Sustainable Cities™

Copenhagen: Noise barriers raise the standard of living

Due to extreme noise pollution, outdoor activity around a building complex on the heavily trafficked street Tagensvej has been nearly impossible for a number of years. However, the owner is now planning to erect climate screens, which will double as noise barriers, in order to re-establish the use of a green courtyard and a series of presently dismantled balconies.

Visualisering af støjskærme. Venligst udlånt af Svendborg Architects

Before a surge in the motor vehicle use of Tangensvej and a subsequent increase in traffic noise pollution, each of the 150 apartments of a nearby complex had its own balcony, while two courtyards separating the buildings offered a common space for the occupants to relax in. The Three Sisters, as the buildings are called, were designed by the Danish architect Kay Fisker and were erected in 1931. Initially designed to be a quaint peaceful area of communal living, the architect's original vision has been lost as cars have become more and more dominant.

Over the years, all of the balconies of the Three Sisters have been removed as increasing noise and air pollution from Tagensvej has gradually rendered them unpleasant places to be in. Additionally, the courtyards that originally served a social function have now come to be used solely as parking space. In the face of this destruction by the motor vehicle, the family that owns the buildings has initiated an attempt to reclaim the courtyards and restore the relative peace and quiet that once existed for the residents.

Svendborg Architects have been given the task of developing a solution to the challenge. Their project can be viewed as an attempt to restore the social dimension of the complex, which was an integral part of Fisker's original functionalist design. Of course, in purely architectural terms, the new design is purposely more "sculptural" than the three original functionalist and almost identical buildings in order to adapt the building to present-day culture. .

Noise screens on Tagensvej. Svendborg Architects.

The initial idea was to simply erect sound barriers but Svendborg Architects have gone a step further and proposed glass screens that retain both the visual and physical connection between the street and the courtyards. This proposed screen consists of transparent prisms that "twist and turn" in different directions to create voids and passages where various public activities can take place. Both courtyards remain accessible to Tagensvej but entrance from this direction is restricted to pedestrians... and sunlight.

One courtyard will be turned into a pedestrian green space while the other will still hold parking spaces (but without vehicular access from Tagensvej). Finally, once the thought of spending time outdoors is no longer an unbearable nightmare of loud traffic noise, the original balconies will be reinstated. The restoration of these balconies is an essential goal of the project and is a key step to allowing for the realisation of Fisker's vision... again. The project will be completed in 2012.

Design of the screens

An important feature of this design is that the courtyards are not closed off to the rest of the city. Instead, they open towards Tagensvej and connect to the street with a proposed gallery space and laundromat in one of the walls and two public balconies in the other. One of the balconies will face Tagensvej and, while it has the disadvantage of facing traffic, it catches the sun at an angle that allows residents to enjoy it. The other balcony faces the courtyard and affords a more peaceful public gathering space. Additionally, it is important to note that both balconies are open to the general public and are not exclusive to residents. There is logic to the twists of the transparent prisms as they are constructed so that the glass does not work as a wall or a barrier but more as a filter. Other important aspects of these glass screens include the proposed placement of solar cells on top of them and their ability to collect rainwater. The idea is to use collected energy and rainwater for irrigation of the courtyard and proper functioning of the laundromat and gallery.

Last updated Tuesday, January 21, 2014