Copenhagen now houses 30% of the population of Denmark and the city is growing rapidly with 1,000 people moving here every month. Obviously there is a huge pressure to build new housing and with that pressure there is a very clear understanding by politicians, planners and architects that they have to get the new developments right.
An introduction to this exhibition at the Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts puts the problems succinctly:
“The strain on the city leads to rising prices of land, and high construction costs lead to higher costs of accommodation, both in new build and renovated properties. This makes it difficult to build in general, and almost impossible to build cheaply ….. The city is being segregated into enclaves, with wealthy people in attractive, but expensive districts ….. while citizens with lower incomes have to settle in less attractive districts of the metropolis. This is a threat to social welfare and cohesion.”
But, as with the recent exhibition at the Danish Architecture Centre about the problems developing with climate change, this is neither a reason for doom and gloom nor an excuse to do nothing but talk anxiously about how awful it all will be. Rather, work has already begun on a massive amount of new building in the city … this exhibition is about housing schemes well on in the stages of planning so either where building work has started or is imminent. The contrast with the UK could not be greater: although both countries have been through the same economic recession, politicians in England seem to talk endlessly about the lack of housing but do nothing while in Denmark there has been a massive investment in infrastructure and work is progressing to build homes all round the city. And this is not small-scale development. The new area of Nordhavn is in part on land that was industrial dockland and in part is claimed from the sea but this area alone will have homes for 40,000 people and places for jobs for 40,000 people.
Planners and architects in Copenhagen are well beyond the stage of trying to decide what they might do but clearly, from this exhibition, they are making sure that they do it properly.