In Copenhagen, the Danish capital that pledges to become the world’s first carbon-neutral city by 2025, a 410-foot tall smoke stack is a cause for celebration and the massive incinerator beneath it the latest tourist attraction.
Especially if you bring skis.
The Amager Bakke powerplant, designed by the Danish architect Bjarke Ingels, turns local trash by incineration into low-carbon energy. The process, as designed, is so clean that the facility’s roof has been created to be a recreational area. “CopenHill” opened October 4, with hiking trails, a fitness center, even an artificial ski slope on its slanted roof.
“Amager Bakke is the embodiment of how we want to combine sustainable thinking and innovative architecture with recreational facilities when developing the city,” said Frank Jensen, Copenhagen’s mayor, in an email.
The 12-floor facility, in the formerly industrial area of Amager Island, was built with a facade of glazed windows and stacked aluminum bricks (these double as planters). A large glass elevator offers a ride straight to the top and a glimpse of the plant and its silver-gray machinery. Once on its roof, visitors enjoy a bird’s-eye view of the city, the Oresund bridge linking Denmark to Sweden and Sweden itself.
They can also access the 1,480-foot artificial ski slope, but there’s no snow. Instead, green synthetic bristles cover the hill, aiming to provide the same friction as a freshly groomed slope (it might be a little rougher on the skin).
Three magic carpets, ideal for children and beginners, and one drag lift give access to the slope’s levels of difficulty: green for beginners at the bottom, blue for intermediate and red for seasoned skiers at the top.
“It takes typically three runs to adjust your mind to skiing on a green dry surface. It’s very technical,” said Kenneth Boggild, secretary general of Ski Federation Denmark. “Wear long sleeves, gloves, long pants and a helmet in case you fall.”
There’s also a freestyle park, a slalom course, a fitness area, staircases on both sides for those elevator-avoidant and plans for the world’s highest artificial 280-foot climbing wall. Landscaped by SLA, a landscape architecture firm based in Copenhagen, the area looks like a mountain field, with 7,000 bushes, 300 pine and willow trees, various plants and real grass that grows through the artificial bristles.
“It’s so unique,” said Martin Kroyer, a local mountain biker who recently raced up the hill. “We have no mountains in Denmark. Where else can you go and have, I mean, just this view?”
At the top, a panoramic restaurant, once completely constructed, will serve Danish delicacies. At the bottom of the slope sits a ski rental shop, a ski school and après-ski bar.
Admission to the landscaped park and top platform is free. CopenHill officials expect 300,000 visitors per year and recommend that skiers and snowboarders book their time slot online via www.copenhill.dk. Hourly rate for skiing is 150 krone or $22, without insurance, and extras like ski lessons and rental equipment (a full rental package, including a helmet costs 150 krone) can also be booked if needed.
Inside, two-thirds of the facility’s floor space is use for trash incineration. The plant, which is run by the Amager Ressource Center, opened in the summer of 2017. In 2018, roughly 450,000 tons of garbage was fed into two furnaces and converted into electricity for 30,000 households and heating for 72,000 households.
Showcasing that sustainability can also be used to increase our quality of life is the basis of much of the work done by CopenHill’s architect, Bjarke Ingels, with his firm, BIG.
Overall, the $590 million municipal power plant and its $14 million privately funded urban mountain took 10 years from conception to completion. The facility is a short bike ride from the world-renowned restaurant Noma and the street-food market Reffen.
“It’s a beacon in showing the world that clean tech presents almost utopian possibilities,” Mr. Ingels said.
Get more stuff like this
Subscribe to our mailing list and get interesting stuff and updates to your email inbox.