Water is no longer the only thing running in the area around Usserød Å. As a result of one of Denmark’s largest climate adaptation projects, led by landscape architects Schønherr, the citizens of Kokkedal north of Copenhagen can now go for a run, walk their dogs and play in the previously desolate spot. The project won the DANVA & Realdania Climate Award 2017 for the way it involves local citizens in the solutions and uses water, not as a challenge, but as a resource for urban development.
The problem becomes part of the solution
Cloudbursts resulting in flooding of the neighbourhoods around Usserød Å in Kokkedal have been the cause of frustration for many citizens since the late 2000s. But instead of seeing water as the problem, Schønherr saw an opportunity to use climate adaptation as part of the solution.
Architect at Schønherr Holger Dahl explains: ‘The project was, from the beginning, thought of as a project that would unite climate adaptation and social recovery in Kokkedal.’
As much as being a climate adaptation project, it is also concerned with community development of the urban area of Kokkedal, making the city safer by turning the desolate and hostile creek area, previously a place for shady activities, into a more accessible and appealing way of engaging with nature. On top of that, the solutions have been developed in close cooperation with the community of Kokkedal, integrating schools and institutions, and increasing the sense of ownership among the citizens.
The blue-green garden-city
Schønherr has been in charge of 35 climate adaptation projects all over Kokkedal, which it calls ‘the blue-green garden-city’. The water is led from the potentially flooded parts of the city through designated pools and areas where water is upcycled, such as community gardens and playgrounds integrating rainwater in the play activities. From there, the rainwater is led into the creek, which has been upgraded to be able to handle much larger amounts of rainwater but has also been made accessible to the public with bridges that tie the two parts on either side of the area together.
‘With 35 different projects around the area, the key to success on this project was to facilitate cooperation between the local housing associations, Fredensborg Kommune, Realdania, the utility companies and the Danish Foundation for Culture and Sports Facilities,’ Holger Dahl points out.
How the idea arose
When, in 2010, the area around Usserød Å flooded for the second time in three years, causing damage to a large residential part of Kokkedal, it was time to do something about the problem. The area needed to be made more resistant to large amounts of rain, so climate adaptation was integrated into a large-scale city renovation project. But instead of water being seen as a problem, to be led away or hidden in a sewer system, it became part of the solution, bringing people closer to each other and to nature.