#YellowtraceTravels: Grundtvig Church Copenhagen Denmark

Grundtvig Church Copenhagen, Photo Nick Hughes | Yellowtrace

Grundtvig Church Copenhagen, Photo Nick Hughes | Yellowtrace

Grundtvig Church Copenhagen, Photo Nick Hughes | Yellowtrace

 

I still remember the day so well. It was early May 2007, my first time in Italy. I stood in front of the Pantheon in Rome, feeling slightly underwhelmed by it’s exterior and completely unaware of what was about to happen. We approached the front door of what looked like “just another old building I studied in architecture school”, but then… We walked in and a huge sense of overwhelm washed over me. In an instant, I was struck by the extraordinary space, the perfect proportions and an intimate-yet-sublime volume which made me feel lightheaded, that impossible-to-describe quality of light, and I just stood there and cried… It totally didn’t help there was a choir of young kids singing a Lion King song at that precise moment, which only added to the intensity of my emotions. Alas, song or no song, something profound happened to me that day. I learned to let emotions take over, to really be in the moment and to give in to the extraordinary power architecture can have over us. It was the day a building made me cry for the very first time, and I’ve never been the same since.

So where am I going with all this? To Copenhagen, of course. Grundtvig’s Church to be precise. Why, wasn’t that completely obvious? *Eyeroll*

 

Grundtvig Church Copenhagen, Photo Nick Hughes | Yellowtrace

Grundtvig Church Copenhagen, Photo Nick Hughes | Yellowtrace

Grundtvig Church Copenhagen, Photo Nick Hughes | Yellowtrace

Grundtvig Church Copenhagen, Photo Nick Hughes | Yellowtrace

 

So yes, you guessed it. Our recent visit to Grundtvig’s Church provided me with a similar experience to the one I described earlier. It was a sunny Saturday afternoon. I felt exhausted from our week in Copenhagen. Nick was crazy-style hungover from the night before. Oops! Great start this was not, and even though the thought had crossed my mind more than once whether or not we should bother visiting the church that day, our never-say-die-attitude prevailed. We diligently looked up all the relevant information, worked out how to get there, on what bus, and estimated we would have approximately 2 hours to experience the building.

After an easy 15min ride, we hopped off the bus and walked around the corner towards the beaming, sun-bathed Gothic façade that appeared as though out of nowhere in it’s suburban context. Nick snapped away for a bit, making the most of the beautiful light, while I was literally jumping up and down, dying to get inside. And although I expected this building to be very special, I simply couldn’t have anticipated how entering the space was going to make me feel.

We walked in from the incredibly bright outside space into a dimly lit vestibule that played havoc with my eyesight for a little bit. This proved to be the perfect transition, as the interior slowly appeared in front of me, almost like I was in a dream. I stood there motionless and in awe… What happened afterwards can only be described as sheer ecstasy. I spent the first few minutes with one hand placed firmly on my mouth (in order to avoid loud cries that were waiting to escape my lungs – man, I’m such a weirdo!). The other hand was diligently wiping abundant tears flowing down my face. The sheer scale and masterful restraint of the building were overwhelmingly beautiful, and it took a few minutes to compose myself and catch my breath before I managed to pull out my phone and literally go sick on the camera. (Meanwhile, Nick is calmly snapping away, perfectly used to me having mini-meltdowns in the face of extraordinary architecture. Bless. What a team, huh?)

 

Grundtvig Church Copenhagen, Photo Nick Hughes | Yellowtrace

Grundtvig Church Copenhagen, Photo Nick Hughes | Yellowtrace

Grundtvig Church Copenhagen, Photo Nick Hughes | Yellowtrace

Grundtvig Church Copenhagen, Photo Nick Hughes | Yellowtrace

 

For the curious amongst you, here’s a little more about the building’s history. In 1940, after more than 20 years of building, this striking church was built in honour of the Danish priest and philosopher N.F.S. Grundtvig (1783 – 1882). Grundtvig was one of the most influential figures in Danish church history, presenting the Evangelical Lutheran church with a whole new perspective that stated “human first, Christian second”. After Grundtvig’s death, a competition to design his memorial was initiated, and the jury chose Danish architect Peder Vilhelm Jensen-Klint (1853 – 1930) for his impressive proposal. Regrettably, Jensen-Klint died before the church was finished, so the task was entrusted to his son – the famed architect and designer Kaare Klint (1888 – 1954), who completed the building of the church. Later, Kaare’s son, Esben Klint, also a designer, joined the project, which incredibly means this church is a joint effort of three generations of Danish architects and designers from a single family, which is a remarkable story in itself.

The Klints had a hand in practically everything, including designing façades, chandeliers, doors, furniture, pulpit, hardware and organs (one resembles the facade). Kaare Klint also designed the chair for the church, made of beech timber with wicker woven seats, now considered a Danish furniture classic.

