It is not surprising that the Copenhagen region was identified as an “innovation leader” in the European Union’s 2012 Regional Innovation Scoreboard, a comparative study of 190 regions throughout Europe. This designation of innovation leader is based on a combination of performance indicators, such as public and private R&D, small and medium enterprise activity, the development and commercialization of innovative products and employment in high-tech and knowledge-intensive industries, to mention a few.
Copenhagen is also known as an innovator in sustainability, having designed a strategy for traffic, water and energy management. One case in point: the biking “superhighway” launched recently is a system of 26 new bike lanes, bridges and green wave traffic lighting designed to add 15,000 suburban commuters to the tens of thousands of people already biking to work every day.
In Copenhagen, innovation is not only anchored in tech-savvy businesses and proactive urban planning, the cutting edge extends up to the skyline. Danish dedication to innovative design resonates throughout Copenhagen’s newly renovated areas. Both pleasing and challenging to the eye, the new architecture transcends traditional functionality, often redefining space and how people use it. True to the ethos of sustainability, Copenhagen’s invigorating new buildings are designed to be green from the word go, incorporating materials and technologies which optimize resource use and minimize environmental damage.
Ørestad – Redefining State-of-the-Art
Stretching 5 km from downtown Copenhagen to the Kalvebod Fælled nature reserve not far from the Copenhagen Airport and Øresund Bridge, Ørestad is Copenhagen’s new urban quarter which mixes residential neighbourhoods, business complexes and educational institutions. It is home to the University of Copenhagen and the IT University, as well as to a growing number of Danish and multinational business concerns.
Ørestad Gymnasium opened its doors in 2007 and represents a prime example of innovative architecture in the service of education. Designed by the world-renowned Danish Architects, 3XN, Ørestad Gymnasium is designed for flexibility of functionality, flexibility of class size and, as a result, flexibility of teaching methods. The emphasis is on interactive rather than frontal group learning, which is enabled by the fluid building design. Four boomerang-shaped floor plans form the overall frame of the building. The various teaching and learning spaces overlap and interact with no distinct borders between them. A part of each floor is open to a central atrium which forms a common area, reflecting the college’s mission for interdisciplinary education.
The Danish headquarters of Swedish Bank Nordea will be relocating to Ørestad North, next to the Danish Broadcasting Corporation and Concert Hall. Designed by Henning Larsen Architects, the firm also responsible for Copenhagen’s opera house, the building will house some 2,000 employees. A primary impetus for the move was the need to accommodate state-of-the-art facilities for the bank’s 600-man trading operations. Wired for speed and excellence, the complex also aspires to LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) platinum compliancy, incorporating environmentally sound building materials and advanced water and energy systems.
Rejuvenating Copenhagen Harbour
Copenhagen Harbour is undergoing an extreme makeover. The development of Marmormolen is the first step towards the comprehensive redevelopment of the surrounding Nordhavnen district.
Finishing touches are now being made on phase 1 of UN City, a complex housing six global and regional UN organizations. The first phase is scheduled for completion in 2013 and phase two in 2014. The compound, a star-like structure, is literally an island unto itself. Last April the complex was awarded the European Commission GreenBuilding Award for energy efficiency. It requires less than 50 kWh per square metre for heating, cooling, lighting and ventilation, is equipped with a large solar cell system on the roof and will be cooled using sea water.
Perhaps Copenhagen’s most innovative landmark will be in a place one least expects it. The city’s 40 year old Amagerforbrænding (AMF) waste-to-energy facility will shed its drab industrial persona to become a venue of fascination and fun. It will be the largest waste-to-energy facility in Denmark, treating 500,000 tons of waste annually, heating and powering 140,000 homes and costing an estimated 500 million Euros. The new plant is expected to increase total energy efficiency up to 20% relative to the existing plant. It will represent the ultimate in flu gas condensation technology, dynamic architectural design and creative land use. The Ramboll Group is responsible for planning and coordinating the project. The Bjarke Ingels Group- BIG submitted the winning bid for architectural design. It is scheduled for completion by 2016.
The look of the building is innovative enough, monumental and reminiscent of a futuristic mega-cathedral. From a distance it will look like a shimmering green mountain thanks to hundreds of modules planted with greenery layered like bricks around the entire building. Innovation at AMF, however, is more than skin deep. The exhaust system, rather than puffing a continual chain of smoke, is designed to emit elegant giant smoke rings whenever 1 ton of CO2 builds up. Lasers will light up the smoke rings at night to create a “close encounters” glow over the city.
The most unique feature of this project, however, is the roof, which will double as a 31,000 square meter year-round ski slope. The concept behind the design is to go one step beyond the cosmetic covering of an industrial eyesore with a flashy edifice. With AMF, Copenhagen has chosen to convert a necessary evil into a venue which brings added value to the community while advancing the attainment of a carbon-neutral city.