Most people use public spaces every day, all year. Squares, pavements, roads and parks are all part of the space that people inhabit when they are not at home. In Copenhagen, the urban spaces are part of a plan to make a better city for its inhabitants and visitors.
One of the city’s urban space projects is the transformation of one of the main pedestrian streets in central Copenhagen, Købmagergade. Danish architectural practice POLYFORM Architects designed the pedestrian street together with Dutch architectural firm Karres en Brands.
According to the architects, the main idea behind the project was to create an attractive and coherent route through the city – one that ensures positive experiences of the cityscape and a high level of flexibility for the many different users. (On a busy day, 100,000 people visit Købmagergade.)
POLYFORM Architects and Karres en Brands have created one consistent ‘city floor’ that stretches from façade to façade in the streets and onto the adjacent squares, including Kultorvet. Natural stones in black, white and grey tones create a unique course along the streets, where the pavement of brick slowly shifts in character from being light in the street areas to being dark in the squares. In this way, the pavement of bricks and the city spaces interact.
When asked about the vision for Copenhagen’s city spaces and what creates a great urban space, Copenhagen’s city architect, Tina Saaby, answered.
“Our vision for Copenhagen’s urban spaces is that they should address diversity by taking all kinds of people into consideration. All people must feel invited to use the public spaces. In this way, it is also about creating solidarity and communities. Our urban spaces should also get more people to walk, while we also want people to reside more in the cityscape,” says Tina Saaby.
Another location in Copenhagen where efforts currently are being made to attract more people is Sankt Annae Square in the old city centre. Here, Danish architectural firm Schønherr has designed a new public space focusing on better conditions for pedestrians and people on bicycles.
“Part of the municipality’s focus in the Sankt Annae project is to create green city spaces where people can reside, and encourage more people to walk. Now there is a wider pavement, while the conditions for people on bicycles are also improved,” says Tina Saaby.
According to Schønherr, the site will serve as a space where people can relax, but the square must also be able to host special events. The quality of the architecture must be very high, because the site is located in a sensitive area and will create a connection between some of Copenhagen’s most distinctive and beautiful buildings.
Hosting special events and everyday events is something that will become more important in the future, according to city architect, Tina Saaby. In fact, more communities will be created in the urban space in the future.
“The city’s community is also the life between the houses. Previously, community building mostly took place inside the buildings, but today we are aware that people come together and create communities in the urban space. In the future, we will see more use of public spaces for everyday activities like sports, events and business meetings,” says Tina Saaby.
In addition to designing the new Købmagergade, POLYFORM Architects and Karres en Brands recently transformed the museum garden in front of the National Gallery of Denmark, located a few blocks away from Købmagergade. This project was instigated in an effort to get more people to spend time in the garden.
“The project by POLYFORM Architects and Karres en Brands focused on how a public space could encourage more people to linger. The old garden’s goal was to lead people to the entrance of the museum as fast as possible. The new project is just the opposite. More people rest a while in the garden, and perhaps some of them decide to go to the museum while they’re sitting there,” says Tina Saaby.
The new design includes a large pool in the garden, in front of the main entrance to the gallery. Functioning as a natural meeting point, the pool has a metre-wide rim that invites museum visitors to sit and discuss their experiences of the artworks, while children play and passers-by settle with take-away coffees.
According to partner in POLYFORM Architects Thomas Kock, the pool can do much more, however.
“It is multifunctional. In everyday life, the pool will act as a water surface that reflects the sky and pulls the towers into the garden, but it can also be emptied and used for art installations, concerts and performance art, or it can be converted into a skating area in winter. With a diameter of 32 metres, there is room for almost everything.”