Copenhagen World Capital of Architecture for 2023

Copenhagen World Capital of Architecture for 2023

Copenhagen is a unique city, characterized by its canals, cycling culture, magnificent historical buildings, awe-spiring architecture structures, and happy locals. It is actually known as being one of the happiest city in the world.

The architecture of Copenhagen in Denmark is characterised by a wide variety of styles, progressing through Christian IV‘s early 17th century landmarks and the elegant 17th century mansions and palaces of Frederiksstaden, to the late 19th century residential boroughs and cultural institutions to the modernistic contribution of the 20th century such as Arne Jacobsen‘s National Bank and SAS Royal Hotel.

Copenhagen is recognised globally as an exemplar of best practice urban planning. Its thriving mixed use city centre is defined by striking contemporary architecture, engaging public spaces and an abundance of human activity. These design outcomes have been deliberately achieved through careful replanning in the second half of the 20th century, with notable contributions both by leading international architects and a wave of new successful Danish architects.

View of Copenhagen from the tower of the Church of Our Saviour

Baroque buildings in Copenhagen include the Round Tower and the Church of Our Saviour as well as Fredensborg Palace.

Fredensborg Palace

Frederiksstaden was constructed during the reign of Frederick V in the second half of the 18th century and is considered to be one of the most important Rococo complexes in Europe. It was developed to commemorated the 300 years jubilee of the House of Oldenburg taking the throne in Denmark. Leading the project was A. G. Moltke, with Nicolai Eigtved as the main architect. Frederiksstaden has Amalienborg Palace and Marble Church at its centre and together they create an axis that was extended with the creation of the new Copenhagen Opera House in 2005 on the other side of the harbour basin. The district is characterized by straight broad streets in a straight-angled street layout. The streets are lined by bourgeois houses, mansions and palaces. Another important building in the district is the royal Frederiks Hospital was Denmark‘s first hospital in the present-day meaning of the word. It now houses the Danish Museum of Art & Design.

Frederiksstaden has Amalienborg Palace, the Danish residence palace complex with François Joseph Saly’s equestrian statue monument to King Frederik V of Denmark in the middle of the octagonal plaza, and Frederik’s Church at its center.

Copenhagen’s urban development in the first half of the 20th century was heavily influenced by industrialisation. After World War II, Copenhagen Municipality adopted Fordism and repurposed its medieval centre to facilitate private automobile infrastructure in response to innovations in transport, trade and communication. Copenhagen’s spatial planning in this time frame was characterised by the separation of land uses: an approach which requires residents to travel by car to access facilities of different uses. This planning scheme largely aligned with the modernist framework endorsed by Le Corbusier in such conceptual projects

In 1962, Danish architect Jan Gehl shifted the trajectory of Copenhagen’s development by pedestrianising key parts of its city centre with the goal of enhancing the on-street conditions for humans.Rigorous field studies informed Gehl’s conclusion that city spaces perform best when they encourage the use of public spaces.[10] Gehl observed that the quality of life between buildings is diminished when substandard architecture, poor safety and overwhelming car infrastructure limit human engagement in public places.[10] Gehl therefore commenced the replanning of Copenhagen in 1962 by pedestrianising Strøget: the city’s main interior transit artery.

The pedestrianisation of Strøget marked as a major change in the approach of Copenhagen to urban life. The plan was much greater emphasis on pedestrian and bicycle access to the city at the expense of cars. This approach has in turn become internationally influential.

Strøget, Amagertorv. Olga Itenberg • CC BY 2.0

Designed by Danish architect Bjarke Ingels, CopenHill is a multi-use waste-to-energy plant. CopenHill is a real architectural marvel, combining greenery, beauty, waste management technology, sports venues and tourist attractions. The center is a ski slope, along the sides are several waste-to energy plants, the exterior supports multiple climbing walls, and there is a cafe on a hill. This effective design is worthy of other cities to learn and emulate. Skiing down the 1,300-foot green slope is surely a unforgettable experience.


Copenhagen is a marvelous city to see by bike. Grab a coffee from Prolog before heading south along the Cykelslangen (bike snake), which leads to the other side of the harbor. Bike onto Olafur Eliasson’s Circle Bridge, then ride back over the harbor on the new Lille Langebro bridge. Continue along the water to Nyhavn before riding back over the harbor along the Inderhavnsbroen, AKA the Kissing Bridge. In Christianshavn, you’ll bike past the old Noma space and Restaurant 108—grab a pastry on the way—and over the Butterfly Bridge.

Copenhagen is one of the only cities in Europe where the harbour water is again clean enough to swim in. The city has built three popular harbour baths – a new type of city-beach for people to swim, sunbathe, and cool off on hot summer days. It is good to wear bathing clothes if you are visiting the city, so you can jump into the water whenever you want, especially in the summer.

Source: Arch Daily

OMA’s New Cultural Hub in Copenhagen. Image © Rasmus Hjortshøj – COAST
BIG’s Waste-To-Energy Plant in Copenhagen. Image © Aldo Amoretti
Cobe and Arup’s passenger-focused metro stations in Copenhagen’s docklands. Image © Rasmus Hjortshøj – COAST

Copenhagen has a very convenient and fast subway system. There are now 4 lines called M1, M2,M3 and M4. These lines runs around the city and have intersects with each other. Riding the Metro in Denmark is the easiest and quickest way from the airport to central Copenhagen. Also the Metro runs without a driver (utilizing an automated train control system) and runs 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. During the rush hour the metro runs every 2 to 4 minutes. During the rest of the day trains run every 3 to 6 minutes, so there is very little waiting time.

Copenhagen’s Cityringen (City Circle Line) , the colorful commute  (Photo: Anke Müllerklein)

UNESCO and the UIA launched the World Capital of Architecture initiative to highlight the key role of architecture, city planning, and culture in shaping urban identity and sustainable urban development. Every three years, the city designated as World Capital of Architecture becomes a global forum at the forefront of discussions on contemporary urban planning and architectural issues.

The city of Copenhagen has been officially designated as World Capital of Architecture for 2023 by the Director-General of UNESCO, Audrey Azoulay, on the recommendation of the General Assembly of the International Union of Architects (UIA).

This decision is in keeping with the partnership agreement established between UNESCO and the UIA in 2018, through which UNESCO designates the host cities of UIA’s World Congress as World Capitals of Architecture. “We are very happy to see the torch of the World Capital of Architecture title pass to Copenhagen from Rio de Janeiro,” Audrey Azoulay said. “The inaugural World Capital of Architecture in Rio was a real success, underlining the important role of urban planning, notably in the pandemic context”, she noted, adding that “Copenhagen will build upon Rio’s achievements, by continuing to show the way in which architecture and culture can respond to the challenges of our time, especially in the environmental field.”

As the World Capital of Architecture for 2023, Copenhagen will host a series of major events and programmes on the theme “Sustainable Futures – Leave No One Behind.” In coopeation with the Danish Association of Architects and various Nordic professional bodies, the municipality will examine how architecture and urban design contribute to meeting the 17 United Nations Sustainable Development Goals.

Copenhagen World Capital of Architecture for 2023




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