History of the Christiania area

From medieval fortress to self-governing society. A tour-de-force through the volatile history of the Christiania area from the 12th century to the present day.

The fortification of Copenhagen 1100-1600

Copenhagen's coast defences and land fortification, which can be traced back to the medieval fortifications of the 10th century, are a unique structure in the European context. In particular, the combination of coast defences and land fortification is completely unique. The fortification is a combined system consisting of a semi-circular fortification, where the Citadel in the north is newly renovated today, and where the fortification around the inner city is only recognisable by the lakes in the park, and the semi-circular coast defence, where the rampart, all bastions, redans and moats can still be experienced.

The coast defence, Christianhavn's Rampart from the second half of 17th century, is one of the country's most monumental historic sites, a magnificent piece of architecture, which, despite its size and location in the capital area and despite the increasing building over the later years, is remarkably intact.

Up through the 17th century, Copenhagen's fortification was modernised and extended in several stages in order to protect the city, which at that time was a dominant commercial city and administrative centre for the Danish-Norwegian monarchy. In 1616, the first plans for a new fortified city facing Amager were ready, and in 1617 engineer Johan Semp drew up the first proposal. Nothing became of this, but already in December of the same year Johan Semp had drawn up a second plan, which formed the basis for the first Christianshavn. The king levied an extra tax to acquire money for the project, and the pieces of land were given away to acquire developers for the new Christianshavn, which was partially under water.  Also, the future developers were exempted from various taxes and dues for a number of years. Already in 1623 the fortification itself was finished, while development of Christianshavn proceeded slower.

Nyværk

As a continuation of the fortification, Christianshavn's Rampart was extended in the North in 1682-92 with the construction of Nyværk. The new ramparts went from the Løvens Bastion (Lion's Bastion) in the south, between Torvegade and Bådsmandsstræde, to Hukken in the north. Hukken was a part of the Refshale area, which was surrounded by a pile lock for protection of the navy. Hukken was connected with Toldboden (The Customs House) via a bridge. With this last extension of the ramparts, the waterfront between the Citadel and Bremerholm was protected, Copenhagen's fortification was completed and the ramparts now surrounded Copenhagen completely.

Nyværk was planned by the military engineer Gottfried Hoffmann and built with seven bastions, which was named after the royal family. From the south, the seven bastions are Ulrik's bastion, Rachel Hedevig's Bastion, Vilhelm's Bastion, Carl's Bastion, Frederik's Bastion, Charlotte Amalie's Bastion and Quintus' Bastion. Naturally enough, in front of the bastions was a moat, and again in the years 1777-80, the Envelope, a narrow rampart with 6 redans (small arrow-shaped protrusion on the rampart), was constructed in front. The five southernmost bastions and the five northernmost of the redans are now a part of Christiania.

The bastions

Ulrik's Bastion

The area's seven bastions were named after the royal family. Ulrik's Bastion is named after Ulrich Christian Gyldenlove (1678-1719), son of Christian V and Amalie Moth. The bastion, which was first used by the Navy's Laboratory, was later included in Bådsmandsstræde Barracks and has been a part of Christiania since 1971.

Sofie Hedevig's Bastion

Sofie Hedevig's Bastion is named after Sofie Hedevig (1677-1735), daughter of Christian V. First a powder mill was constructed in the bastion (1687-1750), later an oil mill and in the 1860s the Army's New Laboratory moved here. The bastion has been a part of Christiania since 1971.

Vilhelm's Bastion

Vilhelm's Bastion is named after Vilhelm (1687-1705), son of Christian V and Charlotte Amalie. In 1688, a powder magazine was erected in the inside of the bastion based on architect Hans van Steenwinkel III's drawings. The building is now fitted out for residence. The bastion has been a part of Christiania since 1971.

Carl's Bastion

Carl's Bastion is named after Carl (1680-1729), son of Christian V and Charlotte Amalie. In 1690, a powder magazine was erected in the inside of the bastion based on architect Hans van Steenwinkel III's drawings. The building, which today is protected and converted into a gallery, is not part of Christiania. The distinctive expression and open location of the powder magazine facing Holmen is still clear. The rampage has been a part of Christiania since 1971.

Frederik's Bastion

Frederik's Bastion is named after Frederik IV (1671-1730), son of Christian V. A powder magazine was erected in the inside of the bastion in 1744-45 based on architect C. E. D. von Øtken's drawings. The building, which today is protected and converted into a gallery, is not part of Christiania. The distinctive expression and open location of the powder magazine facing Holmen is still clear. The rampart is a part of Christiania.

Charlotte Amalie's Bastion

Charlotte Amalie's Bastion is named after Charlotte Amalie, Queen of Christian V. In 1744-45, a powder magazine was erected in the inside of the bastion based on architect C.E.D. von Øtken's drawings. The building is protected today. The bastion is outside of Christiania.

Christiani Quinti Bastion

Christiani Quinti Bastion is named after Christian V (1646-1699). During the 18th century, the bastion was a part of the Holmen area. The bastion is outside of Christiania.

Bådsmandsstræde Barracks

In the beginning of the 19th century, the area east of Bådsmandsstræde was wet, marshy and undeveloped. Eventually parts of it were drained and used as drill grounds for civic guards. In 1831, the idea of artillery barracks in the area was born, and a few years later the Country Military Services presented drawings for a large barracks facility. In November 1836, the barracks of the 1st Artillery Regiment, the Bådsmandsstræde Barracks, could be taken into use. The barracks were constructed in yellow stone. The main wing (Fredens Ark/ The Peace Ark), of which only about half was built, was located perpendicular to Bådsmandsstræde.

