The Bjarke Ingles Group (BIG), led by Danish architect Bjarke Ingles, has been making its presence felt over the past one decade, since its inception in 2005, for its divergent, fresh, innovative and ‘so-obvious-yet-never-done’ way of thinking. Remarkable projects like the Mountain Dwellings, a housing project in Copenhagen; Serpentine Gallery Pavilion in London; VIΛ 57 West, the pyramid shaped housing project in New York, and the King Street West condo community in Toronto are among many others that have been widely discussed, critiqued, and appreciated.
With offices in Copenhagen, New York, London and Barcelona, the firm is currently involved in a large number of projects throughout Europe, North America, Asia and the Middle East, led by the now 45-year-old architect.
Their recent project, the CopenHill, is another ‘outside the box’ work added to the firm’s portfolio. Also known as Amager Bakke, due to its location on the industrial waterfront of Amager, it opened recently as a new breed of waste-to-energy plant topped with a ski slope, hiking trail and climbing wall. The project symbolises the notion of hedonistic sustainability while aligning with Copenhagen’s goal of becoming the world’s first carbon-neutral city by 2025. CopenHill is a 41,000 sqm waste-to-energy plant with an urban recreation centre and environmental education hub, turning a mundane social infrastructure project into an architectural landmark.
CopenHill was conceived as a public infrastructure project that would impact the society and the context it is based in. The intention was to replace the adjacent 50-year-old waste-to-energy plant with the new Amager Resource Center (ARC). At the site of industrial waterfront of Amager, raw industrial facilities have been used for extreme sports like wakeboarding and go-kart racing, and hence, it was required that the new power plant caters to the recreational requirements of the society.
The internal volumes of the power plant have been determined by the precise positioning and organisation of its machinery in ascending height order, creating an efficient, sloping rooftop fit for a 9,000-sqm ski terrain. From the top, experts will be able to glide down the artificial ski slope the same length as an Olympic half-pipe, test the freestyle park or try the timed slalom course, while beginners and kids can practice on the lower slopes. Skiers will also be able to ascend the park from the platter lift, carpet lifts, or glass elevator for a glimpse inside the 24-hour operations of a waste incinerator.
For non-skiers, facilities such as the rooftop bar, cross-fit area, a climbing wall and the view from the highest plateau in the city would be extremely engaging. A 490-m hiking and running trail lined with trees has also been designed within a lush, mountainous terrain, by Danish architectural lab SLA. The 10,000-sqm green roof addresses the challenging micro-climate of an 85-m high park, rewinding a bio-diverse landscape while absorbing heat and minimising storm water runoff.
Beneath the slopes, whirring furnaces, steam, and turbines convert 440,000 tons of waste annually into enough clean energy to deliver electricity and heating for 150,000 homes. The necessities of the power plant to complete this task, from ventilation shafts to air-intakes, help create this varied sloping topography of a mountain. Ten floors of administrative space have been occupied by the ARC team, including a 600-sqm education centre for academic tours, workshops and sustainability conferences.
CopenHill’s continuous façade comprises 1.2 m tall and 3.3 m wide aluminium bricks stacked like gigantic blocks overlapping with each other. Interspersed within this façade lie glazed windows that allow daylight to reach the depths of the facility, while larger openings on the southwest façade illuminate workstations on the administrative floors. On the longest vertical façade, an 85 m climbing wall has been installed to be the tallest artificial climbing wall in the world for new world records to be broken with views inside the factory. At the bottom of the ski slope, a 600-sqm après-ski bar welcomes locals and visitors to unwind.
Instead of considering CopenHill as an isolated architectural object, the approach to the design of the project was conceived as an opportunity for the locale to thrive. CopenHill not only becomes a reflection of the progressive vision of the firm BIG, but also addresses a space for recreation and rejuvenation that the city required. Formerly a piece of infrastructure in an industrial zone, CopenHill now becomes the new social destination, and thus serves the purpose of architecture where the building serves its function, belongs to the place and its people.
Name: CopenHill/ Amager Bakke
Location: Copenhagen, Denmark
Program: Body culture
Architects: Bjarke Ingels Group (BIG)
Partners-in-charge: Bjarke Ingels, David Zahle, Jakob Lange, Brian Yang
Project leaders: Jesper Boye Andersen, Claus Hermansen, Nanna Gyldholm Møller
Size: 41000 sqm
Project type: Competition
Client: Amager Resource Center
Detailed Design: SLA, Lüchinger+Meyer, MOE, Rambøll, Jesper Kongshaug and BIG Ideas
Competition: AKT, Topotek 1, Man Made Land, Realities: United