Post offices sprang into town planning soon after the postal service started – in UK, the first-ever post office ‘pillar box’ was erected on the island of Jersey in 1852. Long before that, the first post office in India was set up by the British East India Company in Bombay, in 1764. In USA, USPS, also known as the Post Office, goes back to 1775. In Copenhagen, says the gal, the Centralpostbygningen, or Central Post Building, an imposing Neo-Baroque building on the corner of Bernstorffsgade and Tietgensgade, literally kitty-corner to both Central Station and Tivoli Gardens, was designed by Heinrich Wenck in 1912 (Danish Mail Services, however, claim a history going back to 1624).
Heinrich Wenck’s building was used as a sorting office. On its interior walls today are lovely old photos, showing local ladies who presumably sat for hours sorting out all that mail – see the image, above. Now, however, the building is being converted, by Petter Stordalen’s Strawberry Brothers, into yet another hotel (does Copenhagen need so many additional bedrooms? That is indeed the question). But Copenhagen has strong pension funds, and its opera house and reconceived harbour front, plus a growing cruise business, are all attracting tourism. The hotel has not got a name yet, but it does have people in charge. It will be managed by Nordic Hotels, led by its MD Peter Høgh Pedersen, who moved here after a few years consulting in Rome (his wife is Italian). But, he says, the lure to come back to Denmark was too strong. I knew him when he was opening GM of InterContinental Davos, which was an exacting job as for a few days every January, during the World Economic Forum, it was total sell-out, financing the rest of the year. Now he is working out what this five-floor Copenhagen building will become. He has architects, Krook & Tjäder, and for interiors he has Universal Design Studio, from London. They are faced with an open-square building with a T attached to one corner – along the leg of this T they hope to have an 80-ft heated outdoor lap pool.
This will not be the first post office to become a hotel – I think of the hugely successful The Treasury, in Perth, so cleverly converted, with other old buildings, by Kerry Hill. Here, however, Peter Høgh Pedersen knows one challenge is that all 390 bedrooms will have 13-ft ceilings: sizes will range from 200 sq ft up to the 1,115 sq ft Presidential Suite, which will be celebrity-designed by a local jeweller, as yet un-named. Peter Høgh Pedersen and his team are hard at work on so many fronts, and for the time being they can all store their bikes in what will be the hotel’s main lobby.