ARCHITECTURE


In the early 1690´s work was began on the landfill at the uttermost point of Refshaleøen, which was dry at low water. The immediate reason for this was that the ships built at Bremerholmen had become so large that it was almost impossible to launch the ships without causing serious damage to them. As early as 1692 the first naval ship built at 'the new islet' (in Danish 'holm') was ready for launch. In 1694 yet another slipway was constructed and a few years later a third was added. About 1700 the establishment of the new dockyard was all but finished. Thereby the seeds were sown of the establishment that would produce almost all of the ships of the Danish Navy until the closing of the dockyard in 1991.
The timber for the ships was stored outdoors and only a few essential workshops had been built together with a small number of store sheds. Thus it was not yet a complete dockyard, since many of the workshops which constituted the very nerve of the shipbuilding process were still situated at Bremerholm, or Gammelholm (the old islet) as this part of the military establishment now came to be called. During the Northern War the development of the area came to a halt. After the war the plan for the completion of the dockyard installations was reconsidered, but due to the difficult economic situation the idea was abandoned. The Navy, however, managed to raise the necessary funds for the construction of a new frame-attic-building and in 1727 two new rigging houses were built.
In 1740 intendant de marine Frederik Danneskiold-Samsøe presented the plan that would set the direction for the development of the entire installation for the coming century. The central idea of the plan was that all functions necessary for the building, equipment, and maintenance of the ships should be gathered in one place. Also, the plan included the building of a new quarter for the seamen. This was a grandiose plan. Its realization, however, would have cost enormous sums of money and it was therefore implemented in a modified form only.
As time went by the area was extended towards the south with Frederiksholm, Dokøen and Arsenaløen and a number of installations and workshops were added concurrently with the technological development. The Danish Navy used the best builders and architects in the country and the Copenhageners took pride in the impressive installations. They were not the only ones. A French naval officer, who in 1739 visited the dockyard, praised the technical installations and the large and well-ordered storage houses and he made special mention of the orderliness and scrupulousness that prevailed at Holmen.

The Navy used the country’s best architects and builders. In the books published on Copenhagen at the time Holmen and the buildings there took a prominent place. The popular writings were often provided with prints showing elevations and plans of the many different buildings.

In his illustrated book on the Danish capital Laurids de Thurah thus writes: 'I hereby wish to draw up a description of Gammel- and Nyholm. Most of those who have seen the well-known and famed arsenal in Venice usually say that it is the largest arsenal in the world. Given the opportunity to see the arsenal in Copenhagen as well as the arsenal in Venice and to compare them, an unbiased observer must have poor eyesight and be of unsound mind if he cannot see that the first by far surpasses the second. It then follows that not the arsenal in Venice but the arsenal in Copenhagen can rightfully lay claim to being the largest and most perfect in Europe'.

Thura´s book was published simultaneously in a Danish, French and German edition, which leads us to believe that it would not have been possible unchallenged to set forth unsubstantiated remarks about the naval installations in the middle of Copenhagen. Foreign envoys and representatives could check up on his account by visiting Holmen where fairly liberal practices allowed foreigners to visit the area.

As mentioned it was intendant de marine Danneskiold-Samsøe who with his comprehensive plan outlined the general directions for the development at Holmen, while it fell to the builders to work out the details of the installations, buildings and workshops. In this way a number of the period’s best architects left their mark on the large area, from Nicolas Henri Jardin´s beautiful pavilion over J.B. Magens distinctive Bohlendachhus on Frederiksholm to Phillip de Langes elegant and functional Naval Arsenal.