In both his work and personal life, Jensen-Klint was inspired by Grundtvig and his take on humanity. During his lifetime, Grundtvig demanded acceptance of his view and take on religion. Jensen-Klint did the same with the unique architectural style of the memorial that mixes Medieval traditions, Gothic columns, vast volumes befitting a cathedral rather than a church, and an interior with a minimalist aesthetic that stands world’s apart from most other churches due to it’s complete lack of ornamentation.

 

Grundtvig Church Copenhagen, Photo Nick Hughes | Yellowtrace

Grundtvig Church Copenhagen, Photo Nick Hughes | Yellowtrace

Grundtvig Church Copenhagen, Photo Nick Hughes | Yellowtrace

 

Having constructed a couple of small town churches prior to this project, Jensen-Klint was accustomed to using red bricks, common throughout Copenhagen. However, the comprehensive size of this memorial asked for a different approach, so the architect chose a lighter, golden-yellow brick as the base building material – a colour that emphasises both physical and spiritual enlightenment. A whopping six million bricks were used in the construction of the church.

Whether or not you are a Christian, or someone who enjoys visiting churches, this building represents a completely unique take on religious architecture, celebrating a unique approach to the worship of God – one that is elegant, subtle, but possibly the most powerful I’ve ever experienced.

In the end, I was so grateful that I didn’t allow my exhaustion to prevent us from having this experience. As for my scientific estimate of having 2 hours to spend exploring the Grundtvig’s Church… It turned out the website I was referring to wasn’t very good at keeping the information up to date. The church closes at 4pm rather than 6pm, giving us less that 10 minutes to enjoy the space(!!), during which time Nick took these photos in true sniper mode. Insane! Not a bad effort, don’t you think? Especially as the woman who was trying to close up, literally followed him around by firmly saying no less than 5 times – “Sir, you really have to leave. NOW.” 

 

Related Stories:
#YellowtraceTravels to Copenhagen, Denmark.
Event Report: RISING Architecture Week Copenhagen 2015.

 

 


[All images © Nick Hughes / Yellowtrace.]

 

About The Author

Dana Tomić Hughes
Founder & Editor
Google+

Dana is an award-winning interior designer living in Sydney, Australia. With an unhealthy passion for design, Dana commits to an abnormal amount of daily design research. Regular travel and attendance at premier design events, enables Dana to stay at the forefront of the design world globally. While she is super serious about design, Dana never takes herself - nor design - too seriously. Together with her life and business partner, Dana is Boss Lady at Studio Yellowtrace, specialising in Design Strategy, Creative Direction and Special Projects. The studio takes a highly conceptual and holistic approach to translating brands & ideas into places & experiences.

11 Responses

  1. Karen McCartney

    I can see why you were so moved by it. Good to see that Nick overcame the hangover and got some beautiful shots.

    Reply
  2. John Forsman

    Thanks, I had no idea about this church. I was married to a Dane, I’m in business with a Dane, I’ve stayed in Rm 606 and I’ll go see ithis church.

    Reply
  3. anneke Boks

    I first saw this church in 1957 ,turning the corner was mij first sight ! A bit scary but in a good way ,so big and our first time in Denmark .been hitchhiking from Nederland trough Germany wat was still scarred from the war .Danmark was so new and modern in our eyes .So that Church made a big impression on me .

    Reply
    • Dana Tomić Hughes
      Dana Tomić Hughes

      Thank you for sharing your experience Anneke. The exterior is incredibly dominant in the low-scale suburban context, and the church appears almost like a spaceship sitting in the middle of the cul-de-sac, so I can totally see how you would’ve found it “scary”. It’s incredibly imposing, but I reckon NOTHING prepares you for the interior experience. I’ve seen so many photos of this church before, but still had such a strong visceral reaction on the day. I freaking love that shit!

      Reply
  4. Peter J Salhani

    Thanks for the great story Dana, and Nick’s beautiful images. I’m going to Copenhagen in a few weeks, and Grundtvig’s Church was high on my list of must-visit places. Closing time noted.

    Reply
  5. #YellowtraceTravels & Other Travel Stories | 2015 Archive.

    […] 1. Event Report: RISING Architecture Week Copenhagen 2015. 2. In Infinity: Yayoi Kusama at Louisiana Museum of Modern Art, Denmark. 3. At Home With GamFratesi in Copenhagen. 4. #YellowtraceTravels: Copenhagen, Denmark. 5. 3XN Architects Studio Tour, Set in a Historic Canon Boathouse in Copenhagen. 6. Majestic Simplicity of Grundtvig’s Church in Copenhagen, Denmark. […]

    Reply

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