Revival of classic architecture in Copenhagen

Stand-out buildings in the urban landscape are a thing of the past. The architecture of the new buildings springing up in Copenhagen’s new urban districts along the harbourfront has to match the surroundings. Copenhagen’s goal of becoming carbon-neutral by 2025 has also contributed to making sustainable certifications standard in construction.

Read interviews with Rita Justesen from CPH City & Port Development and Henrik Stener Pedersen from Ramboll.

Copenhagen is in a state of constant change. New buildings are appearing in the urban landscape, and new urban districts are emerging. The backdrop to the myriad of activities is a political vision of creating a world-class city. The aim is for the city to be attractive to live and work in, and exciting to visit – on top of which Copenhagen has set the ambitious climate goal of being carbon-neutral by 2025.

Rita Justesen is Director of Planning and Architecture at CPH City & Port Development, which is playing a key role in the development of Copenhagen. It’s primary focus is on the harbour front and on the Ørestad district. And on architectural quality.

“Architecture, in a broad sense, is an important element when you want to create urban districts that have something to offer all ages and interests. Zooming in more specifically on building architecture – i.e. the aesthetic expression and architectural idiom of buildings – this has frequently changed in recent decades in Copenhagen,” says Rita Justesen.

“For example, since the last financial crisis, there has been a revival of the classic idiom on a more historically founded scale. Buildings must increasingly fit the context in which they are being built, rather than seeking individuality and uniqueness. In other words, the focus has shifted and is now on building a city rather than on individual buildings.”


DGNB as standard

A goal of being carbon-neutral by 2025 has been formulated by the City of Copenhagen. The new urban districts being developed by CPH City & Port Development must, of course, contribute to fulfilling this goal. Sustainability is therefore a crucial factor in Nordhavn – the name CPH City & Port Development has given to tomorrow’s sustainable urban district in Copenhagen.

For example, Nordhavn has several bridges reserved for cyclists and pedestrians. It features a number of communal outdoor areas, offering shelter against the wind but bathed in sunlight. There are short distances to shopping, transport, leisure activities and other everyday needs. And, of course, there is no shortage of environmental initiatives – in the form of lower energy consumption, cleaner energy supply and greater use of recycled materials.

“All urban districts and buildings which CPH City & Port Development is responsible for are DGNB-certified, so we can measure the effect of the many initiatives. In my view, sustainability should be the standard for all urban development and all buildings. In a few years’ time, I believe that we will have stopped talking about sustainability, simply because sustainability will by then be incorporated into all systems and buildings and part and parcel of all projects,” says Rita Justesen.


No building stands alone

Ramboll has been working closely with the City of Copenhagen since the 1980s, and is one of the consultants involved in the development of Nordhavn. They also agree that sustainability in construction and certified buildings are receiving greater attention these days. With DGNB, people have started talking about environmental, social and economic sustainability. None of these three factors can stand alone.

No building is an island – we usually say. All architecture is set in an urban context. For example, we have to think about how users get to and from a building, what it is like for them to spend time in the building, and what effects the indoor climate has on their health and wellbeing. All aspects are crucial to how successful the building is. Today, no buildings exist alone,” says Henrik Stener Pedersen, Director of Ramboll’s consultant business. He continues:

“Certification and sustainability are becoming increasingly important when we talk about urban development. Both elements are increasingly integrated in the construction process, influencing the physical expression as a reflection of the way we work. Good, sustainable urban life plays out both within and between buildings.


A place where most people want to live

It all looks to be paying off. The population is growing, and Copenhagen has often been highlighted as a liveable city – a place where people want to live – in international media and awards. 

But what makes Copenhagen so ‘liveable’?

Henrik Stener Pedersen: “The blue/green outdoor spaces – with parks and places to swim in the harbour. The political vision and citizen involvement in urban development are also key. Also, Copenhagen has the technical solutions that allow many people to live in the city – heating, electricity and waste management – in a climate-friendly way.  Copenhagen is a pioneering city in relation to sustainability.”

Rita Justesen: “The cycling culture is highlighted again and again. But I also think it is the way we take care of the city, and the way we make use of the city and its spaces. The Danish tradition of outstanding design and honest architecture is also one of the hallmarks of Copenhagen. The architecture is a beautiful, pleasant backdrop for life in the city

  • CPH City & Port Development’s primary responsibilities are to develop the areas along the Copenhagen harbour front and in the Ørestad district, and to manage port operations in Copenhagen.
  • The company is owned by the Danish State and the City of Copenhagen, and was founded in 2007 by merging Københavns Havn A/S and the part of Ørestadsselskabet I/S involved in the development of Ørestad.
  • CPH City & Port Development is responsible for urban development in Nordhavn, Sydhavn, at Marmormolen and in Ørestad.
  • Ramboll is a leading international engineering and consultancy company founded in Denmark in 1945.
  • Ramboll employs more than 15,000 experts globally, more than 3,000 of whom are based in Denmark.
  • Ramboll works across the fields of construction, transport, urban development, the environment, water, energy and management consulting.

Rita Justesten,
Director of Planning and Architecture at CPH City & Port Development. 

Henrik Stener Pedersen,
Director of Ramboll's consultant business.