CopenHill - Scale Magazine

Waste to Energy; Served in Leisure

CopenHill is a 41,000 square meter waste-to-energy plant, designed by Danish architecture firm BIG   that comes with an urban recreation centre and environmental education hub, turning social infrastructure into an architectural landmark.

This is one project that makes you look at architectural solutions with a lot more respect, for here is an incinerator that has become the local tourist attraction in Copenhagen, the Danish capital that pledges to become the world’s first carbon-neutral city by 2025.BIG_ARC_CopenHill - Scale MagazineCopenHill - Scale Magazine The Amager Bakke or the CopenHill powerplant, designed by the Danish architect Bjarke Ingels, turn local trash by incineration into low-carbon energy. The process, as designed, is so clean that the facility’s roof has been created to be a recreational area. “CopenHill” which opened on October 4, boosts hiking trails, a fitness center and even an artificial ski slope on its slanted roof.

“Amager Bakke is the embodiment of how we want to combine sustainable thinking and innovative architecture with recreational facilities when developing the city,” said Frank Jensen, Copenhagen’s mayor.


CopenHill - Scale Magazine

CopenHill is conceived as a public infrastructure with intended social side-effects from day one. Replacing the adjacent 50-year old waste-to-energy plant with Amager Ressource Center (ARC), CopenHill’s new waste incinerating facilities integrate the latest technologies in waste treatment and energy production. Due to its location on the industrial waterfront of Amager, where raw industrial facilities have become the site for extreme sports from wakeboarding to go-kart racing, the new power plant adds skiing, hiking, and rock climbing to thrill-seekers’ wish lists.

CopenHill - Scale Magazine

CopenHill - Scale Magazine

The internal volumes of the power plant are determined by the precise positioning and organization of its machinery in height order, creating an efficient, sloping rooftop fit for a 9,000m2 ski terrain. At the top, experts can glide down the artificial ski slope with the same length as an Olympic half-pipe, test the freestyle park or try the timed slalom course, while beginners and kids practice on the lower slopes. Skiers ascend the park from the platter lift, carpet lifts or glass elevator for a glimpse inside the 24-hour operations of a waste incinerator.

Recreation buffs and visitors reaching the summit of CopenHill will feel the novelty of a mountain in an otherwise-flat country. Non-skiers can enjoy the rooftop bar, cross-fit area, climbing wall or highest viewing plateau in the city before descending the 490m tree-lined hiking and running trail within a lush, mountainous terrain designed by Danish Landscape Architects SLA. The area looks like a mountain field, with 7,000 bushes, 300 pine and willow trees, various plants and real grass that grows through the artificial bristles. Meanwhile, the 10,000 square metre green roof addresses the challenging micro-climate of an 85 metre high park, rewilding a biodiverse landscape while absorbing heat, removing air particulates and minimizing stormwater runoff.CopenHill - Scale Magazine

Beneath the slopes, whirring furnaces, steam, and turbines convert 440,000 tons of waste annually into enough clean energy to deliver electricity and district heating for 150,000 homes. The necessities of the power plant to complete this task, from ventilation shafts to air-intakes, help create the varied topography of a mountain; a man-made landscape created in the encounter between the needs from below and the desires from above. Ten floors of administrative space are occupied by the ARC team, including a 600 square meter education center for academic tours, workshops and sustainability conferences. BIG_ARC_CopenHill - Scale MagazineBIG_ARC_CopenHill - Scale Magazine

Rather than consider ARC as an isolated architectural object, the building envelope is conceived as an opportunity for the local context while forming a destination and a reflection on the progressive vision of the company. CopenHill’s continuous façade comprises 1.2 metre tall and 3.3 metre wide aluminum bricks stacked like gigantic bricks overlapping with each other. In-between, glazed windows allow daylight to reach deep inside the facility, while larger openings on the southwest façade illuminate workstations on the administrative floors. On the longest vertical façade, an 85 metre climbing wall is installed to be the tallest artificial climbing wall in the world for new world records to be broken with views inside the factory. At the bottom of the ski slope, a 600m2 après-ski bar welcomes locals and visitors to wind down once the boots are off. Formerly a piece of infrastructure in an industrial zone, CopenHill aims to be the new destination for families, friends, and celebrations, one that is economically, environmentally and socially profitable.

Project Details


Code: ARC

Date: 04/10/2019

Size in m2: 41000

Client: Amager Ressource Center

Awards: 2015 P/A Progressive Architecture Awards Citation, 2012 AR MIPIM Future Projects Awards Special Award


Partners-in-Charge: Bjarke Ingels, David Zahle, Jakob Lange, Brian Yang

Pictures Courtesy The Architects, BIG