The capital of Denmark is the World Architecture Capital 2023. In pursuit of sustainable and consensual models. In which no one gets left behind

Responsible, resilient, inclusive, creative. Sustainable, with a focus on local urban development.

Virtuous in terms of ‘people+planet’ connections on the major themes of global interest: renewable energies, ecological transition, reduction of emissions, construction of net-zero buildings, use of regenerated materials and neo-materials, circular economy – fundamental tools with which to combat the effects of climate change that causes heat waves, floors, storms, droughts and many other distressing phenomena.

Right before our eyes. Where credit is due, Copenhagen stands out as World Architecture Capital 2023, selected by UNESCO (after its predecessor Rio de Janeiro), and the location of the World Congress of Architects UIA (Union Internationale des Architectes).

Famous for its large green spaces and abundance of bicycle paths and pedestrian walkways (alternative mobility), the city with its curious morphology of ‘fingers’ in direct relation to the waterfront and the port has been a forerunner (public and private) in the creation of an innovative master plan of typologies, covering sustainable practices of urban regeneration and transformation of what exists in terms of conversion, reuse and refurbishing; optimization of consumption and production of energy; recycling of resources, refuse and materials.

Fom the unforgettable Amager Bakke/ CopenHill project by the studio BIG in 2019 (the firm is presently working in the city on the spectacular project of the Kaktus Towers) to the present, the virtuous models for habitat quality that come to terms with the climate challenge in the Danish capital continue to multiply.

Crossing various scales and disciplines, the valid interpretations generate a sort of factory of Nordic creativity: doing more with less.

Buildings that are smarter but also more self-sufficient; hydroponic farms that utilize renewable energy sources to revitalize the land and preserve biodiversity without wasting water; constructions and furnishings that experiment with skills for performance, including engineered wood, photocatalytic paints, hemp, nylon and mycelium.

All interesting approaches to coordinated mixed use.

In short, everything that in the residential sphere (which is growing, because of the burgeoning world population with the resulting demand for housing) means public services and spaces, but also quotas of social-affordable housing inside a single building, to reinforce flexibility and community participation.

But Copenhagen is a city that does not rest on its laurels.

“Until today we have done well, but we can still do better. Designing for human wellbeing means designing for the wellbeing of the planet, finding a better balance with nature, which is asking us to rethink consumption and behavior, also in terms of food and mobility, reducing global CO2 emissions produced by the construction industry by 40%.

It also means thinking about locations that can foster a ‘sense of place,’ to combat processes of gentrification and increasing economic inequality,” says Josephine Michau, founder, CEO and curator of the Copenhagen Architecture Festival (CAFx), which reached its 9th iteration in October, with over 100 events in 11 days, starting with the premiere of the film Best in the World by the Danish documentary filmmaker Hans Christian Post, an analysis of growing problems of economic access to the city across three decades of rapid growth.

Michau, also the curator of the Danish Pavilion at the Venice Architecture Biennale in 2023, which examines the future of coastal landscapes and solutions to respond to rising sea levels in a sustainable way, is convinced regarding this perspective: “In-depth thinking is necessary upstream to intercept and share in aesthetic, ethical and cultural urgings, experiences, sensibilities, desires for a wider-ranging understanding of spatial, social, political and climate contexts already in progress, prior to the arrival in the city of technicians, architects, builders and planners,” she continues.

So in 2023 the festival will move its dates from 1 to 11 June, for coordination with the UIA World Congress (2-6 July), sharing the macro-theme “Sustainable futures leave no one behind.”

Read also: Biennale Architettura 2023: information, calendar and updates

Because global phenomena – drastic climate change and rapid urban expansion – require specific strategies and solutions.

In this ‘space-time’ of reflections, last November in Milan the Danish Embassy, in collaboration with the Danish Architecture Center (DAC) and the Milan Polytechnic, set the stage for an Italian-Canadian talk on how architecture can strongly influence the way our cities adapt to climate upheaval, presenting virtuous projects by Stefano Boeri Architetti for Milan and by Tredje Natur for Copenhagen.

Methodologies compared.

The environment and resilience in relation to extreme weather was the subject of the exhibition curated by David Garcia, architect and associate professor at the institute of architecture, design and conservation of the Royal Danish Academy, “New Methods for Big Challenges: Architecture and Extreme Environments”: an overview of the most original site-specific research developed by students, who traveled with him in difficult places like Alaska and the Gobi Desert, making self-produced prototypes with local resources and collaborating with residing communities.

The application of the electrolytic properties of urine to power a bathroom lamp in the rural zone of Zanzibar, for example, can help women to feel safer at night.

To preserve the listening, identity and legacy of a place while looking to the future, from the start of the year over 200 events have been scheduled, including exhibitions, debates, talks, film screenings, performances, tours, workshops, experimental activities and projects, especially at the Harbourfront – almost an 11th district – gathering the proposals, ideas and solutions of architects, designers, researchers, thinkers, directors, urbanists and companies in the name of sustainability in Copenhagen, World Capital of Architecture 2023.

The epicenter is the DAC, located in the famous BLOX designed by OMA, open to international conferences and exhibitions, and to the colors of the light and water with their intense energy.

Until 9 April, also with the exhibition Our Architecture. 100 Years of Danish Welfare Architecture.