The square has a unique undulating landscape with hollow hills and low bicyclebeds creating a new and innovative way to park bicycles. It is one of the largest public spaces in Copenhagen and has room for more than 2,000 parked bicycles. COBE, under Dan Stubbergaard’s leadership, created the design in close collaboration with EKJ Consulting Engineers. At more than 20,000 m2 Karen Blixens Plads is one of the largest public squares in Copenhagen.
Situated between the University of Copenhagen and the Danish Royal Library’s buildings at the university’s South Campus, the open and welcoming urban space is an innovative, spectacular and multi-functional architectural design that accommodates and promotes green transportation, climate change adaptation and biodiversity. The project was supported by a generous donation from the private foundation A.P Møller Fonden.
Innovative bicycle parking
The combined public square and university plaza is designed as a carpet that covers an undulating terrain of small hills and breaks the large space up into smaller zones with room for activities both on and inside the hills (domes). The three bicycle hills were created as cast concrete shells clad with hand-laid tiles in colors echoing the exteriors of the surrounding university buildings.
In addition to serving as an active meeting place for students, employees and locals, the square also contains a high-capacity bicycle parking space for the many users of the university, including 16,000 students and 2,000 employees. The innovative and unique design has room for 2,000 New spectacular square opens in Copenhagen.
In collaboration with CN3, COBE and EKJ’s construction engineers calculated and created 3D projections of the iconic concrete dome constructions. The solution is based on a shell construction as the loadbearing structure. Aesthetically, the design provides a large airy space underneath the domes. However, while a shell construction does not normally have holes in it, these domes have large openings, which constituted a significant challenge and required additional statistical analyses.
In a soft transition, Karen Blixens Plads brings together the university’s need for urban spaces with the open landscape of the neighboring Amager Fælled (Amager Commons). The north side of the square, where the three main entrances to the university are located, is an open and multipurpose space. To the south, hilly, undulating meadowland connects the campus with the commons. In addition to bringing nature into the campus the landscape also contributes to climate change adaptation by adding a capacity to handle stormwater.
Delaying rainwater in depressions in the landscape utilizes the recreational values of the water and creates small wet biotopes that support biodiversity, enable rainwater evaporation and supplements the canal in case of extreme precipitation, thus contributing to climate change adaptation. The design uses simple, sturdy and durable materials, just as lighting and furnishings are kept to a few, simple elements to ensure a sustainable urban space. All the selected elements are low-maintenance and contribute to the square’s green profile.
A central feature is an outdoor auditorium with seating for up to 1,000 people on the manmade hills. The hilltops offer additional standing room for concerts or other large public events. “The almost cathedral-like form of the bicycle hills further offers an aesthetic experience in its own right, both when people park their bikes and when they meet at the hills for lectures, group work, concerts or Friday afternoon socializing,” says COBE’s founder, Dan Stubbergaard. Source by COBE.
- Location: Copenhagen, Denmark
- Architect: COBE
- Full-service consultant: EKJ Consulting Engineers
- Additional engineers: CN3, Vind-Vind
- Contractors: M. J. Eriksson (construction contract), NCC Denmark (concrete contract)
- Client: Danish Building and Property Agency. Private donation: grant from the private foundation A.P. Møller og Hustru Chastine Mc-Kinney Møllers Fond til almene Formaal
- Program: new urban space by the University of Copenhagen, South Campus (KUA)
- Size: 21,415 m2
- Year: 2019
- Photographs: Rasmus Hjortshøj – COAST, Mads Nissen – Ritzau Scanpix, Courtesy of COBE