The green evolution

During the past four decades the Danish capital has been quietly making decisions on its green future. It's fitting, then, that it will host next month's 15th conference of the Parties of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change - in short, the UN climate change conference, known this round as COP15.

While COP15, perhaps the most critical climate summit ever, has serious aims, so too does Copenhagen. Klaus Bondam, the city's mayor of technology and the environment, told an international environment conference in March: "In Copenhagen, we are looking for solutions that will save the world. Our target is to be an inspirational city and our main goal is to be the world's first carbon-neutral city by 2025."

The statement underscores a remarkable transformation for a city that only two decades ago was generally regarded as fairly dull and lifeless, known for not much other than nice porcelain, a pretty harbour, a statue of the Little Mermaid and for being the birthplace of Hans Christian Andersen. The suburban sprawl that characterised development in many Western cities in the 1960s had taken its toll.

However, Copenhagen had Jan Gehl, a visionary architect and urban designer. Under Gehl's influence during the last four decades of the 20th century, Copenhagen's once heavy reliance on cars would make way for pedal power. Copenhagen is now one of world's great cycling cities. Some 36 per cent of the city's population cycles daily to work, school or to run errands. The pretty city has more than 300 kilometres of bike paths and more planned - many of those "green", the term the city uses for thoroughfares not shared with cars.

Copenhagen also embraced the late-20th century trend towards urban density and renewal, resulting in a city that continues to reclaim derelict or unused buildings, turning them into spaces that combine quality apartments with recreational and community facilities, with a focus on sustainability.

Vesterbro is still a rugged working-class and red-light district of the inner city where prostitutes and sex shops attract English lager louts and like minds. But it's also full of glam boutique hotels and retail outlets, many as a result of this renewal.

Close by, Kodbyen, behind the main railway station, is artist-designer-musician central. Like New York's funky Meatpacking District, bars and restaurants line the former "meat street", Istedgade. Unlike New York, however, some butchers remain, co-existing side by side with the hipsters, though the main meat market was converted to an exhibition hall in 1996.

The neighbourhood is cool. How cool? In the former "white meat" area, marked by a classic old diner called Chicky Grill, the award-winning Dask photo gallery is housed in a converted coldstorage room.

No wonder that Monocle magazine voted Copenhagen "best city in theworld for quality of life" last year, though it didn't base its vote on impossibly stylish galleries alone. It considered transport, restaurants, design and environmental credentials.

Advertisement

Green infrastructure is a major part of life. For citizens no more than 15 minutes' walk from a park or harbour swimming pool. Copenhagen's harbour is cleaner than it has been for 60 years and locals regularly take summer dips in two harbour pools. A third is planned to meet the goal. New pocket parks - small green spaces created on vacant lots or awkward spaces not suitable for other uses - are being developed, with 14,000 trees planted.

Because the city is an increasingly green environment, so is the thinking of its inhabitants. Its recycling record is outstanding: 90 per cent of all construction waste is recycled and 75 per cent of all household garbage is incinerated to power district heating systems, whichwere fuelled by oil in the past.

Vigga Svensson believes Denmark's size has contributed to its progressiveness. She is the chief executive officer and designer of the Danish organic children's clothing company, Katvig. "Being a very small country we are very aware of competitive factors and this generates know-how and smart solutions - like recycling and producing in a sustainable way," she says.

Twenty-three per cent of goods purchased by the private sector and 51 per cent of food consumed in the city's institutions is organic (the highest in the world). This has translated into a thriving organic food scene. Restaurants, including BioMio in Kodbyen and Cap Horn in Nyhaven on the canal, are firm local favourites.

Isvaerket organic ice-creamery in Norrebro won an award from the Danish Gastronomic Academy for its seasonally changing delights.

"Today the organic farmers cannot supply enough organic food," Svensson says. "The consumers justwant more and this trend towards organics is beginning to emerge in textiles, furniture and architecture."

Danish design has been cutting edge for 50 years. The architect of the Sydney Opera House, Jorn Utzon, and the highly influential Arne Jacobsen, regarded as the originator of Danish design's aesthetic, have left their mark in the city. Jewellery design house Georg Jensen, with its clean lines and elegant approach, is based here; so is the audio engineering company Bang & Olufsen.

