19 January 2010

The Lakes, Ice and Reclaimed Spaces

The Lakes en hiver
'The Lakes' in Copenhagen are frozen and Copenhageners are enjoying the ice in great numbers. The last time the ice was thick enough that the City allowed people onto it was in 1996 - bloody global warming - so at all times of the day there are people out on the ice. Especially on the weekends there are wonderful crowds of people skating, walking, cycling, sledding out on the suddenly liberated real estate.

Or just people taking a shortcut from one side to the other.

The Lakes used to be a river valley outside of the citys walls. In 1523 it was decided to exploit them and dam them to create an outer line of defence in case of attack by land. They gradually morphed into their current form through the centuries and are now an integral part of city life with pathways along all the banks.

The thing that hits me when The Lakes are frozen over is how much real estate is suddenly available to the citizens. I have no idea how many square metres we're talking about, but you really get the sense that the city has suddenly grown. Standing on the ice in the middle of one of the lakes you experience views that are otherwise unaccessible.

The inner and outer harbour and the beaches surrounding the city are far more accessible to the citizens, be it swimming, sailing, canal boats or private motor boats or sailboats. The Lakes, on the other hand, are more of an aesthetic feature. You rarely use the water. On one lake there are pedal boats for rent, but that's about it.
Bicycle Ice and Texting
So it's understandable that Copenhageners are loving the chance to use the ice. Even if it's just for sending text messages while cycling.

Run Fun3 Run Fun2
Or running along and then sliding. Just for the pure fun of it.

Given the strong identity of The Lakes on the urban landscape of the city, it is amazing to think that they were very well close to being paved over, at least in part. In 1958, City Plan West was proposed. It basically involved building a motorway - The Lake Ring or Søringen - along the stretch, narrowing The Lakes by 30 metres.

Furthermore, the massive motorway would have featured a hub in the Vesterbro neighbourhood. In fact, the plan called for levelling much of Vesterbro - a working class neighbourhood - and replacing it with a blade runnerish modern neighbourhood with skyscrapers, inspired by London City.

The police station on Halmtorvet is actually the first building to be erected according to the plan. That's how far the City Plan West actually got. Which is kind of scary, really. Actually, the plan was finally killed off for good in 1973 and thank Odin for that.
Bike Icle Bike Ice
The Lakes, while an attractive pearl around the neck of the inner city, still dont' really live up to their potential. There is still too much traffic along the one side, with too many large trucks taking a short cut through the city.

Late last year a Danish architecture firm, Christensen & Co. launched a bold proposal to give the area along The Lakes more life.

It involves burying the busy roads and building underground parking in order to liberate the sunny side of The Lakes and create parkland and pathways, among other things.

They have a blog about the project, in Danish but with loads of illustrations.

Until all of these brilliant, visionary ideas are realised, I'm going skating:
Two Kids Two Sleds Two Skates
Two kids [Felix loves standing up, straddling the crossbar], two sleds [one on the back rack, one in the cargo box with Lulu-Sophia on it], two skates for my feet and one Wifealiciousness on her own bike.


Erik Sandblom said...

I Portland, Oregon, and Seoul, Korea, they simply removed the road with no replacement. Portland is now America's no. 1 bicycle city and Seoul has a new bus rapid transit system. San Francisco has removed two highways and replaced them with boulevards.

In Paris they close the Voie Georges Pompidou along the river dring the summer, and turn it into a beach. This is called Paris-Plage. Montreal and Toronto are looking at removing elevated highways along some downtown blocks.

Here's a text about it in Swedish, but the links are almost all in English:

Ecoprofile: Stadsmotorvägarna som revs

Klaus Mohn said...

When you're talking about too much traffic on one side of the lake, you're talking about Sögade (centre side), right, not the Nörrebro side? Cos in that case you need to tell your readers that even that street has bike infrastructure that most cities would kill for :D it doesn't allow you to ride two abreast northbound, but apart from that...

BikeBerryJam said...

Love the shot of the texter!

Anonymous said...

So Odin killed the City Plan? I had no idea he was so politically active. Val

townmouse said...

Oxford's water meadows were similarly almost destroyed to make room for a motorway. Fortunately common sense prevailed, or maybe they just ran out of money.

Kiwehtin said...

I think Odin had a Wagnerian moment and thought "Wotan awful idea!".

Anonymous said...

Kiwehtin: Yow! That one freyed even my patience. Val

Mikael said...

Loke, everyone, my ribs are thor from all the laughing.

100 Mile Bike said...

What an amazing scene. I have never been out on ice like that. I love the guy riding along texting - really cool.


LGV said...

love those lakes ! hope that highway will never exist and the green project yes

Urbanplannercyclisthousebuilderetc... said...

About the Søringen, don't thank Odin, but Copenhagens and Denmarks poor economy at the time.
Sometimes a poor economy can be a blessing ;-)

Anonymous said...

Important point: In Portland, S.F and Seoul examples they took the "road diet" approach, BUT from what I can see of that vision from the architecture firm, the philosophy seems to be to "buy a bigger pair of bigger of trousers when you've been eating too much."

Underground car parking and tunnels are crazy expensive in terms of money and construction-pollution and only create some direct benefits (looks like for leisure time and people living here) while changing nothing regarding automobile throughput sans other measures.

It's a kind of have-your-cake-and-eat-it-too thing used in other parts of northern Europe (e.g. Environment Zones in German cities, but no real congestion charging; the "biogas highway" in Sweden utilized by huge cars powered by off-gassing of dead products of industrial agriculture).

Sure, parking for some mobility-impaired persons would be fine and perhaps a tunnel which reduces automobile throughput, i.e. a stapled stomach.

Dyrlaegen said...

With all you Danes skating, I hope the ice doesn't Thor too quickly


googlechdot said...

GREAT photos

Added link here


Erik G. said...

Hey, when are they going to empty the Lakes/Søer in conjunction with the Metro construction? That is the plan, right? It'll be fun to see what is down there!

Urbanplannercyclisthousebuilderetc... said...

I think they do it at the end of 2011, but I can find out. I am project manager for the 14 metro local plans...