And in addition to naming the project – The Square by Vartov – the building and its many windows also provided inspiration to the architects. If you look at the paving of the square, you can see that the patterns in granite and cobblestone mirror the window patterns of the old building. The architects were also inspired by Hans Christian Andersen’s fairy tale ‘From a Window in Vartov’, which is reflected in two of the large granite blocks where text from the tale is engraved.

The Name Battle

Prior to naming the new square, there were many discussions. Initially, in 2013, the Road Naming Committee (Vejnavnenævnet) proposed naming the square after Axel Axgil (1915-2011). He was the first person in Denmark to enter a registered partnership with another man, a ceremony that took place at Copenhagen City Hall on October 1, 1989. Axgil was also the founder of ‘The Circle of 1948’, now known as LGBT+ Denmark. However, this proposal was withdrawn due to pedophilia allegations. The committee later suggested naming the square after actress Hannah Bjarnhof (1928-2002), who came out as a lesbian late in her life. However, this was also rejected when the name Rainbow Square was proposed. And so, the name stuck. The square officially been Rainbow Square since 2014.

A Rainbow Square

It took another three years before Rainbow Square got its rainbow flag. The organization behind Copenhagen Pride applied for permission for this project from the Copenhagen Municipality. It wasn’t straightforward and led to further debate. When permission was finally granted, the association managed to raise the 30,000 kroner needed for the installation in less than a day. So now, despite its many shades of gray, the square has a touch of color, making it visually more in line with its name.

Nearby Rainbow Square

Standing by the flag on Rainbow Square, you can cross Vester Voldgade and head over to the City Hall Square, from where you can see the House of Industry (Industriens Hus). You can also follow Vester Voldgade towards the harbor and visit BLOX or cross the water over the Lille Langebro bridge.