Nordhavn: Building a city on water with stone, steel and soil

Biggest land-fill project in history of Copenhagen will transform harbour into home turf

Female students are predominant on five out of the six Copenhagen University faculties (photo: iStock)
February 24th, 2012 1:51 pm| by admin
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An immense landfill project is currently underway that will transform Copenhagen’s shape and size. Like plastic surgeons who take fat from a patient’s buttocks to fill out their lips, city engineers are stealing earth from under the city’s streets to extend its waterfront and create the brand new Nordhavn district.

The earth that will be used to literally build Nordhavn up from the bottom of Copenhagen’s harbour is to come from the concurrent subway building project, Metro Cityringen. The stones and soil now being excavated from the Metro’s 20 work sites around the city will eventually end up in the north harbour.

When both projects are finished, more than eighteen million tonnes of earth – enough to fill 41 fields the size of Rådhuspladsen, the city hall square – will have been transplanted from under Copenhagen to its outer edge, and the city will have a one percent greater landmass than it has today.

Nordhavn is the biggest landfill project in the history of Copenhagen, a city which already counts sections of Christianshavn, Islands Brygge and Sydhavn among its land-filled, man-made wonders.

“This landfill literally creates room for Copenhagen to grow," said Jens Kramer Mikkelsen, the president of By & Havn, the state- and city-owned company that manages the harbour and waterfront. "We’re building room for the 100,000 new residents who are expected to move to Copenhagen over the next 15 years. At the same time, we’re making room so that the cruise ship industry and harbour businesses can remain in the city.”

When the whole project is finished around 2022, city planners estimate that Nordhavn will house 40,000 residents and some 40,000 workers. To keep them connected to the rest of Copenhagen, the city council recently approved funding to give Nordhavn its own subway spur.

But before Nordhavn’s builders can begin dumping those thousands of truckloads of dirt into the harbour, they first need to finish the enormous iron retaining wall that will keep it all in place. The first section of the wall will be finished and ready to receive landfill at the end of the summer.

The project’s next phase calls for a massive stone embankment and a 1,100 metre long deep-water pier that will accommodate up to three cruise ships at once. The new pier is scheduled to open for business in 2013.

While it might be tempting to take a stroll out to Nordhavn to watch the mountain-moving job progress, the area is currently closed off to the public due to the heavy work underway.

FACTFILE | How big will Nordhavn be?

  • Once finished Nordhavn will make Copenhagen one percent larger than it is today
  • Nordhavns total area will measure one million square meters or 100 hectares
  • Some 18 million tonnes of earth will be needed to fill in the area
  • A 1,250 meter long iron wall and 1,200 meter long stone embankment will contain the landfill
(photo: Henrik Stenberg)
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