Ingrid – May 29, 2018

I happened to be in New York City over the long Memorial Day weekend to visit family out there. The drive into Manhattan from Newark Airport offers a great view of the New York skyline, though it’s still hard to look at it without thinking of the twin World Trade Center towers that are no longer there since 911.

However, the Freedom Tower that was built at One World Trade Center in the wake of the tragedy is now part of the man-made landscape, offering not only architectural beauty and interest, but hope and restitution as well.

All this made me wonder about skyscrapers in Denmark, especially since a group of residents from The Danish Home went to the 94th floor of the John Hancock Center last week to see Chicago from a bird’s eye view (see photo above). One resident, who’s 95 (!), even did the new tilt window attraction that features a bank of windows 1,000 feet up tilting down at a 30-degree angle to allow visitors a more immersive view of the city. Yikes! Vertigo, anyone?

The group had a fabulous time, according to all accounts from The Danish Home. As I said, I began to think about architecture in Denmark, knowing quite well that the Danes have made a distinctive mark there, too.

My first foray into online research produced this headline from a humorous podcast about how to live in Denmark: “No Skyscrapers, Please, We’re Danish: Danes and Architecture.” The next, however, read: “Copenhagen’s Municipality Has Approved in Principle Plans for Skyscrapers That Would Be Among the Tallest Buildings in Europe.”

Mmmmm…this apparent dichotomy inspired me to look even further. As the second headline’s “principle plans” would suggest, there are currently no modern skyscrapers in Copenhagen. The colorful and iconic old buildings along the canal in Nyhavn stand in stark contrast to the notion of new steel giants looming in air. Currently, the tallest building in Denmark is Herlev Hospital, standing at 394 feet.

Yellow, white and blue buildings along a canal and boats in Copenhagen.

The iconic Nyhavn area of Copenhagen features old, beloved buildings that stand in stark contrast to the possibility of new skyscrapers.

But a majority on Copenhagen’s municipality committee has given the green light to skyscraper projects in the Ydre Nordhavn area and the Østerbro district. One is for two towers at nearly 1,100 and 600 feet high, including a luxury hotel, shopping center and apartment complex. The two towers are designed to resemble the sails of a ship, reminiscent of Dubai’s massive Burj al-Arab tower. The taller of the two would be the highest structure in Europe outside of Moscow.

The other is a 900-foot, Hans Christian Andersen-inspired theme park near the Oceankaj harbor area designed by acclaimed Danish architect Bjarke Ingels. It would be larger than Copenhagen’s iconic Tivoli Gardens, which opened 175 years ago in 1843.

Despite the enthusiasm and excitement surrounding these plans, some in Copenhagen are decidedly not in favor of them, including people in the city’s Technology and Environment and Economy Authority. Mindful that “Nordhavn is in dire need of cheap housing and green areas,” they fear that the theme park in particular will create a hoity-toity, commercial atmosphere. “This kind of thing is familiar in Dubai, and is certainly not what we need in Copenhagen,” said one.

A skyscraper that resembles a huge sail is located in Dubai, surrounded by water.

The design for a possible skyscraper in Copenhagen is reminiscent of Dubai’s Burj al-Arab tower.

On the other side of the coin (no pun intended), others on the municipality committee believe that the skyscrapers will create opportunities for growth and jobs in Copenhagen. The theme park is not expected to be finished by 2025, and neither has been approved in fact, only in principle.

Regardless of the outcome of these projects, I love that the Danes are so conscious of the environment and the economic needs of its citizens. That’s lofty ideology indeed.