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Last edited 07 Feb 2019
Architecture of Christiania
Christiania was formed in 1971 when a group of hippie squatters took over a military barracks spread over 80 acres along the banks of a lake that had fallen into disuse and been left abandoned.
Soon after its settlement, Christiania was declared a ‘Freetown’, with the goal being to ‘build up a society from scratch’. The impetus for the settlement of around 900 individuals is reported to have been a direct response to the lack of affordable housing and social facilities available in Copenhagen at the time.
The settlers refused to pay taxes to the government, predictably bringing them into conflict over the years. In 1972, Christiania was granted semi-legal status, with the settlers agreeing to pay a collective tax in return for water and electricity.
The heating supply in Christiania is decentralised, with the houses heated, not by electricity, but in part by second-hand wood and ovens made within the community. Water is heated by the sun, and waste water installations are often experimental.
In recent years, Christiania has attracted negative attention due to police drug raids and riots. However, despite its future remaining far from certain, it has become one of the major tourist attractions in Copenhagen, welcoming more than a million people a year.
 Architecture without architects
Christiania became a place of fascination and intrigue for architects across Europe, many of whom visited to experiment with new techniques and styles. Nonetheless, the buildings of Christiania were developed mainly under the ethos of ‘architecture without architects’.
As the Danish government did not initially recognise the community as legitimate, ordinary zoning restrictions did not apply, and so a wide variety of vernacular architecture was created, some futuristic, some ecologically-sustainable, others following the style of more traditional Scandinavian houses.
The buildings are experimental in style, many with decorative murals, and others integrated into their surroundings, and all serving as functional homes. Many of the homes are constructed from re-used and salvaged materials, and range from makeshift huts to elaborate constructions with green roofs.
Other, more improvised buildings are freeform, colourful and in their own way, charming.
With the government increasingly trying to assert its control, one of the newer laws stipulates that nothing new can be built in Christiania except for roofing. This restriction has led to some creative architectural styles in itself…
 Find out more
 Related articles on Designing Buildings Wiki
- Community energy network.
- Danish Architecture Center.
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- Green building.
- Nowa Huta - Communist tour review.
- Republic of Kugelmugel.
- Sustainable materials.
- The history of fabric structures.
- Vernacular architecture.
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