Team Santini in Copenhagen

Masterplanning and Regeneration – Ana Santini studied and worked in Copenhagen for 4.5 years, so knows and will tell you absolutely everything.

In Copenhagen the bike and the people come first – a welcomed novelty for us Brits. Team Santini was thrown straight into the Danish way of life, setting out to explore how the Danes are able to create spaces which are renowned for their liveability and design.

We cycled past the Copenhagen Stadium through Ørestad to the iconic 8 Building by BIG, where we stopped for coffee and a traditional Danish open sandwich. The 8 building was our first experience and reflection of the local culture. It demonstrated how dramatic architecture can incorporate extensive natural elements such as the green roof and courtyards that each resident sees from their home. Every resident has a small front garden, identical in size and with an Amelanchier tree, and yet every front garden has been personalised by residents with their own plants and art. In addition, opportunities for outdoor dining are maximised. This development struck a balance between a connected neighbourhood and a strong sense of ownership.

We cycled onwards to the Islands Brygge waterside residential area. Here we found a beach, soft sand dunes and hardy dune planting. There was a noticeable lack of tarmac, with residents able to step out of their front door on to sand, or on a warm summer’s day plunge straight into the water for a swim. Residents do not have their own back gardens, but instead we found a beautiful public space with streets that are truly ‘active’, filled with children’s toys and picnic benches – there was a strong sense of community and a definite ‘knowing your neighbour’ feel. It was evident that the scheme had been planned to be used in this way, but a bottom up approach has been implemented – allowing for a mix of both incidental and planned experiences. 

Our final destination was the historic area of the Carlsberg brewer’s district, where traditional architecture and streets met modern developments. Appropriate use of colour helped unify the old and new, with the rustic colours and paving of Carlsberg reflected in the modern buildings through colour repetition and the circular shapes of the old barrels. Simple, minimalist design, with well executed finishes nods to the past without attempting to mimic it. In this area we were again impressed by the wide pedestrian and cycle ways. 

Our whistle-stop tour of Copenhagen’s various districts and residential areas taught us that the key to the city’s reputation as a desirable city to live lies in its masterplanning and community. Access to nature and water is often at the forefront of design, and part of the culture of cycling and living together in social neighbourhoods. We finished off the day experiencing exactly this – with beers and pizza, surrounded by the locals – a ‘hygge’ feel in the words of Ana Santini! 

Written by Assistant Landscape Architect, Emma Gray and Graduate Landscape Architect, Julia Torr.

Find out more about the practice’s danish-style 20th year celebrations and what the teams got up to in Copenhagen
Team Marohn – Public Squares and Beautiful Streets
Team Swift – Connectivity and Cycling
Team Chairetaki – Education and Culture
Team Lord – Parks and Cemeteries
Team Tokunaga – Housing Typologies and Gardens