The Carlsberg Academy

Brewer J.C. Jacobsen’s house in the main building at Carlsberg has been converted into the Carlsberg Academy, which is used today for symposiums and conferences.

In 1846, brewer J.C. Jacobsen purchased a large, well-situated plot of land on Valby Hill, west of the centre of Copenhagen, and established his brewery, Carlsberg. In the years that followed, he also built a large house and laid out a fantastic garden for himself and his family – right in the middle of the brewery facility. The decoration of the house was inspired by antiquity, and the whole complex of buildings and garden came into being in the period from 1847 to 1878, when the magnificent hall known as “Pompeii” was completed.

The building was inspired by J.C. Jacobsen’s travels around Europe, and he himself produced many of the sketches and drawings. Throughout his life, J.C. Jacobsen expanded and embellished the main building, the two conservatories and the garden, forming them into an integrated whole that today represents an outstanding monument to nineteenth-century architecture and landscape gardening characterised by the blending of previously separate styles. Concerning the creation of the buildings and garden, J.C. Jacobsen’s son, Carl, quoted his father as saying: “I have built this house, Carl, not to have a magnificent building for my residence, but in order to make something beautiful.”

From private home to honorary residence and academy

As well as being home to J.C. Jacobsen and his family, the house also became a hospitable gathering place for the many artists and scientists with whom the Brewer surrounded himself. The building was completed in 1854, and when J.C. Jacobsen died in 1887, his widow, Laura Jacobsen, lived alone in the house until her death in 1911.

In 1876, J.C. Jacobsen established the Carlsberg Foundation, and in so doing bequeathed his life’s work to science. His will instructed that once he, his wife, his son and his daughter in law were no longer alive, the house should be turned into an honorary residence for a man or woman engaged in science, literature or art.

In keeping with J.C. Jacobsen’s will, the property duly served as an honorary residence from 1914. The first honorary resident was the philosopher Harald Høffding. He was followed by probably the most famous of the honorary residents, atomic physicist Niels Bohr, who lived in the residence from 1931 to 1962. The archaeologist Johannes Brøndsted followed Bohr, occupying the honorary residence for two years. In 1967, the Danish astronomer Bengt Strömgren was offered the residency and returned to Denmark following many years working as a researcher in the USA. The final honorary resident was Professor of East Asian Languages Søren Egerod. After his death, the Carlsberg Foundation resolved in 1995 to renovate the house and establish the Carlsberg Academy, with the ground floor dedicated to symposiums and conferences, and the first floor serving as a residence for an outstanding international visiting researcher.

Main building and adornment

The main building of the Carlsberg Academy links the classical and late classical styles of architecture. The house, designed by architect N.S. Nebelong, was built in the style of an Italian villa – based on J.C. Jacobsen’s own ideas. The house rivalled some of the most splendid built in Copenhagen at that time. The rooms on the building’s ground floor are richly adorned with decorated panels and a number of beautiful reliefs and medallions featuring classical motifs, including Bertel Thorvaldsen’s “Alexander Frieze” in the dining hall.

The main building was placed between the Carlsberg brewery and the garden on a sloping plot, so the approach to the house at that time was along an axis that began on Carlsbergvej and continued past the bronze sculpture The Borghese Gladiator down to the house and through the vestibule into the garden room, where three double French windows led out to the large garden staircase. On the terrace of the staircase there are bronze sculptures on each side ‒ The Discus Thrower and The Ephesian Amazon ‒ after which the axis branches off to either side. Niels Bohr, who lived in the Honorary Residence from 1931 to 1962, called the terrace “a hiding place for thoughts”.

The garden was created from soil from the excavation of the storage cellars at the brewery. With its winding pathways and sight lines, it was partly inspired by eighteenth-century English landscape gardens. The landscape gardener Rudolph Rothe produced the garden plan based on J.C. Jacobsen’s ideas, and work on the garden began in 1848-49. The garden is home to 57 different rare and very old conifer and deciduous trees that J.C. Jacobsen brought back from his European travels. Today, it is open to the public.

The Carlsberg Academy. View from the main building to the garden across the terrace with its bronze sculptures The Discus Thrower and The Ephesian Amazon.

The Carlsberg Academy

Following the establishment of the Carlsberg Academy, the villa was thoroughly renovated by architect Runa Lyshøj and was ready to accommodate the Academy in 1997. Today, the ground floor, conservatories and the Pompeii Hall are used for the Carlsberg Foundation’s conferences, scientific symposiums and other meetings at the suggestion of the Carlsberg Foundation. For a number of years, the first floor has been used as a guest residence for an outstanding international visiting researcher.

Reception in J.C. Jacobsen’s conservatory, which links the Carlsberg Academy with Pompeii Hall.

Pompeii

In 1876-1878, the main building was supplemented with “Pompeii”, a conservatory with peristyle designed by P.C. Bønecke – once again based on an idea by J.C. Jacobsen. The house’s U-shaped ground plan was not inspired by the real Pompeii to the south of Naples in Italy, but the name was used by J.C. Jacobsen from the earliest sketches of the combined columned porch and conservatory. Pompeii was one of the most magnificent privately owned conservatories of the time in terms of its size and decoration.

The Pompeii Hall

The Pompeii Hall is adorned with Doric columns made of limestone from Faxe in Denmark. The building is richly decorated with artworks by Bertel Thorvaldsen and others. The north and south walls and the apse inside the colonnade are dominated by Th. Stein’s reliefs, including scenes from Homer’s Iliad, with a number of Greek gods appearing in the account of Achilles’ rage at King Agamemnon during the war between Greece and Troy. In one of the reliefs, where Odysseus is reunited with Penelope, the swineherd Eumaeus is reproduced with the face of J.C. Jacobsen.

Eumaios reproduced with J.C. Jacobsen's facial features

On the east wall and in the apse inside the room there are a number of copies of antique busts side by side with busts of leading contemporary representatives of art, science and politics. For J.C. Jacobsen, the busts were like icons, with the poet Homer, the statesman Pericles and the general Scipio standing alongside the artist Bertel Thorvaldsen, the scientist H.C. Ørsted and the politician L.N. Hvidt, illustrating the Brewer’s diverse interests. There is also a bust of J.C. Jacobsen himself. The busts were made by V. Bissen and Th. Stein. The building also has mosaics featuring patterns copied from Pompeii.

Homer - one of the seven busts in Pompejisalen

Source: The Carlsberg Foundation and Bryggerens akademi (The Brewer’s Academy) by Steen Estvad Petersen, Carlsberg Foundation 2001