The geography and topography of place

Urban designers in the port city of Copenhagen are making quite a splash for themselves with the design of several exciting new urban spaces.

Dune city is the latest urban design offering by SLA in Copenhagen. “Like a giant dune of sand or snow it slips in between and clings around the buildings, thereby creating a spatial coherence in the design.”

The foldedplate design enables the visitor (pedestrians, cyclists, skaters and the walking impaired) to tranverse the elevated landscape between the buildings amidst a vegetated space of reedy grasses and trees. The landscape has been designed to appear flat and two dimensional from a distance but to reveal its true three dimensional character as you move through its spaces. The high albredo effect is said to produce a cooler microclimate during the warmer periods by reflecting the incoming heat and radiation.

Can the the world’s model climate citizen lead the way also with climate sensitive urban design and by its example also change the fate of nations like Mongolia?

8 thoughts on “The geography and topography of place

  1. Tom Turner

    The photographs are very appealing (though my natural scepticism leads me to wonder if the place looks as good in reality as it does in the photographs). I also wonder, a little, about the design logic of imitating the form of sand dunes in hard materials. On the one hand I think: ‘why not, if it looks good’ and on the other hand I think: ‘why not do it in sand?’. The obvious answer to the second question is ‘it wouldn’t work’ – but it WOULD be better from the standpoint of Sustainable Urban Drainage. Perhaps I am being small-minded and should instead regard the design as a work of art?

  2. Tian Yuan

    Fabulous! I agree with Tom regarding to visial quality and I think it is amazing! Moreover, I appreciate the idea: spatial coherence-connecting architecture and landscape architecture is a good idea, therefore, landscape will become a new surface. Or, we can say that landscape is a ‘surface extension’ from architecture and this surface can connect with people, nature and the port city. It looks good and it may not be bad in function. If it does not work, we can go on finding the solution. Also, I may admire the client of this landscape architecture!

  3. Adam Hodge

    It looks to have been more inspired by an electronics circuit board.
    I rather empathise with Tom about sustainable urban drainage ..hate to think what a state the place will be after a good down pour..perhaps metal gridding as found on elevated factory internal walkways might have been a more sympathetic and yet hard wearing surface..helping absorb the water….the gridded walkway could be enhanced with plantings of dwarf prostrate plants within the gridding so that one was walking and viewing a green landscape!

  4. Robert Webber

    Love the art! I wonder how it will wear?
    It seems to break everything up, by placing trees in the hard landscaping scattered as though in a forest. But I wonder how their root zones will be protected from feet. The beds look similarly fragile especially at ends and corners, but I guess time will tell. On the south bank in London, signs on planting saying ‘help me, I am trying to grow’ actually seem very effective!
    As regards water am I missing a point or will there not be a fall into the beds?
    Beautiful though. If I lived there I could look down on that forever!
    Thanks for showing this

  5. Christine

    A little more information about the project from the SLA website. [ ]

    And for those whose curiosity is piqued here is a series of talks (in Danish w English subtitles) to listen to and view.[ ]

    The critiques are great. If only SLA was part of the conversation to answer them.

    Tom I believe DUNE is supposed to be a SUDs project… I’m with you also Yuan, if it isn’t perfect technically that’s OK but it would be good to keeping working towards better solutions. Adam, those imaginings sounds like yet another design project! Robert, yes, it would be excellent to see projects rated for longevity etc. I think some awards are now being given for project at 10, 20 and 50 years in architecture – perhaps this strategy could be adopted in landscape awards also?

    Does the new information change perceptions of the DUNE project or SLA?

  6. Tom Turner

    The drawings are helpful and (surprisingly) do not look as though they would result in a visually exciting design (which they have). Do you think they have laid the paving on blocks of polystyrene? I agree with Yuan that you have to admire the clients.

  7. Christine

    Tom because the design is constructed above a carparking space I do think they have laid the paving on block of insulation styrofoam. [ ]

    SLA are a very interesting practice. It began as a purely landscape practice and has evolved into an interdisciplinary firm. [ ] The founder Stig Andersson has a particular interest in Japanese culture and exploring the themes of substance, space and changeability.

    Another project worth viewing is Charlotte Garden completed in 2004.
    [ ]. The calendar of planting suggests the firms give considerable attention to plant selection.

    And yes SLA seem to have wise clients!

  8. Pingback: COPENHAGEN TRIP – October 2013 | gloscape [blog]

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