Sykkelslang, Copenhagen

R-LINK visits Copenhagen!
Copenhagen adopted a local strategic vision of ‘Co-create Copenhagen’ seeking new ways of collaborating with citizens and various interests groups. This is activated across various levels of scale from community gardens to urban transformation zones with the objective of climate adaption and citizen inclusion. The invitation from the University of Copenhagen gave the R-LINK team (Lilian van Karnebeek, Karin de Nijs, Wendy Tan, Kim von Schönfeld, Michiel Stapper, and Annemiek Rijckenberg, Menno van der Veen) a wonderful opportunity to visit examples of community-linked developments in Copenhagen last November.

R-LINK site visit to the Move the Neighbourhood project in Sydhavn
Østergro rooftop CSA urban farm

The reality of community developments
A group of active practitioners from initiators of community projects to local government representatives were invited by our hosts to shared their experiences in starting, developing and scaling up projects with and for their community. We were treated to an in-depth look on how the policy is translated into actionable plans in Sydhavn by Ea Vestergaard (OMF Sydhavn), the local planning officer. The institutionalisation of co-creation is visible in the instruments and funding available (a five year start-up fund of 4-8 mil. EUR) for various projects and events in Sydhavn, an urban renewal zone. They took the form of local playgrounds designed and co-built with local children in the “Move the Neighbourhood” project from Anne M Wagner, Bettina Lamm and Laura Winge to pop-up shelters for rough sleepers that functions as community cafes or libraries as demonstrated by Adam Roigart (Out of Office Architecture). Kristian Skaarup of Østergro shared his insights in getting a urban farm (CSA) started on the roof of a previous car dealership. We learned how his new project on the terrain of the old Carlsberg factory have met various challenges due to the conservation status of the site. 

R-LINK site visit to a water retention area in Valby
Community garden where the goats have been moved away for winter
Communal dinner at Absalon

The importance of goats
The day ended with a tour of Valby where several projects have been realised including a watershed zone that functions as a community garden with pet goats. We learned that goats were a great community attractor and fantastic in activating community involvement and commitment. The site visit ended with dinner in Absalon, a church converted into a community centre with pop-up communal dinners to serve the less well-off residents of Copenhagen.

Lessons for R-LINK: Who should make the first move?
A common challenge to such developments include the difficulties in evaluating the projects. Current tool and instruments are geared towards physical aspects whereas the benefits from such projects are usually manifested in cultural and social value. Next to this, current planning processes do not seem to care to the maintenance and life-cycle of these development, focusing instead on the start-up and implementation of these projects. The practitioners were also focused on how to include diversity in these community developments and how to make implicit powers and interests visible. We have a sense of serendipity when learning about the projects in Copenhagen, a helpful civil servant or local planning officer or even a generous patron seem to be incredibly effective for implementation. This is echoed in our own cases in the Netherlands, where the desire for community co-creation is still not aligned with the current planning system and protocols.

The exchange was made possible by the International Academy Grant from the University of Copenhagen for Wendy Tan. R-LINK was kindly hosted by Anne-Magrethe Wagner and Bettina Lamm from the Division of Landscape Architecture and Planning, Department of Geosciences and Natural Resource Management, Division of Landscape Architecture and Planning.