The Thorvaldsens Museum Archives

The Square in Front of Thorvaldsens Museum

  • Torben Schønherr,, 1998
  • This is a re-publication of the article:

    Torben Schønherr: ‘The Square in Front of Thorvaldsens Museum’, in: Meddelelser fra Thorvaldsens Museum (Communications from the Thorvaldsens Museum) p. 1998, p. 200-204.

    For a presentation of the article in its original appearance in Danish, please see this facsimile scan.


The Square in Front of Thorvaldsens Museum

In a classical sense a square can be defined as the space emerging between a number of edifices, a space with buildings forming its walls and the sky its roof. The square in front of Thorvaldsens Museum is at the same time an urban space and a corner of an artificial island called Slotsholmen. For many years, the square in front of Thorvaldsens Museum has been waiting its turn. To a large extent, the romantic gardens retained their character until some time into the present century. Gradually, they then changed into what we see today, a lawn surrounded by hedges and containing a number of individual trees. In 1992, the Danish Arts Foundation allocated 1.7 million kroner for a piece of sculpture to be executed by the sculptor Svend Wiig Hansen and erected in front of Thorvaldsens Museum. As a result of this, the management committee of Thorvaldsens Museum requested proposals for a design for the space represented by the square, and in consultation with Svend Wiig Hansen, for the positioning of the sculpture in this space.

An examination of Bindesbøll’s original plan shows a square, a large, simple space with two rows of acacia trees in front of the Manège, a fountain and a sculpture by Thorvaldsen placed so the Manège formed the background to it. At the same time, the plan shows a couple of steps down towards the canal in order to level out the slope down from the Manège to the canal. The present proposal has been inspired in particular by the positioning of the sculpture and the sense of a square. It seeks to create as great a sense as possible of tranquillity and simplicity in the space provided by the square. The square is conceived as a single large space with a cohesive surface made of cobbles. The intention was that Svend Wiig Hansen’s sculpture, six metres long and three metres high, was to be erected on this broad, calm surface. The Manège was to form the background in such a way that the sculpture was to enter into a dialogue with the Museum and with all the elements of the square. The sense of standing on an island is emphasised by extending the cobbled area towards Vindebrogade. The big old trees are retained and surrounded by benches, and it is proposed that there should be a more city-friendly kind of street lighting along both sides of Vindebrogade than is at present the case. A more pleasing length of railings towards the canal would likewise improve the quality of the area.

When Svend Wiig Hansen died (1997), the sculpture was not sufficiently advanced for it to be erected on the square. It is my view that it will not alter the appropriateness of the proposal’s idea for a calm granite surface in front of Thorvaldsens Museum. This amazing building, which has a place deep down in our national awareness, deserves a better background, a better setting than the confusion with which it is obliged to be content today.

Last updated 11.05.2017