Alongside them, an army of young designers, not yet household names, are making their mark with sustainability principles as part of their everyday work. You can see it, for instance, in the bricks of the award-winning Royal Danish Playhouse, which act as basic construction units but also acoustic and aesthetic enhancement. And in architect firm Christensen and Co's carbonneutral "sun dial" building at the University of Copenhagen, a melding of brilliant Danish design aesthetic and sustainable technologies with optimum use of sunlight as a power source, heater and illuminator.

You can even see green principles at work in Stroget, the longest pedestrian shopping area in Europe. It might look like just another great long mall but it's a major part of the legacy of Jan Gehl.

With all eyes on the Danish capital, perhaps the unofficial COP15 questions should include: why can't all cities be like Copenhagen? Julietta Jameson travelled courtesy of the Scandinavian Tourism Board, Wonderful Copenhagen and SAS Scandinavian Airlines.

FAST FACTS Getting there Scandinavian Airlines (SAS) has a fare to Copenhagen for about $2090 flying Thai Airways to Bangkok, then SAS to Copenhagen. This fare allows onward travel to another European city. (Low-season return from Melbourne and Sydney including tax.)

Staying there Axel Hotel Guldsmeden is "green globe benchmarked", meaning it meets high environmental and social standards. The small hotel in an old multi-storey residential block has Balinese four-poster beds and Persian rugs in small but homely spaces with small balconies overlooking a central courtyard. In all rooms and the spa you will find Guldsmeden's own organic shampoo and toiletries in bottles that are refilled. And a seriously good organic breakfast. Double rooms from DKK1055 ($230). Helgolandsgade 7-11, see hotelguldsmeden.dk.

Getting around The CPHCARD allows unlimited travel on bus, train and metro throughout Greater Copenhagen and entry to museums and attractions. Adult 24 hours, DKK225 ($49); 72 hours, DKK450 ($98). See cphcard.com.

Eating there BioMio seats 250 people and is very popular. There's no table service - take a swipe card, line up and order direct from a chef and bar staff, who charge your meal to your card. The experience, in an old Bosch factory, and the organic food make it a great outing. Halmtorvet 19, see biomio.dk.

During the past four decades the Danish capital has been quietly making decisions on its green future. It's fitting, then, that it will host next month's 15th conference of the Parties of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change - in short, the UN climate change conference, known this round as COP15.

While COP15, perhaps the most critical climate summit ever, has serious aims, so too does Copenhagen. Klaus Bondam, the city's mayor of technology and the environment, told an international environment conference in March: "In Copenhagen, we are looking for solutions that will save the world. Our target is to be an inspirational city and our main goal is to be the world's first carbon-neutral city by 2025."

The statement underscores a remarkable transformation for a city that only two decades ago was generally regarded as fairly dull and lifeless, known for not much other than nice porcelain, a pretty harbour, a statue of the Little Mermaid and for being the birthplace of Hans Christian Andersen. The suburban sprawl that characterised development in many Western cities in the 1960s had taken its toll.

However, Copenhagen had Jan Gehl, a visionary architect and urban designer. Under Gehl's influence during the last four decades of the 20th century, Copenhagen's once heavy reliance on cars would make way for pedal power. Copenhagen is now one of world's great cycling cities. Some 36 per cent of the city's population cycles daily to work, school or to run errands. The pretty city has more than 300 kilometres of bike paths and more planned - many of those "green", the term the city uses for thoroughfares not shared with cars.

Copenhagen also embraced the late-20th century trend towards urban density and renewal, resulting in a city that continues to reclaim derelict or unused buildings, turning them into spaces that combine quality apartments with recreational and community facilities, with a focus on sustainability.

Vesterbro is still a rugged working-class and red-light district of the inner city where prostitutes and sex shops attract English lager louts and like minds. But it's also full of glam boutique hotels and retail outlets, many as a result of this renewal.

Close by, Kodbyen, behind the main railway station, is artist-designer-musician central. Like New York's funky Meatpacking District, bars and restaurants line the former "meat street", Istedgade. Unlike New York, however, some butchers remain, co-existing side by side with the hipsters, though the main meat market was converted to an exhibition hall in 1996.

The neighbourhood is cool. How cool? In the former "white meat" area, marked by a classic old diner called Chicky Grill, the award-winning Dask photo gallery is housed in a converted coldstorage room.

