In U.S. cities like Cleveland or Los Angeles, an intricate Frank Gehry rooftop will decorate the occasional intersection, but a good portion of American architecture seems to jostle between minimalism and utilitarianism.
I was delighted to find in Copenhagen however that the streets were lined with warrens of large apartment buildings and businesses alike, each uniquely taking on striking, almost fashionable designs. It’s true that the city is industrious and respectful of tradition, home to several palaces like Amalienborg which houses the Danish royal family, all to be seen from guided canal tours. Yet in other avenues Copenhagen displays airs of playfully fresh designs that are as “modern” as anything you’d find in New York or Paris. In some cases these structures are so lively and numerous that one begins to wonder if they are naively overabundant; rather, it’s likely they are the result of a few generations of ambitious people in Denmark who are fully committed to designing societal solutions that are creative, clever, and even lucrative.
Here are some of the most attractive and bewildering works of architecture & design I saw while in Denmark:
8 Topple – This apartment complex in Ørestad has a classic courtyard with inward facing balconies but also features two converging slopes that run from rooftop to ground level, and host a number of different types of grass; this type of “green” architecture attempts to support and enmesh itself into local ecosystems and it’s springing up all over, especially in Scandinavia.
Tietgenkollegiet – We came across this student residence hall while roaming a lively Copenhagen campus. Its plan looks like a large circle with a courtyard inside, and its outer façade hoists and juxtaposes idiosyncratic apartment units with sleek wood paneling and community terraces.
Amager Bakke (Amager Slope) – While this project is still under construction, our group got a good glance at what the finished product will look like, and even saw what work has been done on it already (physically it looks more than halfway complete). This futuristic, nauseatingly large slope will efficiently burn trash underneath, capturing most of the C02 fumes – on top, however, locals can ski down the slope or scale the 300 foot rock wall on its side (Google this one).
Dome of Visions – located in Copenhagen harbor, we saw this little structure on a breezy canal tour. It’s a transparent dome with pieces of breathable, recyclable, polycarbonate triangles tessellated across its surface. It contained enough live vegetation or some type of plant matter when we saw it, that the site was visibly green from the harbor – this is no surprise, as the dome functions as both a space for art, music, and cultural showcases as well as a discussion space for future sustainable housing projects.
American industry has a lot to learn from places like Copenhagen and regarding our own sustainable practices, perhaps going back to the design phase is where we might focus our efforts. Some of the zaniest concepts and buildings might find themselves replaced with more fitting solutions as time passes, but artfully creative thinking and brainy designs are what the world needs from sustainable businesses.