March 2, 2016 Sofus Midtgaard

Copenhagen’s remarkable journey to liveability

COPENHAGEN FROM NEARLY BANKRUPT TO MOST LIVEABLE IN 15 YEARS

In 1993 Copenhagen municipality was nearly bankrupt and the city was put under administration by the central government. In 2008 Copenhagen was nominated the most liveable city by the lifestyle magazine Monocle. A nomination, which was repeated in 2013 and again in 2014.

As part of the Liveable Cities project in cooperation with Rambøll, Gehl and Climate-KIC, Leaderlab has looked into how Copenhagen has managed to make this enormous transition. We’ve talked to key actors who played a leading role in making Copenhagen into what it is today to try to understand the dynamics of this remarkable change.

We’ve talked to current and past City Mayors, current and past City Architects, the investors and developers and central civil servants to name a few. We’ve condensed the factual and personal observations into 12 key actions and we believe that these represent the drivers of change, which is transforming the city of Copenhagen. You can download the recommendation: Liveability – 12 learnings from Copenhagen in PDF-format or continue reading below.

 

DRIVERS OF CHANGE IN COPENHAGEN’S TRANSITION

 

demonstration sojakage fabrikken

01 AGREEMENT BETWEEN THE CITY AND THE DANISH STATE ON LONG TERM DELVELOPMENT

Following the economic situation in the early 1990’s the city of Copenhagen and the Danish state agreed on several strategic long-term development projects to secure a strong capital. The agreement included transforming former harbour and military areas owned by the state into city development. These projects also became the first steps in attracting private investments to the city.

 

oeresunds-bridge-copenhagen-02

02 INVESTMENTS IN INFRASTRUCTURE – ON NATIONAL, REGIONAL AND LOCAL LEVEL

In the early 1990’s a series of major infrastructure projects were agreed upon. These included connecting Denmark and Sweden by bridge, the expansion of Copenhagen airport, and the construction of a metro.

 

skuespilhuset

03 PUBLIC INVESTMENTS IN CULTURE AND ARCHITECTURE

In 1996 Copenhagen was selected as European Capital of Culture. In the years leading up to 1996 and immediately after a number of public investments in cultural and educational institutions were made. These included the construction of a concert hall, a new opera house, a royal Danish playhouse, the extension of the national library and the transformation of former military facilities to the School of Architecture and the construction of a new university facilities for the Faculty of Humanities.

 

Copenhagen Harbourbath

04 TRANSITION OF POST INDUSTRIAL AREAS TO HOUSING AND RECREATION

In the 1990’s a large number of production areas were either closed or moved to other areas of Denmark. This meant that large areas in the centre of Copenhagen became available and were largely turned into recreational and housing areas. As a result Copenhagen got a vibrant harbour front and the local communities got access to both water and green areas.

 

Habourbath Copenhagen

05 REGENERATION OF DEPRIVED NEIGHBORHOODS

In 1995 the city’s demography was overrepresented by students and pensioners partly due to small housing units in poor state. A series of long-term regeneration projects were launched with the focus of creating better and more modern housing and creating stronger local communities with access to common areas and green court yards. Today the number of families living inside Copenhagen has increased dramatically.

 

nordhavnen-cobe-06

06 NEW URBAN DEVELOPMENT

A series of large urban development projects have been launched in both post industrial areas and in new areas. These include Bryggen, Ørestad, Sydhavnen, Nordhavn and Carlsberg. Although the jury is still out on the diversity, vibrance and liveability of many of these new areas, they have helped attract investors and showcasing Copenhagen as a dynamic city.

 

Climate plan Copenhagen

07 STRATEGIC PLANNING AND HIGH SUSTAINABILITY AMBITIONS

In the 1990’s there were no long-term plans for the city’s development which made the city unattractive to investors. The first municipal plan was launched in 1989. Then in 2000 came the Harbour plan, in 2001 the first architectural policy and in 2011 a long-term bicycle plan just to name a few. By 2015 it was decided that Copenhagen should be CO2 neutral by 2025. Strategic planning combined with long-term visions has created an urban engine for city officials to set joint political goals across municipal divisions and for public and private investors.

 

skt-kjelds-kvarter-08

08 COMBINING AGENDAS

Since the mid 2000’s the municipal focus has been to create citizen benefits from major public investments in i.e. climate adaptation and mitigation. This has lead to a number of significant public areas serving the dual purpose of protecting against cloud bursts as well as being recreational areas.

 

cykel slangen

09 ENGAGED CITIZENS

Copenhagen has a long tradition for engaging and listening to the citizens demands for the city. In the 1960’s the people of Copenhagen demanded a stronger focus on pedestrians and cyclists in the city planning which made the foundation of Copenhagen’s focus on walk- and bikeability. The creation of the Harbour Park was similarly due to local demands. Today the city administration and politicians pay great attention to citizens’ needs and demands – but they also demand that the inhabitants help participate in communities i.e. by local gardening or waste management.

 

Papirøen

10 TEMPORARY PROJECTS AND TANGIBLE RESULT

Copenhagen has worked strategically with creating fast visible results and installing temporary projects for the citizens to use and experience the transition of the city. Many of these projects are leisure projects, which produces value to the everyday life of citizens. Some of them are made permanent others close and are replaced by permanent constructions of a different type.

 

Christiania

11 STAY OFF AREAS

Copenhagen has been blessed with areas where the City Council in large periodes has not interfered to allow bottom up initiatives – most prominently with the free-town Christiania. This has allowed for diversity, bottom-up initiatives and experiments that has attracted citizens, bohemes, musicians, artists and turists from around the world.

 

human scale local community

12 HUMAN SCALE AND LOCAL COMMUNITY

Transparency, inclusion and life quality are among the key values at the centre of planning. On both the administrative and political side there is a constant focus on a city which is accessible, safe and pragmatic in its design. Many projects by international architects have been turned down due to arguments of the Copenhagen context. This slightly conservative approach has contributed to creating a city, that is trying to become the best and most modern version of a Nordic city.

 

We humbly thank the following for sharing their thoughts, observations and experiences with us:
Ritt Bjerregaard, former mayor of Copenhagen; Morten Kabell, Mayor of Environmental and Technical Affairs; Pernille Andersen CEO in the Environmental and Technical Department; Ingvar Sejr Hansen, Head of Division at Centre of Urban Development; Jørgen Abilgaard, executive climate project director; Jan Christiansen, architect and former City Architect; Tina Saaby, City Architect; Brian Hansen, Centre manager technical and environmental department in Copenhagen; Holger Bisgaard, former head of planning current Head of Division at the Ministry of Environment

 

For more information please contact Sofus Midtgaard, Managing Partner, Leaderlab: sofus@leaderlab.com or +45 30220111

Finally we would like to thank Climate-KIC for their support of the Liveable Cities pilot project.

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