Food market brings buzz back to historic warehouses

RIBAJ asked the three finalists in this year’s MacEwen Award to pick a ‘My MacEwen’ – examples of architecture for the common good they find inspiring. Winning practice Ayre Chamberlain Gaunt looks to Denmark

Copenhagen Street Food boasts 39 food stalls, vans and bars.
Copenhagen Street Food boasts 39 food stalls, vans and bars.

There is something refreshingly simple about ordering food from a market and eating alfresco; white polystyrene trays overfilled with a local seafood risotto, or maybe a napkin-wrapped ostrich burger and sweet potato fries. Why not then perch inside a modified shipping container to watch life unfold in one of the most dynamic cities in the world? A meeting place, an area to explore, a space to eat, to drink, to refresh; a terrace from which to gaze, a shelter from the rain, a chair from which to soak up some sun.

Copenhagen Street Food, an eclectic collection of 39 food stalls, hot food vans, containers and bars, occupies one of several former newsprint storage buildings on Christiansholm, an artificial island in Copenhagen harbour. When the Danish press moved out, a number of lofty concrete framed warehouses were left vacant, and these have since become homes for everything from a contemporary art gallery to a studio for a fashion designer and the obvious creatives who favour industrial chic, in this case the architectural practice COBE.

Christiansholm, or Paper Island as it is often called, enjoys a prominent position alongside the harbour with panoramic views across to Lundgaard & Tranberg’s Royal Playhouse and the neighbouring Opera House by Henning Larsen. Although previously cut off from the rest of the city, the recently built Inderhavnsbroen footbridge has helped transform this area into an energised urban destination.

The street food market is a creative reuse of a former newsprint storage warehouse.
The street food market is a creative reuse of a former newsprint storage warehouse.

Run by its own association, Copenhagen Street Food is a fantastic example of creative reuse. It has created a vibrant street environment that welcomes people inside historic industrial warehouses and establishes a unique and versatile setting. The buildings, in their new lease of life, provide a backdrop to the varying activities that unfold. This is architecture in its simple, raw state.

The current tenants are here on a temporary basis while an ambitious masterplan for the area is finalised, but one hopes the new proposals don’t lose the spirit of what has made these spaces so special.


The 2018 MacEwen Award is now open for entries.