City Dune

Copenhagen, Denmark



A concrete dune offers Copenhagen residents views and coolness

Fig.1 SLA uses the sensory and aesthetic qualities of Swedish snow and Danish sand dunes to redefine the relationship between city and nature. (Image:
Fig.2 The City Dune consists of undulating steps made of white concrete. (Image:
Fig.3 According to the designer, City Dune offers the feeling of being "in the lush Scandinavian nature". (Image:
Fig.4 City Dune is not intended to be an imitation of nature, but a new type of relationship between city and nature. (Image:

In the old harbour area of ​​Copenhagen and next to the central station lies the City Dune. The client - the Swedish bank SEB - had two kidney-shaped towers built on the water, connected by a publicly accessible outdoor area of ​​over 7000 square meters. The idea was to give the people of Copenhagen a democratic, green, fully accessible, and sustainable urban space. ( i )

The City Dune consists of undulating steps made of white concrete. The planting is placed in such a way that it looks two-dimensional from a distance. Only when you walk through it does the spatiality unfold. Just like with sand and snow dunes, there is a windward and leeward side, a steep and a slight slope. The concrete not only feels cool, the nebulizers make the dune really cooler than the warm urban environment. According to Andersson, this gives the experience "of being in the middle of the lush Nordic nature, thus providing the area with unique attractive features that stimulates all the bodily senses".

The City Dune is not an imitation of nature and certainly not a natural paradise in the sometimes dirty and raw city. Nevertheless, the design of SLA redefines the relationship between city and nature by making use of the aesthetic and ecological properties of existing dune landscapes. By drawing lessons from natural processes, the designers found answers to, among other things, climatic issues facing Copenhagen - think of heat stress. At the same time, SLA made the City Dune a beautiful place. Stig Andersson: "[…] it is in nature that many of us have had some of our strongest aesthetic experiences – that is, experiences of wonder, discovery and meaning”. ( ii )

De City Dune is geen imitatie van de natuur en zeker geen natuurlijk paradijs in de soms vieze en rauwe stad. Niettemin herdefinieert het ontwerp van SLA de relatie tussen stad en natuur door gebruik te maken van de esthetische en ecologische eigenschappen van bestaande duinlandschappen. Door lessen te trekken uit natuurlijke processen vonden de ontwerpers antwoorden voor onder andere klimatologische vraagstukken waar Kopenhagen mee kampt – denk aan hittestress. Tegelijkertijd wist SLA met de City Dune een mooie plek te maken. Stig Andersson: ‘Het is in de natuur dat we enkele van onze sterkste esthetische ervaringen hebben — ervaringen van verwondering, ontdekking en betekenis.’ ( iii )

( i ) Conversation (by mail) Stig Andersson, July 2017.
( ii ) Conversation (by mail) Stig Andersson, July 2017.
( iii ) Conversation (by mail) Stig Andersson, July 2017.