BIG builds affordable floating village ‘Urban Rigger’ in Copenhagen, Denmark

Located at Copenhagen's waterfront, a unit of the sustainable student housing hosts 12 apartments across two levels, created by stacking nine shipping containers in a circle.

by Jincy Iype Dec 20, 2019

With perpetual influx into metropolitan cities, urbanisation has been accelerating, posing monstrous gaps in providing affordable housing for everyone. It is particularly challenging for students, to find permanent housing in an urban setting, which won’t bleed their pockets dry. As the number of students increase in a city, there is a higher need to accommodate them. Bridging this gap, and in the smartest, most sustainable way is the Urban Rigger student housing in Copenhagen, Denmark, developed by Kim Loudrup of Udvikling Danmark in close collaboration with Bjarke Ingels and architects from BIG.

  • Urban Rigger makes use of underutilised harbour areas of Copenhagen | Urban Rigger student housing| BIG | STIRworld
    Urban Rigger makes use of underutilised harbour areas of Copenhagen Image Credit: David Rasmussen, Courtesy of BIG
  • Urban Rigger units employed at the harbour | Urban Rigger student housing| BIG | STIRworld
    Urban Rigger units employed at the harbour Image Credit: Billede, Courtesy of Urban Rigger
  • Urban Rigger can be replicated anywhere with access to water | Urban Rigger student housing| BIG | STIRworld
    Urban Rigger can be replicated anywhere with access to water Image Credit: Courtesy of Urban Rigger

A design prototype that can essentially be replicated anywhere with access to water, the Urban Rigger housing unit is a unique, energy-efficient and floating, mobile property. These sustainable homes are made out of upcycled shipping containers, and are representative of the fact that designing with limited space, coupled with smart thinking and respect for the environment can lead to superbly creative ways of solving housing challenges – like these blue floating buildings on water!

04 mins watch Urban Rigger: Sustainable Student Housing by BIG, with Danfoss Solutions | Urban Rigger student housing| BIG | STIRworld
Urban Rigger: Sustainable Student Housing by BIG, with Danfoss Solutions Video Credit: Courtesy of Urban Rigger (Student Housing)

Affordable urban housing

The Urban Rigger unit is made by stacking nine shipping container units in a circle, which creates 12 studio apartments, each with a kitchen and a bathroom, designed to appear spacious in a compact space. Planned across two levels, the ground floor houses three apartments (30 sqm each), which is perfect for two people to reside comfortably. The rooms at the lower level have the kitchen and bedroom at one end, and a private balcony at the other end. There are nine apartments on the first floor (23 sqm each), all of which offer spectacular views of the water and the neighbourhood. Most of these units are painted in various, intense shades of blue, providing an extremely pleasing aesthetic for a housing residing over a glistening sea.

  • Planning and design process for Urban Rigger | Urban Rigger student housing| BIG | STIRworld
    Planning and design process for Urban Rigger Image Credit: Courtesy of BIG
  • One has direct access to the water from the courtyard | Urban Rigger student housing| BIG | STIRworld
    One has direct access to the water from the courtyard Image Credit: CLaurent De Carniere, Courtesy of BIG

All apartments observe private and public spaces in their planning; terraces, parking areas or community halls serve as public zones, while the apartments themselves are private areas. The Urban Riggers’ public areas comprise roof top terraces that give magnificent views towards the bright blue sea. The housing also has a small, green courtyard in its middle, owing to placement of the containers. One can directly access the water from the courtyard, which also has bike racks and room for kayaks and barbeques. In addition to a large community room with a kitchen, the basement is taken up by fully automated laundry rooms and individual storage rooms for each apartment.

01 min watch Urban Rigger: Optimized housing solution for harbor cities | Urban Rigger student housing| BIG | STIRworld
Urban Rigger: Optimized housing solution for harbor cities Video Credit: Courtesy of Urban Rigger (Student Housing)

Sustainable urban housing

The Urban Rigger employs a clean source of fuel to run electricity – energy from the sun. The unit has solar panels fixed atop its rooftop, which self produces clean solar energy from its photovoltaic systems, significantly lowering electricity costs and thereby contributing to the environment as well.

Solar panels and terrace on top of the housing | Urban Rigger student housing| BIG | STIRworld
Solar panels and terrace on top of the housing Image Credit: Courtesy of BIG

It also employs ‘hydro source heating’, which uses the surrounding sea water as a natural source for it. The design implementation is clever as the flow/circulation of water provides constant energy replacement, and is efficient as well due to its constant contact with the entire pipe.

Suggestive of the time, ‘low energy pumps’ installed in the apartments employ significantly less energy for deploying wastewater, for heating, circulation and for drinking water, along with heat pumps for floor heating and domestic water.

Today sustainable is almost another word for common sense, or making things practical and smart. – Bjarke Ingels, Bjarke Ingels Group
Inside the Urban Rigger | Urban Rigger student housing| BIG | STIRworld
Inside the Urban Rigger Image Credit: Morten Jerichau, Courtesy of BIG

With the Urban Rigger, BIG has astutely and sustainably answered the rising issue of uncontrolled urbanisation, by exploring and harnessing undiscovered resources within a city – Copenhagen’s waterfronts. By using a standard shipping container system, the typology of the building is so creatively simple, and easily replicable. Revitalising waterfronts across cities of the world present a brilliant way to provide attractive, affordable housing, with a gentler environmental impact along with making use of available resources.

Urban Rigger vision: Revitalising waterfronts across cities of the world | Urban Rigger student housing| BIG | STIRworld
Urban Rigger vision: Revitalising waterfronts across cities of the world Image Credit: Courtesy of BIG

Project Details

Name of the project: URBAN RIGGER
Location: Copenhagen, Denmark
Program: Housing
Area: 680 sqm
Year of completion: 2019
Client: Udvikling Danmark A/S
Architect: Bjarke Ingels Group
Collaborators: BIG Ideas, Danfoss A/S, Grundfos DK A/S, Hanwha Q CELLS Ltd., Miele, NIRAS A/S, Dirk Marine/House on Water
Partners in Charge: Bjarke Ingels, Jakob Sand, Jakob Lange, Finn Nørkjær
Project Leader: Joos Jerne, Jesper Boye Andersen, Lise Jessen, Christian Bom Team: Jonas Aarsø Larsen, Duncan Horswill, Brage Mæhle Hult, Birgitte Villadsen, David Zahle, Magdalene Maria Mroz, Jesper Bo Jensen, Dimitrie Grigorescu, Tore Banke, Annette Birthe Jensen, Perle van de Wyngert, Viktoria Millentrup, Dag Præstegaard, Toni Mateu, Aleksandra Sliwinska, Brigitta Gulyás, Adam Busko, Nicolas Millot, Carlos Soria, Stefan Wolf, Mads Odgaard Johansen, Stefan Plugaru, Kamila Rawicka, Elina Skujina, Jacob Lykkefold Aaen, Raphael Ciriani, Agne Tamasauskaite, Aaron Hales, Ioana Fartadi Scurtu, Christian Bom, Lise Jessen

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About Author

Jincy Iype

Jincy Iype

Iype is a trained architect, who often indulges in writing and amateur photography. She was a cinephile and a melophile even before she knew what those words meant. She is inclined towards architecture journalism, and can usually be found curled up reading a book, or cooking for therapeutic relief.

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