Nordhavn (vii) UN City and the Jan Gehl school of development

UN City is a large 8-armed star-shaped building that consolidates all the suffering UN staff in Copenhagen into a single location. The surrounding residential buildings were all low rise, with intimate courtyards. Very much in the style promoted by the Jan Gehl school of planning … five stories, eyes on the street,  safe spaces.

While the eye is caught by the sheer size, whiteness,  and angularity of the UN City …

… the contrasting low rise apartments in darker brick shades also stand out…

Notice how the buildings have been integrated into the waterfront, with steps down to a water level boardwalk and lounging zone:


Some of the care taken to make the decks interesting:

And on the landward side …

Kayak and watersport drying racks and storage shed:

Wood clad utility box:

The contrasting UN building is so large as to be visible in most gaps between the buildings:

There are exterior movable shutters on the UN building, so its appearance shifts from mostly glazing to opaque, with endless variations in between:

The entrance was fortified. That’s a garage gate on the right, and a people prescreening pavilion on the left. Once through the pavilion, its walk the plank to get to the front doors …

The fortifications or hardening of the building means the approachable canal has been turned into a moat. There is a steel grill at the end of the canal to prevent attack by kayak, which also renders this resident access to the canal edge a bit redundant:

Did you notice the lack of fences along every canal edge?

I looked through a ground floor apartment unit being finished:

On the landward side, buildings faced a generously wide concrete walk, then beyond the buffer planting zone, a bidirectional cycle track, and beyond that the two lane traffic calmed road. Notice the little wooden deck that bridges the gap between the apartments off the walk and the track/road. I expect it could be used for lounging, children’s play, entertaining level changes when walking to school, etc. There is no fence to prevent users from stepping onto the cycle track or falling onto the sidewalk. Smile.

Here is the same deck seen from the road. On the ground floor are some retail units:

The ground level apartment terrace had retractable wind screens. I image sea level reclaimed land might be a tad breezy sometimes.

Looking the opposite way, a ferry dock was visible:

The scale of the buildings, the spaces between them, and the contrast of dark brick to landscaping materials to wooden docks, made me appreciate planners and developers that do deliver what I’d find attractive to live in.

And also the end of the low rise apartment spaces … the return of mega buildings:

The apartments near UN City looked back to the starchitecture of the other developments. Do they look better from a distance?

As we turn back towards the Metro station in Osterboro, I noticed a new highrise appearing there, as the value of living in that area also increases:

2 thoughts on “Nordhavn (vii) UN City and the Jan Gehl school of development

  1. I made a comment on your series before, I’m an Ottawan who works in CPH, specifically, UN city. You should include a picture of UN city at night, when the shutters turn it into an eery ghost complex when seen from the street… You mention the “moat” aspect in passing, but to me it perhaps warrants more comment. It takes UN security and ramps it up, Copenhagen style.

  2. I am a big fan of the 5-6 storey mid rise, and especially so when close to the water. Why impede the view of those who live less than a kilometre away with a forest of highrises (cough Vancouver, Toronto, cough)?.

    I like the idea of providing separate wider sidewalks, bicycle lanes and roadways. These encourage multi-modal transit, and are especially applicable in areas with denser populations.

    It is interesting that the Danish “nanny state apparatichiks” are not as paranoid as their counterparts in Canada when it comes to railings. Do they not value life as much, or do they just have a higher opinion of the ability of their residents to not fall into open water? Protecting me from me is an industry in Canada.

    There are some lessons to be learned from Copenhagen, even after we apply a filter to adjust for cultural differences between North America and Europe.

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