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Copenhagen's Evolving Tivoli Gardens

The merry-go-round at Copenhagen’s Tivoli Gardens amusement park.

Photo: Miemo Penttinen

There’s no danger of the equally glass-walled, though recumbent, Tivoli Edge—a planned arcade filled with stores and cafés—rising above its station. “The way the city meets the sky is a very sensitive matter,” says its lead designer, Ian Bader. “Our project is a low-rise development that makes the blank, unfriendly western edge approachable, allowing some of the magic of the park to be palpable from the exterior without diminishing its mystery.”

Calling Tivoli’s west side unfriendly is like calling the emperor poorly dressed—a bit of an understatement. Across Bernstorffsgade and beyond the Central Station is a wasteland of urine-stained sidewalks and by-the-hour hotels. According to Bader, “Tivoli is an extraordinary environment, a wonderful cultural resource, part of what makes Copenhagen so unique.” Tivoli Edge, he says, “is intended to promote that spirit.” Unfortunately, thanks to red tape and, yes, the economy, it’s not going to pull this off until at least 2012.

What will very soon be possible, however, is to stage an enormous Tivoli-themed conference while staying in a Tivoliesque hotel as interpreted by Kim Utzon, arguably Denmark’s greatest living architect. While the 402-room Tivoli Hotel, which opened in July (to be followed, in October, by the Tivoli Congress Center) is inspired by Tivoli, it is not actually in the park, but rather “within walking distance”—past the station and its unsavory streetscape, to the site of the old rail yard at Kalvebod Wharf. (Thankfully, there’s a shuttle bus.)

The relationship between the old and new entities is symbiotic—Danish hotel group Arp-Hansen takes the risk and the profit; Tivoli gets a fee for the name and the brand extension. It’s a big step in world Tivolization, and a necessary one, since Tivoli is a nonsubsidized, for-profit concern.

In the service of maximum exposure, the off-central location of its new satellite could work in Tivoli’s favor. Just a hop across the railway tracks lies the buzzy Flæsketorvet (meatpacking district) of the up-and-coming neighborhood Vesterbro. One can imagine that a hipster who dines at the Flæsketorvet’s trendy seafood restaurant Fish Bar and goes clubbing at the nearby Karriere might easily be found the next night at Tivoli, catching a band at the open-air stage. What U.S. institution has such mercurial boundaries?

“Tivoli is an interesting role model for the U.S.,” says Pei Cobb Freed & Partners’ Ian Bader. “Here we tend to focus on specialization, extracting the maximum in one respect only—a mall, for example, can be so banal. But Tivoli is playful, allowing different things to happen simultaneously.” Liebst is hoping this fluidity means that guests of the Kalvebod complex will want to visit Tivoli. To encourage them, he has an extra trick up his sleeve for its opening season. Copenhagen’s always disappointing symbol—the tiny Little Mermaid that resides in the harbor—is in Shanghai all this year for the World Expo. But look! As if by magic, there she is in the Tivoli Lake! Descendants of her sculptor, Edvard Eriksen, have lent Tivoli a copy. So Liebst wants Copenhagen to be both modern capital and tourist destination? What with its glamorous hotels, towering carousels, architectural experimentation, and now Denmark’s ultimate cultural cliché…you don’t even need to leave Tivoli.

Kate Sekules is a writer based in Brooklyn.

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