In a world that’s always looking forward to the latest upgrade or the next sequel, it’s refreshing to know there are people out there who can stop us before we eradicate our past in the name of progress.
In that respect, Det Særlige Bygningssyn deserves our respect for making sure that we still have examples of the buildings that were modern when our grandparents were our age. But there’s a difference between protecting our history and condemning us to live in the past. Preserving KB-Hallen as a living museum for generations to come does just that.
In their quest to preserve the physical structure, the architectural experts have overlooked what made KB-Hallen special: what went on inside. Essentially an enormous Nissen hut (better known to Americans as a Quonset hut), there was nothing special about the appearance of KB-Hallen. To be honest, it’s something of an eyesore.
The memories that were made there, however, were some of the cultural reference points of late 20th century Denmark. The facility had hosted everything from a Beatles concert to boxing prize fights. And, as fate would have it, when the building was gutted by fire in September, it was preparing for the annual Sex Expo, an event it began hosting in 1969, the year such events became legal.
But the black and white images of young rock stars and the seedy menagerie the sex show had become underscored that KB-Hallen’s heyday had passed. Anyone who had ever been inside the building understood why: narrow doors, dark corridors and 1930s-era seating belonged to a bygone era, not an arena capable of attracting today’s headliners.
As KB-Hallen fights against being burdened by its past, it’s worth noting that it isn’t the first building trying to shake off the ‘historic’ label. Other prominent institutions, most prominently Aarhus University in 2010, have tried to duck being declared as such, fearing the logistical and financial burdens of being forced to maintain property in its original state.
One of the exciting things about architecture is when modern people can find a way to incorporate historic structures into their daily lives. We are fascinated when Roman bridges still carry traffic, when Gothic churches continue to inspire, and when architecture from the 1920s appears modern.
But, sometimes something historic, as important as it might be, isn’t compatible with modern life. Fortunately for Det Særlige Bygningssyn, Demark has not one, but two open-air museums dedicated to the preservation of our architectural heritage. Either would be far better suited to a historically preserved KB-Hallen than its original location in the heart of a city that, through no fault of the building’s owners, has moved on since 1938.