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Climate change adaptation

Urban planning and development

North Harbour in Copenhagen – From industry to sustainable district

25. May 2022

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SLETH is an architecture, landscape and planning company specializing in sustainable urban transformation. We work with the concept 'architectural planning', which creates urban spaces that relate to human scale and support sustainable everyday life.

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The cargo ships have moved out of the inner harbour. In their place, a city district is emerging on the water, adding a new chapter to the story of the Copenhagen harbour front.

SLETH won the open, international competition together with Rambøll, Cobe, and Sangberg and has since the structural plan collaborated on the construction of several urban spaces, landscapes and local plans within the plan. In just 40 years, Nordhavn will be a vibrant harbour city that will be inhabited by 40,000 people and contain jobs for a further 40,000. How do we reuse and redevelop leftover industrial spaces on an urban scale?

Transforming an industrial harbour into a sustainable new city district



Nordhavn is based on the principles of a “5 minute city”, with public transport, city districts, local facilities, green areas and water all within 5 minutes reach. The structural plan establishes a number of strategies and physical interventions that create a flexible and robust plan for the future development of Copenhagen’s new sustainable district. By digging new canals and creating new islets, the area is divided into smaller, well-defined urban districts, each with their own special character.
5 :11

“5 minute city”

Video credits: State of Green


Nordhavn is a city of sustainable mobility, where it is easier to walk, bike or use public transport than it is to drive. The green loop is an expressway for bikes, connecting the individual neighborhoodswith each other and with the rest of Copenhagen.

The islets can be developed one islet at a time, leaving room for unpredicted needs and preserving the ability to respond to the challenges of the given time. This vision is a tool and a set of principles for development during the years to come. SLETH has realized a number of urban spaces in Nordhavn,
including Sandkaj. Sandkaj is a wooden promenade that runs along the entire southern quay in the Aarhusgade district in Nordhavn, approx. 425m.

The project is based on the idea of ​​interpreting the industrial nature of the Nordhavn district and transforming the linear space into a central urban space for the new neighborhood. Public spaces are concentrated along the seafront and create a number of urban spaces with a direct relationship and close contact with the water.

The seafront is designed as a continuous oak deck that prioritizes pedestrians, bikes and stays along the deck. The materials and planting are raw and robust based on the industrial character of the harbor.

Each neighborhood contains a mix of features that support social diversity and create active and safe urban environments. In addition to the recreational qualitiesthat are associated with the aquatic environment, local green areas have been developedon each islet, all of which are close to homes and offices. 

Nordhavn is the first urban area in Denmark to have achieved the highest possible sustainability certification in accordance with the DGNB standard.


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