No wonder that Monocle magazine voted Copenhagen "best city in theworld for quality of life" last year, though it didn't base its vote on impossibly stylish galleries alone. It considered transport, restaurants, design and environmental credentials.

Green infrastructure is a major part of life. For citizens no more than 15 minutes' walk from a park or harbour swimming pool. Copenhagen's harbour is cleaner than it has been for 60 years and locals regularly take summer dips in two harbour pools. A third is planned to meet the goal. New pocket parks - small green spaces created on vacant lots or awkward spaces not suitable for other uses - are being developed, with 14,000 trees planted.

Because the city is an increasingly green environment, so is the thinking of its inhabitants. Its recycling record is outstanding: 90 per cent of all construction waste is recycled and 75 per cent of all household garbage is incinerated to power district heating systems, whichwere fuelled by oil in the past.

Vigga Svensson believes Denmark's size has contributed to its progressiveness. She is the chief executive officer and designer of the Danish organic children's clothing company, Katvig. "Being a very small country we are very aware of competitive factors and this generates know-how and smart solutions - like recycling and producing in a sustainable way," she says.

Twenty-three per cent of goods purchased by the private sector and 51 per cent of food consumed in the city's institutions is organic (the highest in the world). This has translated into a thriving organic food scene. Restaurants, including BioMio in Kodbyen and Cap Horn in Nyhaven on the canal, are firm local favourites.

Isvaerket organic ice-creamery in Norrebro won an award from the Danish Gastronomic Academy for its seasonally changing delights.

"Today the organic farmers cannot supply enough organic food," Svensson says. "The consumers justwant more and this trend towards organics is beginning to emerge in textiles, furniture and architecture."

Danish design has been cutting edge for 50 years. The architect of the Sydney Opera House, Jorn Utzon, and the highly influential Arne Jacobsen, regarded as the originator of Danish design's aesthetic, have left their mark in the city. Jewellery design house Georg Jensen, with its clean lines and elegant approach, is based here; so is the audio engineering company Bang & Olufsen.

Alongside them, an army of young designers, not yet household names, are making their mark with sustainability principles as part of their everyday work. You can see it, for instance, in the bricks of the award-winning Royal Danish Playhouse, which act as basic construction units but also acoustic and aesthetic enhancement. And in architect firm Christensen and Co's carbonneutral "sun dial" building at the University of Copenhagen, a melding of brilliant Danish design aesthetic and sustainable technologies with optimum use of sunlight as a power source, heater and illuminator.

You can even see green principles at work in Stroget, the longest pedestrian shopping area in Europe. It might look like just another great long mall but it's a major part of the legacy of Jan Gehl.

With all eyes on the Danish capital, perhaps the unofficial COP15 questions should include: why can't all cities be like Copenhagen?

Julietta Jameson travelled courtesy of the Scandinavian Tourism Board, Wonderful Copenhagen and SAS Scandinavian Airlines.

FAST FACTS
Getting there Scandinavian Airlines (SAS) has a fare to Copenhagen for about $2090 flying Thai Airways to Bangkok, then SAS to Copenhagen. This fare allows onward travel to another European city. (Low-season return from Melbourne and Sydney including tax.)

Staying there Axel Hotel Guldsmeden is "green globe benchmarked", meaning it meets high environmental and social standards. The small hotel in an old multi-storey residential block has Balinese four-poster beds and Persian rugs in small but homely spaces with small balconies overlooking a central courtyard. In all rooms and the spa you will find Guldsmeden's own organic shampoo and toiletries in bottles that are refilled. And a seriously good organic breakfast. Double rooms from DKK1055 ($230). Helgolandsgade 7-11, see hotelguldsmeden.dk.

Getting around The CPHCARD allows unlimited travel on bus, train and metro throughout Greater Copenhagen and entry to museums and attractions. Adult 24 hours, DKK225 ($49); 72 hours, DKK450 ($98). See cphcard.com.

Eating there BioMio seats 250 people and is very popular. There's no table service - take a swipe card, line up and order direct from a chef and bar staff, who charge your meal to your card. The experience, in an old Bosch factory, and the organic food make it a great outing. Halmtorvet 19, see biomio.dk.

Comments