Federation for
Housing and


Learning from Copenhagen.

The health debate is still characterised by a dominating focus on the so-called "socio-economic background variables"; i.e., the statistical material that shows how level of education, income level, family structure, etc. affect whether and how people engage in regular physical activity. However, it is a fact that the socio-economic background variables affect the overall condition of health to varying degrees (Public Health Report 2007, Pilgaard 2008, 2010, Sports for All 2009). The physical-structural factors, on the other hand – i.e., the number of and access to sports facilities, parks, green spaces, urban spaces, bike trails, etc. – consistently affect the overall condition of health. For this reason, taking a position on health is also an architectural and urban development task. During the International Conference on Urban Health in Manchester, IFHP organised a workshop, facilited by DAC, based on experiences from Copenhagen using three case stories:


Evidence-based Decision-making

During a traffic count in 2002, the Municipality of Copenhagen concluded that one of the city’s a main thoroughfares, Nørrebrogade, had twice as many bicycles as cars. As a result, traffic was restructured with an intensive focus on promoting the use of bicycles. Today, two-thirds of all Nørrebrogade users ride their bikes. In this regard, the restructuring of Queen Louise Bridge/Nørrebrogade can be viewed as a physical manifestation of the paradigm shift that we have seen in Copenhagen over the last five years, where the decision process has shifted from value-based decision-making to evidence-based decision-making. The traffic restructuring was not a result of a debate on values where bicycle riding beat the use of cars. The traffic restructuring happened as a result of the ability to present a series of data that suggested that focusing on bicycle riding was beneficial and realistic. This rational, pragmatic approach to promoting health has great potential in terms of municipal policy.


Queen Louise Bridge: A traffic corridor that became an urban space.  Photo: B. M. Hermansen 2011


Co-created Placemaking

"All children know about BaNanna Park. There is even a song about BaNanna Park."


Interview from the PhD dissertation Kulturen i Kroppen. Kroppen i Rummet by B.M. Hermansen, 2014. Report on: Physical Education at Rådmand's School, Karen.


BaNanna Park is a 5,000 m2 infill park in the neighbourhood Nørrebro in Copenhagen. The urban laboratory City X was in charge of the community involvement process. The subsequent conceptual design was created by Nord Arkitekter with Schønherr Landsskab in charge of planning and design. The park received its name from the children at the adjacent school: 'BaNanna' was derived from Nanna's Street, the street where the park is located. The name inspired an iconographic, large yellow thermo plastic banana that today stands as the park's trademark and landmark.


The success of the park is the result of an intelligently balanced combination of a thorough community involvement process (with the main focus on the children from the surrounding institutions) that produces a well-informed and well-adapted design. It is impressive how solid an identity BaNanna Park apparently has among its users, how well they know the park, and how much it means to them. Indeed, it is the strong personal connection to location that creates a sense of belonging across the users' diverse lifestyles and their different ways of urban living.


Photo: B. M. Hermansen, 2011
"I think the children have a great sense of ownership of this place; at least, all of them are able to relate to it. A lot of other things happen here when there are other events, too – Shrovetide and things like that – so those things are held here as well. So there are lots of things going on for them over here. I definitely think they have a good relationship with this park."


Interview from the PhD thesis Kulturen i Kroppen. Kroppen i Rummet af B.M. Hermansen, 2014. Report on: Physical Education at Rådmand's School, Anders.


User-driven Design

Amager Beach Park is like an urban landscaping lab at a 1:1 scale in body culture and urban culture. For example, urban-living activities such as kite surfing, kite skating, and longboarding were relatively unknown prior to the opening of the park in 2005. Amager Beach Park has opened new leisure opportunities for Copenhageners. The park currently receives around one million visitors annually.


In 2010, the architectural firm of Hasløv & Kjærsgaard received the Award in Sports Architecture for their design of Amager Beach Park. Dan Hasløv personally describes Amager Beach Park as a "basis project" where around 80-90% of the area is ready, but where areas for new development opportunities have also been identified that were not defined in advance, and which will allow for work with activities as well as physical environments of a temporary or a permanent nature. On a daily basis, Amager Beach Park shows how, in practice, the "unfinished" urban space is extremely practical! The users get what they participate in creating themselves. It is exactly this type of user-driven urban development that creates the diversity of life that makes Amager Beach Park the highly popular park that it is. Like a graffiti message at the park's metro station says: "Amager Beach Park: Anything can happen!"


Amager Do-It-Yourself Beach Park Photos: B.M. Hermansen, 2012 and 2013


>> Also read blog: What makes a city healthy?