The Life-Sized City Blog: Kalvebod Wave and a Lost Opportunity

There’s an exciting new development underway on the north side of Copenhagen harbour. A boardwalk extending out into the water, designed by JDS Architects for the City of Copenhagen. The project is called Kalvebod Waves - named after the stretch of harbourfront, Kalvebod Brygge. When the harbour was decommissioned for commercial traffic over a decade ago, the City was keen to get development going. Unfortunately, they turned a blind eye to the projects that a number of developers proposed. The result is a stretch of waterfront that is so shockingly devoid of architectural creativity and urban spaces for humans that you’d think it was the mid-sixties all over again. It took a few years but the City realised that they had screwed up and, when a new City Architect took over the job, there was more focus on design and architecture rather than just building in a hurry.

The only building that is actually interesting is the first one near the bridge Langebro. The Nyredit Building, from 2001, and designed by architects Schmidt Hammer Lassen. The building is in this shot and the fog in this photo conveniently hides the architectural brain farts further down the harbour. So the Kalvebod Waves is a welcome addition to life on the harbourfront. The north side is the sunniest side - incredibly important in a Nordic city and making the City's first burst of Hurry Up Architecture look even more stupid.

It's all going to be better know. Check out the slideshow on JDS Architects site for all the cool details like integrated kayak parking/docking, etc.

But wait! Hang on. I remember seeing the early visualisations of the project from JDS Architects. I realised last week that something quite brilliant was missing. Something quite important. Here is the original visualisation:

Do you see it? Top right. Two ramps leading up to Langebro bridge and back down again. Bicycle and pedestrian ramps to provide a much-needed A2B access for bicycle traffic crossing the harbour.

Below you can see the current situation if you are coming along the harbour and want to cross the bridge. It's the green line. Hopelessly inconvenient. The orange lines indicate steep stairways that shorten the journey, but increase the pain-in-the-ass-ness of the route.

The original plans from JDS Architects added a brilliant mobility benefit for many of the 20,000 + bicycle users who use Langebro each day. These ramps where, however, dropped by the City of Copenhagen. So I asked around. It turns out that the ramps were dropped because they would negatively impact the architectural integrity of the bridge. Which is one of the reasons I've learned caused the exclusion of the ramps. There has been a bridge connection here since 1690. The current bridge is from 1954. I'm sorry, but if you look at it, it's a butt-ugly bascule bridge.

It was nice in 1908 but it was butt ugly in the 1950s and still butt ugly in 1975 as well as today. The only thing of architectural interest is the bridgemaster's tower on the opposite side:

So personally I don't buy the blah blah blah architectural integrity whining. Two ramps up to the bridge would add to the aesthetics and, more importantly, it would provide a prioritised bicycle route for thousands of citizens. The bridge doesn't go up much anymore compared to when the harbour was busy. Only 3-4 times a week. So... enthusastic applause for JDS Architects for the whole Kalvebod Wave project but a twisted nipple to the City of Copenhagen for their mobility FAIL in dropping the bicycle and pedestrian link where it is much needed.

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