Skydebanehaven: A Communal Backyard for Vesterbro

Urban spaces

Ty Stange CMC
 

Behind a 65-foot-high wall and a gate that looks like something from the Middle Ages, you will get a good sense of the atmosphere of Vesterbro’s old back-alley slums.

When the area was first developed 200 years ago, it was considered very far outside the city. Facing toward the harbor was a shooting range a third of a mile long. The city grew. The railway expanded. The population increased. And finally, the rifle club erected a wall as a shield to protect the vibrant life on the other side that developed in conjunction with industrialization. The rifle club has since moved north of Copenhagen to Klampenborg. There isn’t a castle hidden behind the towering wall, although it looks like there should be. Instead, there is a large park with green areas, a playground and a path leading to other parts of Vesterbro. 

The entire area is open to the public, and on warm summer days you will find it filled with families and people of all ages who use Skydebanehaven as their communal backyard. The park is framed by the backsides of the housing blocks on neighboring streets. This provides a peek at the everyday life that you normally only see if you actually live in Vesterbro and have access to the large green courtyards in the middle of the closed-off housing blocks. But right here, you can get a good sense of the little, intimate settings with balconies, laundry hanging to dry, and people meeting and chatting. 

Even though the park is very local, it is still big enough that nobody will notice that you aren’t a resident. So if the sun is out, treat yourself to a cold drink on Istedgade and a break among the people of Vesterbro.  

Facts:

  • Skydebanehaven was established in the 1700s and used by the Danish royal family for hunting and amusement. 
  • The wall was built in 1887 to protect budding Vesterbro from stray bullets as the area expanded around the shooting range.
  • Adjacent to the park is Vesterbro Ungdomsgård, a youth club that is legendary among Danes as an important meeting place back in the 1970s for children and young people living in what were at the time impoverished neighborhoods. 

 

Nearby: 

If you walk through the park toward Vesterbrogade, you will come out on Absalonsgade where the little and very atmospheric art cinema house Vester Vov Vov is located. 

On the same street, note how both the old advertising pillars and street lamps have been preserved. If you’re lucky to visit this spot in foggy weather, it’s easy to imagine how the city must have looked in the days of old.  

Continue straight through the gate and you will end up at the offbeat Vesterbros Torv square.
From here, you can cross Vesterbrogade and pass through the gateway under Det Ny Teater to reach the peaceful lakes. On the right is  Vestersøhus, which is one of the earliest functionalist housing blocks in Denmark, designed by Kay Fisker.

Area

Vesterbro

Architect

Ludvig Knudsen

Client

Det Kongelige Kjøbenhavnske Skydeselskab og Danske Broderskab

Built

1782

Renovated

1887