Lessons on sharing from Copenhagen

Sydney's getting busier and by 2026, Greater Sydney will accommodate 1.74 million additional people and more than 725,000 additional homes. This means there are more people vying for use of our parks, streets and public places for a range of different uses. Walking the dog, playing with kids, exercising, reading a book, riding a bike, going for a run, kicking a ball, looking at a view, finding somewhere to sleep, or just hanging out. Unlike 20 years ago, there are less of us with private back yards, less of us who can afford our own homes, and more of us living together - and we are just now starting to learn how to share this city. Increasingly we are hearing about conflicts between different groups over access and rights to public spaces within increasingly dense and populated areas. Dogs v kids; bikes v pedestrians v cars; Views v access; private v public; noise v quiet. This recent article about dogs v kids in parks highlighted this for me, as has the closure of live music venues across the inner city, the public anxiety around cyclists on our roads, and the significant protest against a proposed youth precinct at Rushcutters Bay Park.

A recent trip to Copenhagen (and other Scandy places) made me realise that there is a lot we can learn from a city where quality and innovative urban design and architecture and social and environmental planning collaborate for great outcomes for people. Here are some of my lessons on sharing from Copenhagen, a densely populated city - that I'd like to share with you.

Sharing streets. There is barely a car on the road (by Sydney standards) and the roads and the streets are shared by pedestrians, cyclists, skaters, buses, and cars. You can even leave your baby on the street while you shop and there is public seating to sit and chat outside many businesses.

Image source: denmark.dk

Image source: denmark.dk


Sharing parks, public spaces, and rooftops: Most everyone in Copenhagen lives in apartments - parks are designed for multiple uses and users, where a range of people - children, youth, seniors as well as dogs can play, socialise and exercise. This case study of Konditaget Luders is a great example of sharing private spaces for public uses with play/exercise park on top of a car park.

Sharing their places of rest: Even cemeteries are share spaces where residents walk, read, cycle, and ponder.

Sharing play spaces and schools: All across the city schools are located adjacent to public parks and playgrounds with schools using these spaces at break and lunch times and for sport and recreation activities.

Sharing ideas: Collaboration is at the core of the great urban design outcomes in Copenhagen. Collaboration with local communities about park/neighbourhood renewal or redesign is a core part of all planning processes. Designers, planners, sociologists and other city builders also regularly collaborate on solutions for improved urban and social outcomes. Like the Danish Cabinet Makers Association who for their 2017 Exhibition explored The social potential of outdoor furniture.


Collaborating for social and environmental outcomes: A distinct nordic take on the transition towards a more sustainable society is to ensure that dialogue between citizens, project managers, the municipality and other stakeholders is kept at the core of each project and throughout the whole process, resulting in incredible projects such as Hans Tavsens Park.

Sharing housing and social spaces, such as in Bjarke Ingles incredible 8 Housenotable for its elevated walkways or "streets in the sky" following the Smithsons' post-war model for flats connected by public pathways, which they believed would encourage social interaction between residents.

Sharing the view: On the Copenhagen Harbour is situated public green spaces, walkways, libraries, galleries, performance spaces, cycle tracks and other public uses. More recently, a floating student housing prototype has been built on the harbour providing low cost housing for low income students.


Sharing culture and fun: Superkilen Park is a 30,000m2 park in Copenhagen designed to enable "extreme participation" and engagement by the local residents, the most diverse in Denmark from more than 50 nationalities. Residents nominated different objects to include in this incredible social, cultural, physical, multipurpose, and intergenerational space. There's even a boxing ring and coal BBQs for large family gatherings, and places (as throughout Copenhagen) for adults to play.