Kalvebod Waves by JDS (Julien De Smedt)

Kalvebod Waves in Copenhagen by JDS Julien De Smedt

Kalvebod Waves

Kalvebod Waves and its precursor across the water are inextricably tied. So if haven’t read it already, and if you prefer to order things according to chronology, you’d want to start with my post about The Harbour Bath.

It explains how the former industrial East-side transformed into Copenhagen’s most attractive public space, while the West-side lacked qualities as a public space. Until 2014, that is…

Remedy of past mistakes

It took a while before the city reacted on this side to the huge success at the East-side (Islands Brygge). To make up for the inadequacies of the Kalvebod Brygge development, the city organised an architectural competition. And in 2008, the Kalvebod Waves-project, led by JDS (Julien De Smedt Architects), came out as the winner. The Danish name is Kalvebod Bølge.

Julien De Smedt is a Belgian-born architect and the former partner of Danish Bjarke Ingels. The two designed the Harbour Bath as partners. Between these two projects, they separated, forming each their firm, but a familiar approach and philosophy remain.

Completed in 2014, the end result, Kalvebod Waves, offers a recreational public space for hanging out and to promote an active, urban lifestyle. It features an orange exercise sculpture and a kayak club at one end, and a take-off ramp for the kayaks at the other. 

The double triangular layout of the platforms reaches beyond the afternoon-shadows from the neighbouring buildings. More sun equals more hanging out.

Swimming was not initially allowed, and the platforms are not designed for it, such as the Harbour Bath. However, that held no-one back on a sunny summer day. So recently, a so-called ‘swim zone’ opened, indicated by yellow buoyages.

From highly polluted to clean to pristine

The ultimate proof of today’s still more improved water quality is the urban farming that takes place under these platforms. A seawater farming concept, Havhøst, is farming blue mussels and oysters and sell them or serve them once in a while for a tasting event. On the lower deck on one of the steel pillars, a small poster is giving some information about that. 

Why? replaced by Why Not?!

Overall, Islands Brygge and the Kalvebod Waves is the most profound and positive change in all of Copenhagen. In less than 20 years, this area changed from a disregarded, industrial, polluted wasteland to the most popular public space and a clean environment. 

I would go as far as to say, that a city-wide transformation started here, which has sparked a much more fun and relaxed attitude in public life. A new and opportunistic ‘Why not?!‘ replaced a temperate, Scandinavian ‘Why!?‘, when it comes to making the most of your life in Copenhagen.


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