Karen Blixens Plads
Late August was the official opening of a new, major square in Copenhagen: Karen Blixens Plads.
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 20,000m2 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.
PREMIER CONSTRUCTION MAGAZINE spoke to Caroline Nagel of COBE Architects about the site in a bit more detail.
How did you get involved in creating the design for this project?
“It was by competition. We did it in 2014 and we were lucky and won it. Since then, it was coming up with the designs and it was completed in August/September 2019. Its been a long time; but it is one of the biggest squares in Copenhagen and it’s also quite complicated so I think it was actually a normal running time for a project like this.”
What was the brief you were given?
“We had to define a new, very urban university space where students could meet. Within that, an issue was finding space for 2000 bicycle parking spaces, because biking is a very important mobility function in Copenhagen. These included covered spaces and uncovered spaces. The square also needed to connect with the green area around it.”
If I were stood in Karen Blixen Plads now, what would I see?
“You would see a hilly landscape. It’s an urban landscape towards the university, where there are manmade hills that create bike parking. This hilly landscape continues but it turns into a lush, green landscape. We have a contrast between urban and natural here.”
Were there any challenges with this project?
“We needed to figure out how to build this massive square and we had to calculate all the measurements and different parts of it. The detailed design was quite complex, but on the construction side, they had to have really good craftsmanship. It started from the concrete surface by NCC Denmark who were doing it, and that went successfully. But when we put the next layer on the concrete surface it was tiling. They had to cut a lot of stone to fit the roundness of the space. It was a complex project geometrically. But it was fantastic input from everyone on site.”
Have you had any feedback from the public?
“Yes. The students came back in September from their break, and when we’ve visited, we can see them really enjoying using the space. The autumn sun is out, and they’re even using it for outdoor lectures! Also, for Denmark, it’s quite fantastic to have these little hills throughout the square because it’s quite a flat country, so it’s an experience for people to come and visit it. People are running over it and cycling over it. It’s nice for the people living near there, and also the students who have finally got an outdoor area where they can meet and enjoy the outdoors together. I think it’s been a success.”
How important has this project been for your company?
“Very, very important because it’s one of the biggest squares in Copenhagen but also it’s now a destination space, which is functional, and it’s been considerate to the earth too. We’ve built something that then will get something back again in the way of greenery. And with the hills, we are promoting that the public use their bikes even more, so it’s a good mobility strategy also.”