Grandiose public bridge made private
In recent years architecturally-innovative bridges have been springing up all over Copenhagen. Locals delight in the hip new Cirkelbroen on Christianshavn designed by Danish-Icelandic artist Olafur Eliasson and the winding bicycle bridge that links Islands Brygge with Vesterbro.
Copenhageners were also looking forward to making use of another public bridge crossing Nordhavn harbour. The bridge, 65 metres above sea level, connected two new towers, together called the LM Project by Steven Holl Architects.
The original idea was that the bridge would be open to the public, but a majority in Copenhagen city council last month voted to keep the bridge for the private use of residents. City councillor Jacob Hougaard (Socialdemokraterne) told Politiken newspaper that the bridge was too much of a “prestige project” to be taken into ordinary use.
The design, by, won the Progressive Architecture Award in 2010 and it was designed to stand out in the cityscape, with a thin walkway between two epic towers. Public developer By & Havn had described it on its website as a “handshake over the harbour.”
But according to the Socialist People’s Party (SF), its value as a landmark has now been diminished.
“It could have been a symbol for the city and a good opportunity for Copenhageners and tourists to come and go between the two towers and look over the harbour and the city. It’s an unfortunate end to something that could have been a major landmark for Copenhagen,” city council member Peter Thiele (SF) told Politiken.
Deputy mayor for technical and environmental affairs, Morten Kabell (Enhedslisten), agrees that the move will take something away from the ordinary citizen.
“The whole point of granting permission to build these spectacular towers on either side of the harbour was to give something back to Copenhageners. That’s up in smoke now,” he told Politiken.
But critics say that, while architecturally striking, the bridge poses practical problems unforeseen by the designers in their quest for originality.
“Practical considerations didn’t enter into the architectural competition. Subsequent analysis has shown that it’s next to impossible to have a public pedestrian and bicycle bridge of that height,” Michael Nielsen from ATP Ejendomme, told Politiken.
Furthermore, city councillor Lars Berg Dueholm (Liberal Alliance) believes the project demands too much of the developer.
“Of course people have the right to build a house on a plot of land. But that doesn’t mean that when they build something the city council must have something in return,” he told Politiken.
But Kabell believes the decision to privatise the walkway is a sign that the city is transforming into an increasingly exclusive space – one that demands its citizens to pay to fully engage with it.
“I can only say that a majority in the city council had nothing against an access point where you had to pay in order to enter,” he said.
According to the city plan for Marmormolen, the redeveloped Nordhavn pier that the LM Project belongs to, a bicycle bridge is needed to cross the harbour to Langelinie. With the LM Project’s elevated bridge now out of public use, the city council has opted to follow the developer’s recommendation that a bridge be constructed for cyclists at a more conventional height.
Building a new district
An entirely new neighbourhood is set to be carved out of the listless social housing project Urbanplanen in Western Amager. The area is currently dominated by social housing, but offers residents little else in the form of neighbourhood character or atmosphere.
The area’s central point, Solvang Centre, is currently an empty stretch with dark passages and few shops. It will now be torn down and turned into the Solvang district with new housing and pedestrian streets, while a clock tower bathed in green light will serve as a unique landmark.
Critics have claimed that the current layout of Urbanplanen needed to be changed as it has facilitated social problems among its isolated residents.
“This is how we approached urban design in the seventies. The area is built in a way that cuts it off from the surrounding area,” Mikkel Warming, who is secretary general of Partnerskabet, the project’s central coordinator, told Magasinet KBH.
He adds that reducing the sense of isolation will require more than a change to its physical nature.
“We want residents outside of Urbanplanen to use the area’s attractions, but we also want local residents to get out and mix in other areas of the city, otherwise this kind of housing development can easily become a closed-off system with its own norms and rules. But that requires both new buildings and social action. Physical changes must be backed up with a range of activities.”
PLH architects won a competition to overhaul the district and their proposal includes the construction of terraced houses, family homes and youth accommodation, while also leaving space for public buildings such as a culture house. The vision is of a bright, open and green space which offers plenty of places to relax in an area that stretches around 10,000 m2.
By introducing housing for young people, the evaluation committee behind the renewal plan hopes to give a much needed spark to the area.
“The youth accommodations will add a new and unique identity to the area,” PLH architects wrote in a press release..
“We’re looking for urbanity and identity, through a process that will lift the place out of anonymity and offer both form, space and urban life.”
Allowing for three years of processing and consultation, the new area is expected to be ready in 2018. Residents and interested parties are invited to come forward with their contributions before the plan is finalised. M