Wednesday, 5 May 2010

Dehn’s Mansion in Copenhagen lost in fire

A great tragedy struck Copenhagen and Danish architectural history yesterday morning when the historic Dehn’s Mansion, next to Amalienborg, was lost in a fire.
With its pendant Bernstorff’s Mansion, Dehn’s Mansion formed a central part of Nicolai Eigtved’s grand plan Frederik’s Town, created to mark the tercentenary of the Oldenburg dynasty in 1749. Dehn’s Mansion is situated on the northeastern corner of Bredgade (originally Norgesgade) and Frederiksgade, flanking the street leading to Amalienborg from the Marble Church. As such, Dehn’s Mansion is irreplacable. The only positive thing seems to be that the facade is mostly undamaged, but the beautiful rococo and empire style interiors are completely destroyed.
Dehn’s Mansion was built for Frederik Ludvig von Dehn by the German architect Johann Gottfried Rosenberg. Like Bernstorff’s Mansion, Dehn’s Mansion has also been home to several royals, among them Princess Louise Augusta (sister of Frederik VI) and her husband Duke Frederik Christian of Augustenburg and most recently Prince Harald (son of Frederik VIII) and Princess Helena. In recent decades the mansion has housed offices. It was completely renovated in 1983-1986.

Politiken reports:


  1. What a tragedy! It's so beautiful and seems to have been completely gutted. As a preservation architect, I can assure you that anything can be restored, and that the facade is intact is a very good thing...
    If there was a complete restoration 25 years ago, the architecture team was probably required to produce a complete survey of the building, including details on finishes. If this is the case, and money can be found, the building could come back to life - with a sprinkler system this time, too!

  2. Thank you, Mr. Isaksen, I always enjoy reading your blog entries, and this was information which I had seen nowhere else. Greetings from Los Angeles, and thanks again.

  3. Thank you both for your comments. Having visited some of the Russian palaces and seen photos of what they looked like in 1945 I am indeed convinced that anything can be restored. But still there will always be that subtle difference between originals and replicas.

    Although the prognosis for Dehn's Mansion was not too bad at first, it seems the entire interior structure of the building collapsed and came crashing down, thereby destroying everything.

    I also share Amy's belief/hope that the 1983-1986 renovation produced a survey of the building. Otherwise it seems little has been written about the building, except an article by Claus M. Smidt, one of Denmark's leading architectural historians, in Architectura in 1988.

  4. I believe that portraits of my ancestors - the McEvoys - were housed in Dehn's Palace. Was everything lost? Paula Lahiff (Daly), Sligo, Ireland

  5. Last week I saw the mansion for the first time after the fire - the outer walls were still standing, but the entire roof was gone and from what I read the roof collapsed and came crashing down through the building, so I fear that most things were indeed lost, although I do not know for sure.

  6. I agree with you that anything can be "restored" with sufficient funds. I recently visited the incredible Frauenkirche in Dresden. Like the Russian palaces and Pavlosk, only fragments remained after they were bombed, and yet they were completely rebuilt. I would rather have a new replacement than nothing. And I'm always fascinated by how quickly replacements and reproductions gain patina and signs of usage. Here in Canada or the U.S.A. such restorations are unthinkable because we long ago lost the necessary artisans and craftspeople to do the stonework, stucco, decorative painting, ironwork, and joinery that is seen in 18th and 19th century palaces. In the circumstances that something like this needs to be done in America, the few available craftspeople are much more expensive than in Europe, or artisans and skilled workers need to be imported from Europe and such costs are prohibitive. Such people who can complete such work are truly living treasures.

  7. Yes, both Frauenkirche and Pavlovsk are amazing recreations of buildings which for all practical purposes were altogether gone. There is by the way a very interesting book from 1946 titled "Lost Treasures of Europe", which presents photos and information about some 450 buildings and other artworks lost in WWII. Reading it can be a bit heartbreaking, but luckily there are also a significant number of buildings restored in the decades since.

    The limited number of specialised 18th and 19th century artisans can indeed be a problem - there is a lot of stucco marble at the Royal Palace here in Oslo, but at the time it was restored (mostly between 1991-2001) there were only two people in Europe who knew the technique. Mannfred Stiller from Germany, who also carried out the restoration of Christiansborg Palace Church following the disastrous fire of 1992, did the work at the Royal Palace and luckily it seems he has taught the technique to others as he is now getting older.

  8. It may be useful for the conservation team repairing the Palace to refer to a similar project in England, where Uppark House, owned by The National Trust was severely damaged by fire: Here is an extract from their website:

    On 30 August 1989, Uppark was severely damaged by fire. Its repair has been the most complicated the National Trust has ever undertaken. Uppark re-opened its doors in the Trust's centenary year (1995), a timely celebration of British conservation skills.

    If there is much that has been learned and to be grateful for since the fire, there is continuing sorrow for what has been lost. The Meade-Fetherstonhaugh family's possessions were totally destroyed. The loss of the private rooms and their contents on the upper floors, removed from Uppark an intrinsic element of its fame as a house unaltered since the 19th-century. Downstairs, the patina of age has largely gone from several rooms but it has been possible to preserve much of the old paint and gilding in the Saloon and Dining Room, untouched since c1815.

    The aim has been to restore Uppark, in so far as is practicable, to its state before the fire. Old and new have been carefully interwoven and recorded but it is hoped that their junction is invisible and that a seamless repair has been achieved.


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