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.
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 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 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.
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.
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.