Sustainable Cities™

Køge: impermanence and art as tools for urban development

Temporary art and social activities will ensure the sustainable development of Køge. In the course of the next two years, the town and its de-industrialised harbour area will form the backdrop for a variety of creative initiatives and artistic installations. The purpose is to bring life to the area and ensure natural development of the town and the harbour. Køge Coast has so far provided financial support for the realisation of three cultural events intended to bring life to the area in a creative, spirited and sustainable way.

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Habour, South, Køge. Photo: The Municipality of Køge

Culture and the arts play an essential role in the development of contemporary towns. Even so, it may seem abstract and a tad ill-defined to use art and culture as the driving force for sustainable planning and urban development. However, if, as they do in Køge, see planning and development as something process-related and social, art and culture actually have a useful role to play as concrete tools in the development of an area. This explains why there is talk neither of design or specific solution proposals in connection with the development of Køge's new harbour area.

A lot of hard work is currently being done to develop strategies and plans for how the development of Køge Coast will proceed over the next 20-25 years and how impermanence, art and activities can be exploited as a driving force. Apart from being the name of the area, Køge Coast is also a cooperative effort between Køge Municipality and Realdania Area Development, who have joined forces to develop part of the central harbour area in Køge with the focus on three areas: The station area, the South Harbour area and the Collstrup site. Køge's new local harbour area - Køge Coast - will be developed over the next 20 years. Development of the area has not, however, been firmly established, but will come about on the background of an ideas competition for professional players, such as architects and artists who will provide on-going input to the development. In addition, citizens, local commerce and other stakeholders have already been involved in the work and will continuously contribute proposals and ideas.

Urban breakfast, Køge harbour. Photo courtesy of landscape architect Bettina Lamm and creator Charlotte Bagger Brandt


In order to bolster and support activities, innovation and a natural flow in the development of Køge's Coast area, the cargo Coast partnership has set aside a culture, quality and marketing pool of DKK 30 million for activities over the next five years. Initially, 15 Danish and international artists have directed works of different sizes and character from the spring of 2011. All the works and architectural installations have been specifically created for the environment around and between Køge town and the harbour. The first framework project is the so-called art route - "Walk This Way" - that visually and physically (re)create the link between the town, the harbour and the sea. Apart from the art route, The "Urban Play" project, opened in May 2012, offers several different experiences on the harbour through a series of installations all based on the area's special character, materials and moods.

"Traditionally, the area has been divided up according to use - one area for industry, one for housing, etc. But we are going to combine these three functions. This will provide lots of space for things to come alive and there will be interaction of a kind never seen before." - Marie Stærke, Mayor of Køge.


In order to ensure high standards of artistic practice, innovation and dynamic development in the area, Køge Coast has set out a number of access requirements and guidelines, involving among other things, interdisciplinary collaboration as a prerequisite for those applying for support for artistic projects. By inviting artists, athletes, planners, architects and citizens to make active use of the area, social activities and creative initiatives will function as a sort of natural catalyst in the development of the new local harbour area. "We are going to be creating something entirely new, something that has never been tried before - and which neither Køge or other municipalities have been good at. That is thinking in terms of homes, culture and commerce together in one area. Areas have traditionally been divided up according to function - one area for industry, one for housing, etc. But we will be combining all three functions. This will give us plenty of space for things to come alive and there will be interaction of a kind never seen before is," says Marie Stærke, the mayor of Køge.

The approach to urban regeneration and area development in Køge is remarkable. Hopefully, a long-term vision combined with short-term exploitation of art and impermanence as sustainable urban development tools will ensure that Køge Coast does not end up reflecting all the other harbour projects along the Danish coastline. Køge Coast does not necessarily represent an absolute showdown with 'exclusive' harbour developments, where luxury flats, pretentious commercial domiciles and estheticized recreational areas dominate the picture. Unlike other coastal and harbour towns, development in Køge is all about (re)generating life throughout the area - in the town and on the harbour - by means of temporary activities, artistic initiatives and social experiences, which in the short- and long-term will attach themselves to the area, thus securing sustainable development of Køge Coast.

Last updated Tuesday, January 21, 2014

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