At this time, the area of the barracks was no larger than the triangle of peace between the current Fredens Ark, Pusher Street and the rampart. Later, the barracks area was extended and expanded several times. Over the next 135 years, a multitude of modifications and additions were made to the military facility. When the ramparts lost their defence-related importance, the military built magazines and other buildings inside the ramparts due to a lack of space both on and in front of the ramparts.

Christianshavn's Rampart south of Torvegade was abandoned as a military area in 1916 and converted into a municipal park. The rampart north of Torvegade up to the Bådsmandsstræde Barracks was handed over to the City of Copenhagen in 1961 and opened to the public. The defence phased out the barracks and the ammunition arsenal in the period 1967-1971.

Christiania

In summer 1971, the military cleared the barrack areas. There were no plans from the authorities concerning the future use of the barracks. People in the neighbouring district spotted the barracks area and felt that this could be used as a recreational area for the surrounding densely built neighbourhoods. On 18 May 1971, a group of people broke down a hoarding and established a junk adventure playground for the neighbourhood children.

During the summer and autumn of 1971, the squatters moved in and started using the barracks buildings, and 26 September 1971 became the official birthday of Freetown Christiania. An objective for Christiania was formulated, and it still applies:

"Christiania's objective is to create a self-governing society, whereby each and every individual can thrive under the responsibility for the entire community. This society must economically rest in itself, and the joint efforts must continue to be about showing that psychological and physical destitution can be diverted". This is how it was formulated by Sven, Kim, Ole and Jacob with the right to improvements. 13.11.1971.

Mobile workmen's huts and experimental new construction

The idea was to create a self-governing society, where the economy was based on recycling and sustainability, and where creativity and energy had free reins. In a short period of time, Christiania became populated by several hundred people. At first, it was the military buildings, which were used and converted into living quarters. Then the mobile workmen's huts made their entrance. Having a home on wheels was practical in the event that Christiania was to be evacuated. Later on the experimental building followed.

Over time, the first makeshift conversions have been made permanent, the distinguished military buildings have been heavily rebuilt and been added onto with an imaginativeness and disrespect not seen other places. The mobile workmen's huts have become stationary; the wheels are gone and many have been extended in both the height and width. The new buildings range from recycled construction in the spirit of Christiania to super-experimental, well-designed housing to wooden system-built houses.

Christiania and the state

In the following, Christiania's history is summarised with regards to the relationship to the state and the undertakings, which the state has given to Christiania. On 31 May 1972, a temporary agreement was entered into regarding Christiania's right of use of the state's land and buildings in the area; on 14 June 1973, the agreement was confirmed by an undertaking from the Danish Ministry of Defence, which included the period up to 31 March 1976.

On 1 April 1976, the Danish Ministry of Defence filed a stay of proceedings, which ended on 2 February 1978 by the Supreme Court's confirmation of the High Court's ruling for immediate clearing of Christiania. The judgement did not have consequences for the free town. In 1978, the Danish Parliament decided that a district plan needed to be made for the area. In the meantime, the free town could exist under special conditions, which were announced in the Danish Official Gazette.

In June 1989, a broad majority in the Danish Parliament voted for the Christiania Law, whose aim is to allow Christiania's continued use of the area in accordance with a special national planning directive and a district plan. The law had also intended to prevent illegal construction.

The Christiania Law's permit system for the use of buildings and land in the area was not taken into use. Instead, on 10 October 1991, the Danish Ministry of Defence entered into a framework agreement on the right of use of the Christiania area with Christiania as a collective. This has been extended several times, latest with expiry on 1 July 2004.

In 2004, the Christiania Law was revised with the aim of allowing a development of the Christiania area as a sustainable neighbourhood in Copenhagen. As part of this, there would be a change in ownership of the area, and there would be a phasing out of the Christiania scheme at the time.

On 22 June 2011, Christiania and the state entered into an agreement concerning the future ownership of the Christiania area. This agreement formed the basis for the buildings and land in the Christiania area having been transferred to a foundation, the Foundation Freetown Christiania, on 1 July 2012.

The purpose of the Christiania Law from 2004 was exhausted with the conclusion of the 22 June Agreement and the subsequent implementation of five specific purchase and lease agreements as well as an agreement for the restoration of the protected Christianshavn's Rampart. The agreements have resulted in a lasting solution for the area and a change in ownership, which forms the basis for the Christiania area being able to be developed into an open, recreational, car-free and sustainable neighbourhood in Copenhagen, where there is space to live in a different way. Therefore, the agreements mean that Christiania for the first time since 1989 no longer needs to be subject to legislative special rules relating to the use of the area. Against this background, Martin Lidegaard, Minister for Climate, Energy and Building, introduced a legislative proposal on 13 March to repeal the special law for the Christiania area on 15 July 2013. The legislative proposal was adopted by a large majority in the Danish Parliament on 4 June 2013. So from 15 July 2013, the same laws and rules that apply for the rest of Denmark, will also apply to Christiania.

Source: København før og nu – og aldrig, volume 7, Palle Fogtdal