Copenhagen: Sluseholmen

Scheme: Sluseholmen | City: Copenhagen | Developer: By og Havn | Architect: Sjoerd Soeters + Arkitema + various (facades) | Landscape Architect: Arkitema

Resident feedback: see below

sluseholmenImagine detaching your balcony from your flat, floating it on a canal, driving it along the water round to your friend’s house (with all chairs, tables, plants etc still on it), driving both your floating balconies out to the harbour, tying them together, and then swimming off them or having a party. Mad? Only for the rich? No – it’s what I got roped into yesterday, courtesy of my host Pauli in the unfashionable and brand new Sluseholmen area of Copenhagen, only a 15 minute bus ride from the centre of town. IMG_0490Sjoerd Soeters, a Dutch architect, conceived the canal format and worked with local architects as well as the client [Copenhagen Port’s development vehicle By og Havn] to realise this via a set of quite rigid design principles. Architects don’t like the Disney/wallpaper nature of the elevations – designed by 20 different practices – manufactured variety can feel inauthentic if you care about that kind of thing. But the principles are safe and they work here. 1150 homes were built over a 4 year period, with a variety of family and smaller homes around sizeable communal courtyards. Slots in every side of each courtyard allow free ingress and egress for all, and also contain bikes, kayaks and other vessels for water travel, none of which get nicked or wrecked. (It’s a Danish tradition to have shared equipment in communal areas of estates). IMG_0500I could personally do without the Future Systems glory tower nosing into the harbour and marking the entry to the district, but it’s not bad as taller buildings go. There’s a high-end supermarket and three cafes/restaurants open within a 5 minute walk of the whole neighbourhood, which has a density of 110 homes per hectare. Pauli is paying £1200 a month rent for a two bed home here: he knows the neighbours via the sauna and thanks to those key social networkers, children. It’s a little tiresomely wholesome, perhaps, and needing some more critical mass (which is coming, though looking less architecturally promising). But the quality of life and value for money is breathtaking, for a mid-sized capital city.

Thanks to Pauli Østerø for putting me up and introducing me to Harbour Life

2 comments on Copenhagen: Sluseholmen

  1. I visited this new district a couple of years’ ago and wholeheartedly agree with Claire’s observations. The specialness comes from a glimpse of someone paddling down a canal, or kids playing in the courtyards, the chat in the local shop. The architecture, whilst very well executed is secondary. When I was there it felt a little isolated, but of course it’ll be part of a wider area of change along the waterways of Copenhagen.
    Stepping back, when compared with the single-dimensional aspects of many Thames-side waterfront developments (check for one of many recent examples), Sluseholmen is several leagues better.

    1. The Thames is such a different animal isn’t it. It is pure visual amenity for them that can afford that. The currents are so strong that even offering a commuter service on it is technically challenging, I gather. But I am sure there is a watery environment that could be provided for more people away from its banks. I am not clear what the technical and financial obstacles are to achieving that but I am sure you are exploring it right now…!

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