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Urban planning and development

Smart cities

Urban planning and development the Danish way

Danish urban planning is witnessing a shift from a “people-centric” to “life-centric” approach, recognising planetary boundaries and life in all its diversity, rather than simply human wellbeing.

Publication: Urban green transition

This article is a part of the white paper “Urban Green Transition”. Discover Denmark’s plans for transforming our cities for a new reality.

Download our white paper to find solutions, insights and perspectives for the sustainable cities of tomorrow.

Explore the publication

While a thorough analysis is well beyond the scope of this white paper, there is an evident red thread of principles underpinning the modern Danish city planning and design tradition that is recognisable in projects where Danish urban planners and architects are involved – domestically and internationally.

The liveable city

Fundamental to this tradition is a people-first approach which supersedes city space and the architecture of buildings themselves. Emphasising liveability, Danish cities and neighbourhoods are designed for people to thrive in. It’s about the “life between buildings”, as renowned Danish architect and urban planner Jan Gehl put it back in 1971. This approach focuses on creating walkable, bikeable neighbourhoods with plenty of green spaces and public transportation options, making it easy for people to get around in a healthy, eco-friendly, and efficient manner.

Discover the case: Climate City Middelfart: a synthesis of climate adaption and urban development

Holistic and environmentally conscious

Danish urban planning also has a preference for the holistic view. Rather than looking at individual buildings or streets in isolation, Danish planners will usually take a strategic view of the urban area, considering multiple aspects of urban development, including social, economic, and environmental factors. Holistic and strategic urban planning is considered a key discipline in the ongoing transformation of our cities, a premise for taking informed decisions. Acknowledging the need for accelerated green transition, today cities, neighbourhoods, and buildings are being designed and retrofitted with a focus on resource and energy efficiency, clean energy, and decarbonisation while also factoring in the consequences of climate change, such as rising sea levels, extreme weather events, and loss of biodiversity.

The refurbishment of buildings is increasingly conducted with material circularity in mind, and in urban mobility infrastructure low-carbon options, such as biking and public transportation, are prioritised over motorised vehicles.

Towards dialogue and insight exchange

By putting life first, striving for increased sustainability, and applying cross-disciplinary collaboration, the ecosystem of Danish city professionals has made great strides in transforming urban areas into attractive, vibrant places while minimising their impact on the environment. Of course, Danish city experts do not have all the answers required for urban green transition. All the people, companies, and organisations mentioned in this white paper are very keen to learn from peers in other countries about the opportunities and barriers for scaling some of the concepts in a larger and more complex international setting.

With 50 cities around the world holding populations that exceed that of Denmark, Danes are in many ways worlds apart from the reality of the planet’s true urban centres. Nonetheless, Denmark’s approach to urban planning and development still holds valuable inspiration for other countries and cities around the world in the transformation of urban areas.

This article is part of the publication 'Urban green transition'

Join us on a journey, where we demonstrate why holistic and strategic city planning and development within mobility and infrastructure, climate adaptation, as well as environmentally conscious architecture and construction must take centre stage in the transformed cities of tomorrow.


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