Cobe's Copenhagen square hides bicycles under hollow hills
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Cobe's Copenhagen square hides bicycles under hollow hills

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The almost cathedral-like form of the bicycle hills further offers an aesthetic experience in its own right, both when people park their bikes
– Dan Stubbergaard

Danish architecture studio Cobe has designed an undulating public square in Copenhagen that provides bicycle parking underneath its hills, introduces greenery to the area and can be used as a space for events.

Karen Blixens Plads, at the University of Copenhagen, combines spaces for sitting and meeting with landscaped beds for trees and plants.

A total of around 2,000 bikes can be stored in the square, with two-thirds covered in the hills and a third uncovered.

The 20,000sq m (215,000sq ft) square is defined by three circular hills 36m (118ft) in diameter that appear to lift away from the ground to provide covered bicycle parking.

The shell-like structure of the hills was chosen for its loadbearing properties, having been calculated and modelled in collaboration with CN3 and EKJ.

The hills were created using lightweight concrete and a casting technique that meant no support columns were required inside, maximising the space available for bicycle storage. Tiles coloured to match the surrounding buildings were then laid on top.

Large, circular entrances and exits provide ample room for ingress and egress, give wide sightlines from outside for safety and allow plenty of natural light in. Additional uplighting is set into the bicycle parking facilities.

The circular theme is drawn through into the shape of the planting beds, while tiered seating is shaped into the curves of the hills and can be used for outdoor events in the adaptable surrounding space.

The hills also help to disrupt wind as it blows across what is otherwise an open space and there are depressions in the landscaping to delay the run-off of stormwater.

COBE’s founder Dan Stubbergaard said: "All in all, we have created a unique space based on three main principles: improving the connection between landscape and urban space, integrating optimal green spaces with a large capacity for bicycle parking and creating a space that offers good social meeting places and learning environments.

"The almost cathedral-like form of the bicycle hills further offers an aesthetic experience in its own right, both when people park their bikes and when they meet at the hills for lectures, group work, concerts or Friday afternoon socializing."

The square was built at a cost of 80 million Danish Krone (US$12m, €11m, £9m), with a 70 million Krone ($10m, €9m, £8m) donation from the AP Møller Foundation.

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Danish architecture studio Cobe has designed an undulating public square in Copenhagen that provides bicycle parking space underneath its hills, introduces greenery to the areas and provides a space for events.
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