Federation for
Housing and


The city of Copenhagen has about 600.000 inhabitants and that number is expected to rise to 669.000 by 2025. Nordhavnen will accommodate a large proportion of these inhabitants.
The area is being transformed from an active industrial port into a modern residential and business area, and it will be the new waterfront city district in Copenhagen. When completed, Nordhavnen will have room for 40.000 residents and an equal number of work places. This development is a symbol of the city’s transformation from an industrial past to a modern city of knowledge.
Project managers Andreia Fidalgo and Shirley Bröcker visited the new urban development of Nordhavnen.

Implementing the history

Over the past 150 years the area has grown through several land reclamation projects. The area was used as a harbor with several small local ports along the coast encompassing a singular cultural heritage, that includes buildings worth preserving, and is a visible narrative of the city’s history. The skyline is an import aspect of the identity of the new district. The skyline of historical Copenhagen is characterized by uniform building heights of four to six stories, locally interrupted by slim towers and domes.
The future skyline of Nordhavnen is dense with variation and large volumes, such as The Silo and the Redmolen Spidsen. Christian Dalsdorf, Project Leader at By & Havn, phrases "The existing buildings are a gift to us and gives immediately identity to the district". Historic buildings are therefore preserved as they are vital to the future identity of the district, both individually and as part of the new urban environment.

Urban development

This is one of the biggest and most ambitious urban projects in Copenhagen in recent years. It started in the spring of 2007 with the Act on Urban Development of Nordhavnen. A year later an International ideas competition was held. The winner was the Nordholmene-Urban Delta masterplan. They won due to their visionary, compelling, and well prepared proposal constituted by six strategic themes: 1) Islets and canals; 2) CO2 Friendly city; 3) Five Minute city; 4) Identity and History; 5) Smart grid; and 6) Blue and Green city. Together, they provide a robust yet flexible framework for future sustainable urban development.
The development is not an isolated project. With a holistic approach it is ensured that ‘the whole’ will be greater than the sum of the individual elements. The development is carried out by By & Havn (in English: CPH City and Port Development) and a number of consultants (COBE, SLETH, Polyform and Rambøll). The realization of the first urban spaces and buildings began in 2012. Nordhavnen is a harbor area, used as a free port with extensive use of space, transformed into an urban area with districts laid out as small islets directly connected to the water. Versatile, diverse and inclusive city district, the Inner Nordhavnen was the first district to be realized. The masterplan for the Inner Nordhavnen is based on five main purposes: to be sustainable, compact, connected to the waterfront, an active district, and a district with contrasts. Less than a year ago the first inhabitants moved to Nordhavnen. Today there are more than 300 inhabitants 15000 jobs. 
The vision for Nordhavnen is the sustainable city of the future, not only in terms of environmental responsibility, but also social diversity and inclusiveness. With renewable energy, optimal use of resources, recycling, and sustainable transport, Nordhavnen is an eco-friendly city that will contribute to Copenhagen’s image as a ‘green’ metropolis. Further, with versatile urban areas, multiple activities, and a wide range of shops, cultural, and sport facilities it will also be a vibrant city district. To make an inclusive area, a wide variety of housing types are part of the plan. Also, various functions will be mixed and the area should be an open and inviting city district. Dialogue with residents and other users, is key in the development of a city for everyone. To create a dynamic city, a wide variety of public institutions and shopping facilities are integrated and offer opportunities for new experiences. This will lay the groundwork for new jobs and initiatives and reinforce Copenhagen’s position as a significant international city of knowledge. The district is developed in a way that the natural choice of commute should be to walk, cycle or use public transport rather than travel by car. 

Vibrant urban city

The  district of Nordhavnen is built layer by layer, by creating add-ons on the existing low rise buildings and silos, special water-related building zones, new large iconic buildings and general building stock. Building plots are structured by the ‘urban smart grid’ principle. From a basic grid set up, buildings are shifted in relation to each other to avoid wind tunnels, creating staggered flows and well-defined urban spaces in the structure. Building plots may change shape, function, and size to generate all aspects of a vibrant urban life.
A vibrant urban district needs active and interesting streets. Therefore, all ground floors are designed with a height of at least four meters above ground level, as well as a high degree of detailing. The ground floors are flexible to use for housing, retail or commercial activities. In the street, flexible zones are marked for different uses, such as lounging, outdoor cafés and restaurants, planting or parking. The edge zones facilitate the transition between street spaces and urban spaces to buildings. The public space between buildings and alleys form a grid across the district. The alleys are foremost pedestrian areas with limited vehicle access. The grid is designed with a wide pavement on the sunny side of the street because the sun attracts more people. The green traffic structure aligns with the strategic theme of the five-minute district that refers to the time it takes to walk 400 meters to residential and commercial facilities, workplaces, green areas, cycle routes and public transport. From the metro station most of the district lies within a 600 meters’ radius. There is a wide variety of housing types and various functions that are open and inviting to see and visit. 
Together this is the overall masterplan for Nordhavnen. Noteworthy is, that this masterplan is not only limited to the development of Nordhavnen, but also contributes to positioning the city of Copenhagen as an international city of knowledge and contributes to the objective of being the first carbon neutral capital by 2025.
How do we live today and how do we will live in the future? When you are a member of the IFHP you can move this discussion forward and share your knowledge with the IFHP community through our Urban Labs, IFHP ones, social media and other events. Please join us in making better cities for people. Because… don’t you want to live in a better city? 
Written by Andreia Fidalgo and Shirley Bröcker