COBE creates a landscape of hollow hills for a bicycle parking space in Copenhagen
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COBE creates a landscape of hollow hills for a bicycle parking space in Copenhagen

The Danish studio integrates bicycle parking with an active social landscape in the design of Karen Blixens Plads, one of Copenhagen’s largest public spaces.

by Zohra Khan Oct 24, 2019

COBE Architects, a Danish studio led by Dan Stubbergaard, recently completed Karen Blixens Plads - a new, major public square near the University of Copenhagen in Denmark. Spanning more than 20,000 sqm, the square features a multi-functional undulating landscape that makes for an inventive bicycle parking space for students and local inhabitants.

The undulating landscape allows activities both on and under its surface | Karen Blixens Plads | COBE | STIRworld
The undulating landscape allows activities both on and under its surface Image Credit: Rasmus Hjortshøj - COAST

In Copenhagen, more than 40 percent of the population use bicycles for daily commute. Therefore, this project posed a need for a creative and flexible solution to bicycle parking, and now doubles up as an active urban space for the university that accommodates nearly 16,000 students.

The design offers a large capacity bicycle parking space as well as a impressive meeting point for students and local inhabitants  | Karen Blixens Plads | COBE | STIRworld
The design offers a large capacity bicycle parking space as well as an impressive meeting point for students and local inhabitants Image Credit: Rasmus Hjortshøj - COAST

The combined public square and university plaza is designed as a carpet punctuated by pockets of hollow hills, and low lying beds that facilitate parking for nearly 2,000 bicycles – two third of them in covered spaces within the landscape.

“The almost cathedral-like form of the bicycle hills offers an aesthetic experience in its own right, both when people park their bikes and when they meet at the hills for lectures, group work, concerts or Friday afternoon socialising,” says Stubbergaard.

 The layout breaks the larger space into small pockets integrating hollow hills and low bicycle beds | Karen Blixens Plads | COBE | STIRworld
The layout breaks the larger space into small pockets, integrating hollow hills and low bicycle beds Image Credit: Rasmus Hjortshøj - COAST

The bulbous hills have been created as cast concrete shells, cladded with hand-laid tiles in colours that resonate with the exteriors of the neighbouring buildings. As a matter of fact, the shell construction does not normally have holes in it, therefore, the realisation of openings within these domes came as a significant challenge for the design team.

COBE, which worked in collaboration with Denmark-based engineers CN3 and EKJ, calculated 3D projections of iconic concrete dome constructions as well as did exhaustive statistical analysis to back the project’s complex design.

Large airy pockets underneath the hilly terrain  which were built through shell construction techniques | Karen Blixens Plads | COBE | STIRworld
Large airy pockets underneath the hilly terrain, which were built through shell construction techniques Image Credit: Rasmus Hjortshøj - COAST

In addition to its impressive aesthetics and flexible usage, the project promotes green transportation and climate change adaption through its capacity to handle storm water. “Delaying rainwater in depressions in the landscape utilises the recreational values of the water and creates small wet biotopes that support biodiversity, enable rainwater evaporation and supplements the canal in case of extreme precipitation,” says the Danish architecture firm.

Located in the vicinity of University of Copenhagen, the project offers parking space for nearly 2,000 bicycles | Karen Blixens Plads | COBE | STIRworld
Located in the vicinity of University of Copenhagen, the project offers parking space for nearly 2,000 bicycles Image Credit: Rasmus Hjortshøj - COAST

The man-made hills incorporate a central feature in the form of an outdoor auditorium, with a 1,000 people capacity to hold large public events. Overall, the project contrasts with the typical and often bland cookie cutter typologies of bicycle parking design by integrating vibrant social spaces with optimal green interventions within its built profile.

  • Beautifully lit built profile of Karen Blixens Plads at dusk | Karen Blixens Plads | COBE | STIRworld
    Beautifully lit built profile of Karen Blixens Plads at duskImage Credit: Rasmus Hjortshøj - COAST
  • Beautifully lit built profile of Karen Blixens Plads at dusk | Karen Blixens Plads | COBE | STIRworld
    Beautifully lit built profile of Karen Blixens Plads at dusk Image Credit: Rasmus Hjortshøj - COAST

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About Author

Zohra Khan

Zohra Khan

A formal education in architecture combined with an avid interest in architecture journalism and design criticism led Khan to professionally venture into writing and research. She has worked in design communication for more than two years, generating content for mondo*arc india journal. When not writing, she kicks back by dabbling on social media for STIR.

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