The Ærøskøbing Heritage Society

Jørn Ørum-Nielsen

architect m.a.a.; Aroskobing project coordinator

The Ærøskøbing Heritage Society

Voderup 41, DK 5970 Aroskobing, Denmark

AElig;roslash;skoslash;bing AElig;roslash; Island

Europa Nostra Citation:

For the truly democratic initiative taken by the town''s inhabitants to retain intact an urban landscape dating from the Middle Ages.
AElig;roslash;skoslash;bing is a unique town in Denmark that retains intact a coherent Middle Ages townscape, achieved through an exemplary, democratic conservation initiative taken by the citizens of the town. For the last century they have remained active participants in, and directors of the project, working in close cooperation with the local council at all stages.
AElig;roslash;skoslash;bing''s special qualities owe much to its continual growth since the Middle Ages. Development has taken place in layers but in each case, the basic type of house and its elementary features have been retained. The living beauty of the town is due to the houses reflecting the building traditions developed over a period of several hundred years.
The town embodies the ecological, social and constructive foundations of town planning and house building. The most important qualities are: low-cost, flexibility, humane and safe town environments influenced by their users, a harmonious interaction between outer and inner spaces, and between public and private areas. The town is not just a monument to the past, but also an important functional model  the result of the collective experience and knowledge of many generations.

The special qualities of AElig;roslash;skoslash;bing
The town presents an example that gives all of us, including present day architects and town planners, an increased understanding of the ecological, social and constructive foundation of house building and town planning. In these old Danish house types we find a communal inheritance from which we can gain fundamental and useful knowledge about good planning and building procedures, all of which are essential for the well-being of the town citizens.
The buildings of AElig;roslash;skoslash;bing are unobtrusive, lowly houses, individually built but similar as regards scale, type and category.oslash; They create a clear physical boundary between the urban, hard-edged social world of the streets, and the natural, soft, green, private world of back-yards and gardens. On the whole, the buildings share a common scale and ground plan. Nevertheless, many individual permutations are seen. Two houses are never the same, yet the overall impressionoslash; is one of harmony. The overall harmony of the town reflects a crucial balance of individuality and conformity.
The connected houses along the streets constitute the frame for large, green, enclosed spaces, where entry is prohibited, a sharp contrast to the public streets with their hard cobbles and naked facades. Here is found an openness towards light and the rays of the sun which leaves room for large trees, while the connected rows of houses provide an effective shield against noise and disturbance from the streets.
Between these two worlds, on the boundary between the public and private domain, lie the houses. The dwellings open up both to the front and back, enriched and marked by the light they receive from both sides.

Conservation / A century of civic involvement

The fact that AElig;roslash;skoslash;bing is so well preserved is mainly due to the tireless enthusiasm of many of its inhabitants up to the present day.
The AElig;roslash;skoslash;bing Association established in 1944, was and still is, an independent body whose only aim is to oslash;assist in preserving not only the older houses but as many original features as possible in order to safeguard the distinctiveness of the town as a wholeoslash;.
The Association is self-constituted. It has never had political ambitions, but rather aims to create a forum where AElig;roslash;skoslash;bingoslash;s inhabitants - its users - can enter into a dialogue with the politicians on how best to preserve the exceptional qualities of the town. Today the Society has about 500 members, about half the inhabitants of the town.
The Association and the Heritage Society were instrumental in the preparation of a town plan and conservation orders, because they shared the same fears for the future of the town at a time when Denmarkoslash;s increasing prosperity accelerated the growth of urban areas and the increase in traffic, even in the remoter parts of the kingdom where AElig;roslash; is situated.
The town plan sets out guidelines for how planning applications are to be judged, and contains advice on choice of materials, detailing, building maintenance and the use of public areas. Furthermore, it aims to support and inspire individual home owners to continue actively to protect the integrity of the environment of the town.