Cobe Architects completed in 2019 the Karen Blixens square in Copenhagen. With hollow bicycle hills and low beds, the square has a unique undulating landscape that provides 2,000 new bicycle parking spaces to the city of Copenhagen.
Karen Blixens Square Technical Information
- Architects: COBE
- Location: Copenhagen, Denmark
- Client: Danish Building and Property Agency. Private donation from the private foundation A.P. Møller og Hustru Chastine Mc-Kinney Møllers Fond til almene Formaal.
- Typology: Urban Space / Park & Bicycle Parking
- Size: 21,415 m2
- Full-service consultant: EKJ Consulting Engineers
- Additional engineers: CN3, Vind-Vind.
- Contractors: M. J. Eriksson, NCC Denmark
- Project Year: 2019
- Photographs: © Rasmus Hjortshøj – COAST
All in all, we have created a unique space based on three main principles: improving the connection between landscape and urban space, integrating optimal green spaces with a large capacity for bicycle parking and creating a space that offers good social meeting places and learning environments. 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.
– Dan Stubbergaard, COBE founder
Karen Blixen Square Photographs
Text by the Architects
With 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 design that accommodates and promotes green transportation, climate change adaptation, and biodiversity. A generous donation supported the project from the private Danish foundation A.P Møller Fonden.
Innovative bicycle parking
The combined public square and university plaza are 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. 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 bicycles.
Copenhagen is one of the world’s leading bicycle cities, with more than 40 per cent of the city’s inhabitants riding their bike for their daily commute. That requires a new and flexible approach to bicycle parking. In previous projects, we have developed innovative bicycle parking solutions that form a natural element in the environment. By Nørreport Station, for example, we created the so-called bicycle beds, and here, at Karen Blixen Plads, the solution is bicycle hills. The integrated hilly landscape creates a space with a large capacity for bicycles, two-thirds of them in covered spaces inside the bicycle hills
– Dan Stubbergaard
In collaboration with CN3, 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 load-bearing structure. Aesthetically, the design provides a large airy space underneath the bicycle hills. However, while a shell construction does not usually 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 commons. The north side of the square, where the three main entrances to the university are located, is an open and multi-purpose 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. It creates small wet biotopes that support biodiversity, enables 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 features 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 humanmade hills. The hilltops offer additional standing room for concerts or other large public events.
COBE is an architectural firm founded in 2006 by architect Dan Stubbergaard. In thirteen years, COBE has become a leading office with a profound understanding of the function of architecture as a social engine. The firm’s projects are shaped by the specific potentials of each given site and insist on generating added value for the future users and the surrounding environment. Another key priority for COBE is sustainability and green solutions.