A bicycle tour of Copenhagen's waterfront architecture

Rachel Borchard gets on her bike to discover the city's quirky charms and riverside projects
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Schmidt, Hammer & Lassen, Crystal and Cloud

1 / 20 Schmidt, Hammer & Lassen, Crystal and Cloud

Schmidt, Hammer & Lassen, Crystal and Cloud

2 / 20 Schmidt, Hammer & Lassen, Crystal and Cloud

Schmidt, Hammer & Lassen, Crystal and Cloud

3 / 20 Schmidt, Hammer & Lassen, Crystal and Cloud

Lundgaard & Tranberg, Seb Bank & Pension

4 / 20 Lundgaard & Tranberg, Seb Bank & Pension

Lundgaard & Tranberg, Seb Bank & Pension

5 / 20 Lundgaard & Tranberg, Seb Bank & Pension

Lundgaard & Tranberg, Royal Danish Playhouse

6 / 20 Lundgaard & Tranberg, Royal Danish Playhouse

Lundgaard & Tranberg, Royal Danish Playhouse

7 / 20 Lundgaard & Tranberg, Royal Danish Playhouse

Lundgaard & Tranberg, Royal Danish Playhouse

8 / 20 Lundgaard & Tranberg, Royal Danish Playhouse

Lundgaard & Tranberg, Royal Danish Playhouse

9 / 20 Lundgaard & Tranberg, Royal Danish Playhouse

Henning Larsen, Copenhagen Opera House

10 / 20 Henning Larsen, Copenhagen Opera House

Bicycle ramp installed along waterfront steps

11 / 20 Bicycle ramp installed along waterfront steps

Signe Bindsleu Hennksen, NOMA (18th century warehouse renovated in 2004)

12 / 20 Signe Bindsleu Hennksen, NOMA (18th century warehouse renovated in 2004)

Signe Bindsleu Hennksen, NOMA (18th century warehouse renovated in 2004)

13 / 20 Signe Bindsleu Hennksen, NOMA (18th century warehouse renovated in 2004)

Nursery in Amerika Plads, Copenhagen

14 / 20 Nursery in Amerika Plads, Copenhagen

C F Moller and Ruth Campau, Nordlyset

15 / 20 C F Moller and Ruth Campau, Nordlyset

C F Moller and Ruth Campau, Nordlyset

16 / 20 C F Moller and Ruth Campau, Nordlyset

3XN, DFDS Ferry Terminal

17 / 20 3XN, DFDS Ferry Terminal

3XN, DFDS Ferry Terminal

18 / 20 3XN, DFDS Ferry Terminal

Arne Jacobson, Radisson Blu Royal Hotel, formerly SAS Royal Hotel (1960)

19 / 20 Arne Jacobson, Radisson Blu Royal Hotel, formerly SAS Royal Hotel (1960)

Arne Jacobson, Radisson Blu Royal Hotel, formerly SAS Royal Hotel (1960)

20 / 20 Arne Jacobson, Radisson Blu Royal Hotel, formerly SAS Royal Hotel (1960)


Once an industrial hive, Copenhagen's waterways have shifted focus to its banks in the past decade. New landmark cultural buildings and public spaces have created a waterfront walkway which cyclists and pedestrians have adopted with ease. Commercial and residential properties in nearby streets have responded to their riverside proximity. Danish urbanist Jan Gehl's quest for Copenhagen residents to reclaim 'lost' space is prevalent across this cycle tour.

Starting along the Kalvebod Brygge waterfront are two recently completed office blocks which aim to improve the connection between the waterfront and the business city centre. Schmidt/Hammer/Lassen's asymmetrically designed building known as the `Crystal and Cloud' is elevated above the ground to enhance views over the water. Lundgaard & Tranberg's SEB Bank building is also elevated, situated on a raised landscaped exterior.

Take a detour to look up at Arne Jacobsen's Radisson SAS Royal Hotel. One of the first skyscrapers of the city, this 1960 landmark still holds particular allure: Jacobsen's Swan and Egg chairs were designed especially for the hotel and are preserved in Room 606 which has all the original interiors still in place.

After cycling north for 15 minutes along the waterfront, you will come to the inner harbour, the centrepiece for the 2000 municipal study that looked to regenerate the area. Stop for a Smørrebrød sandwich from tourist haven Nyhavn and then loop around the corner to Lundgaard & Tranberg's elegant Royal Danish Playhouse. Partly suspended over the water, the Playhouse is pitched in a veritable dual with The Opera across the waterfront. The structure is clad in dark brickwork, copper and glass, creating a delicate balance of materials. This harmony is reflected in its environmentally responsive site: it uses seawater and surplus heating from the auditoriums to reduce energy consumption. Situated opposite the Playhouse is the much lauded Noma. The restaurant's philosophy is very much connected to nature and the sea and head chef and owner René Redzepi realises this connection with inspired dishes. Redzepi even has a boat with a sophisticated kitchen on the water close to the restaurant, from where he conducts many of his experiments.

Snake around the Playhouseу oak promenade up to the pentagon shaped historical fortification, Kastellet and note that steps are much easier with a bike slide.

Further up lies Amerika Plads, a residential complex masterplanned by West 8 architects and built at the northern end of the harbour. Warehouses have been revamped and new residential high-rises invite residents (largely businessmen) to enjoy habour living. It has little infrastructure apart from an excellent bakery (stop no.2), but is connected to established neigbourhood Osterbro via a highway to its west. Of particular note within the complex is C F Moller and artist Ruth Campau's collaboration on residential building Nordlyset (meaning Northern Light), with its canary-yellow striped glass frames. North of the complex is the DFDS ferry terminal, a glass streamlined beacon that sees 1500 passengers a day and, being perched off the pier, allows light to pass through the centre of the terminal.

Across town, Daniel Libeskind's recently opened CABINN Metro Hotel sits in the new Orestad region by the waterfront. Other masterplans for new districts are underway including Nordhavnen. Plans include extending existing waterways and creating high density small islands for residents and workers. The vast stretch will have planned roads for bicycles, with cars forced to take highly inconvenient routes. Green mobility planning at its finest.

 

Rachel Borchard is a member of Black Country Atelier




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