07 January 2015

The Urban Archipelago - Reclaiming Space and Revitalising the Harbour

Upside Down Harbour
Living in Copenhagen, you're never far from the harbour or the sea. We're blessed with access to water and to fabulous beaches. Nevertheless, we feel that the harbour is currently underused. The ancient harbour of the Danish capital was decommercialised around 17 years ago and most shipping activity was moved to harbours to the north of the city, leaving a fantastic swath of urban space for the citizens. Freeing up the harbourfront led to an ongoing urban renewal, with 42 km of harbourfront to be developed.

Nevertheless, I've watched the development and wondered why the actual water seems so underused through the years. It seems to be accelerating a bit over the past two years or so, but given the fact that this is a rowing and sailing nation, I would love to see more opportunities for the citizens to use the water.

Leap Harbour Rain
There are harbour baths in place now and the number of pleasure craft is rising. The Kalvebod Wave made a serious impact on harbourfront usage despite the City missing the mark regarding transport connections.. All great. It's brilliant that the water is now clean enough to swim in and that people do it at every opportunity - even at four in the morning.

Nevertheless, there is still room for improvement. There is a lack of sanctioned areas for bathing in the harbour (Copenhageners generally don't worry about those rules) and there is opportunity for creating viable and lively urban space with direct access to the water.



Enter Steve C. Montebello - designer and architect here at Copenhagenize Design Company. Hailing from Malta, Steve understands the need for access to the sea for citizens of a city. He developed The Urban Archipelago for his design project for the final year of his B.Sc. in The Built Environment. With our offices located on Paper Island, on the harbour in the heart of Copenhagen, we instantly saw how this brilliant idea could be applied virtually right outside our door, let alone at numerous locations along the harbour and elsewhere in Denmark.

Two factors inspired Steve to create the modular Urban Archipelago. One was the brilliant Sugata Mitra, who has brilliant TED talks about children and education. His Self-Organized Learning Environment (SOLE) concept got Steve thinking. The other factor was the eternal battle for urban space for the citizens.

Steve's idea, like all good ideas, is simple. Creating an off-shore activity area that provides access to the water - including jumping in from various heights YAY! - and that shields the users from any boat traffic that may be chugging past. Hang out, eat lunch, make out, doze, swim, play. Whatever you need to do, The Urban Archipelago system will help you out. It's the perfect addition to any Life-Sized City.



Of course, we did a rendering of what it would look like right outside our offices on Paper Island/Papirøen. Bring on the summer.


The modular unit can be tesselated, allowing for a large variety of arrangement possibilities. The layout of the individual is organic and changeable and can be adapated to user needs, user volume and specific location requirements.



The main intentions of Steve's design were to create floating modular units consisting of a square base which could be tessellated. These modular units will increase public space at the location they are anchored. Steve has even factored in free wifi. Nice.


The modular elements are connected by ropes and pre-existing pontoon elements. A separate module can be anchored off to the side, covered with solar panels that could power the wifi and any other electricity needs.



The modular units are constructed in a workshop. They will then be assembled as prefabricated elements on site, in whatever size and form is desired or required.

It's a brilliant, simple and effective idea. It also makes us miss summer badly. We decided at Copenhagenize Design Company to build more stuff in 2015. Maybe we should get started on this.