High-rises on mayor's drawing board

The lord mayor has proposed a historic building plan that would break Copenhagen's fear of heights

For the first time in Copenhagen's history, a proposal to build high-rises will be up for debate by the city council. The downtown area could have a much different look than today if the plans are approved.

Lord Mayor Ritt Bjerregaard and the deputy mayor for environmental and technical issues, Klaus Bondam, have proposed the plan, will be taken up by the council this fall. They believe that Copenhagen's housing crunch can only be solved by building up, rather than out.

'I'm not afraid to issue building permits for high-rises,' stated Bjerregaard. 'I was a huge supporter of Krøyers Place,' she said of the ill-fated plans to build high-rises in historic Christianshavn. The project was canned amidst waves of protest.

The plan is far from a becoming a sure thing. Many Copenhageners don't want to see their charming, picturesque inner-city area become a testament to modern, urban architecture. Bjerregaard isn't fazed.

'I have nothing against high-rises being built around City Hall, for example. It depends on whether or not they fit into the surroundings,' she said. 'I think it's narrow-minded if the discussion is driven by protests and signed petitions opposing concrete proposals. We need to get people engaged in a broader debate, so that it isn't just about what they don't want.'

Bondam agreed. He felt it was possible to build high-rises that conform to the existing architectural character of the city.

'We can't keep considering plans on a case-by-case basis. We have to look long-term and find a mechanism that we hopefully can use to drive the city's development for the next 40 or 50 years,' he said.

Bondam wss a bit more realistic about the obstacles involved in getting tower blocks approved in the inner-city area. Yet he cited several areas outside the downtown area - such as Refshaleøen on Amager and the soon-to-be vacated Carlsberg brewery grounds in Valby - where high-rises would be a good idea.

Copenhagen's municipal architect, Jan Christiansen, is inclined to look at the possibilities of the proposal, rather than making any concrete determinations.

'We have to be very cautious about building in the city, but not so much so that we kill all development. We should be able to build high-rises and keep our city's unique identity.'

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