“A crystal clear example of hedonistic sustainability – that a sustainable city is not only better for the environment – it is also more enjoyable for the lives of its citizens.” – Bjarke Ingles

In the present, the conservation of our natural resources is of utmost importance. Any activity, irrespective of its impact, creates catastrophic changes in the balance of the ecosystem. It is our main goal to conserve and protect the current environment from any extreme alterings. One of the main objectives of architects in this situation is to create zero energy buildings or zero carbon buildings to decrease their contribution to climate change. Sustainability and self-reliability have become a necessity in the new revolutionary designs. While these concerns have to be addressed, what about the future generations who may never see ice slopes or beautiful sandy beaches? With such a basic idea to add a ski slope open for everyone, open all round the year, BIG opened The CopenHill Energy Plant in Copenhagen.

The CopenHill Energy Plant by BIG: Bedrock for Social Life - Sheet1
The CopenHill Energy Plant in Copenhagen by BIG_©Amoretti, Aldo

The CopenHill Waste-to-Energy Power Plant, or the Amager Bakke, is a combined waste-to-energy power plant combined with a recreational sports facility in Amager, Copenhagen, Denmark. The power plant focuses on the project of converting Denmark’s aspirations of being a zero-carbon nation by 2025. Located at the waterfront, the plant is capable of converting 440,000 tons of waste into usable energy annually for 150,000 homes. It is an amalgamation of an environmental education and awareness core as well as an urban level insert in the city of Copenhagen. The ski slope situated on the 85m tall sloped roof of the plant comprises a ski slope, a hiking trail, and a climbing wall.

The 400m long ski slope constructed using synthetic materials makes the use of it possible all year round while in deep contrast with its flat and singular level context of agricultural lands. To provide optimum recreational use, along with sports facilities, an après-ski bar is located at the bottom of the slope.

The CopenHill Energy Plant by BIG: Bedrock for Social Life - Sheet2
Schematic view of the sloped roof_©BIG/Bjarke Ingles Group

‘The internal volumes of the power plant are determined by the precise positioning and organization of its machinery in height order, creating an efficient, sloping rooftop fit for a 9,000 square-meter ski terrain,’ BIG explains. At the top, experts can glide down the artificial ski slope with the same length as an Olympic half-pipe, test the freestyle park or try the timed slalom course, while beginners and kids practice on the lower slopes. skiers ascend the park from the platter lift, carpet lifts, or glass elevator for a glimpse inside the 24-hour operations of a waste-to-plant.’

Formulation of the idea

The idea and design formulation came into the mind of Bjarke Ingles when he noted that the residents of the city traveled outside the city for almost half a day to go back and forth the nearest mountain ranges fit for skiing. Even though Copenhagen receives abundant snowfall, the nearest skiing resort for recreational purposes was miles away. Another justification for the site was the abundance of sports and recreational facilities found in the dense area of energy plants and industrial zones. Hence, the first goal was to provide an accessible recreational and sports facility, otherwise found quite far away, for the community residing in the city. 

The CopenHill Energy Plant by BIG: Bedrock for Social Life - Sheet3
Internal views of the exceptional machinery inside the powerplant_©Aagaard,Soren

The second goal of this project was to provide transparency of the rather veiled process of waste to energy conversion. To showcase this masterpiece of technological advancement, glass-walled elevators provide the visitors with exceptional glances and frames of the advanced machinery in the powerplant and including a 600 sq. mt. educational facility to provide more knowledge and information. 

Facade formulation and functionality

The outer facades were also thought provocatively to provide natural daylight inside preventing the use of artificial light sources as much as possible. The facades consisting of stacked aluminium bricks with integrated glazing helps in achieving natural lighting inside while also providing fantastic views of the inside from the exterior wall which has the 85 m tall climbing wall.

The CopenHill Energy Plant by BIG: Bedrock for Social Life - Sheet4
Outer views from the inside hiking trail_©Koenning,Nils

A base for the future of architecture

 While providing such an innovative yet integrated idea, not only did it achieve appreciation and popularity in the architectural world, new doors have opened to achieve much greater heights in uniting the basic needs with function and environmentally friendly designs for the betterment of future generations. Such projects will become the baseline for future generations to come. 

What such projects do may be criticized upon by the conservative populace but the major attraction in such projects is how it creates a vital recreational element while also conserving the environment. The ski slope provides future memories for generations to come and also provides clean, green energy for the people to consume judiciously. Therefore, these examples give the upcoming architects more vivid and playful ideas to integrate into serious and critical architectural functional arrangements. It is possible a new era of architectural language which will go beyond any other eras.

Future Baseline of Architecture_©BIG/Bjarke Ingels Group

Ashwini is an architecture student who is trying to pursue her love for writing. She is an avid reader and also has an interest in graphic designing. She believes that the power of the pen can bring out the soul of a building to the mortal world.

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