by Trevor Boddy / The Globe and Mail / Published August 2007
With a Vancouver-like horizon of building cranes fore-grounded by dump-truck-laden roads, the Danish capital is wrapped up in a building boom it cannot quite understand, much less tame. While the city is smaller than ours, Copenhagen’s largely redundant port, former shipbuilding havens and deemed-surplus naval dockyards are much larger, but every bit of them now seems swamped in a development wave that is only a few years old.
The Danish dockside building boom has two key differences from our own: no building is taller than 10 stories; and developers must construct a 50-50 balance of housing and workspaces at every major development. Copenhagen’s planners—low key experts who know Vancouver’s city-building in extraordinary detail—are resolved not to turn their city into a light-less and view-less resort for retirees and hot money investors. Pass the Danish, please!
Copenhagen is changing with a rapidity seldom seen in Europe. Kierkegaardian grey Nordic diffidence has been replaced by an aggressive play-making, just as Aquavit has been replaced with imported Scotch and Tequila. Stable, statist predictability falls before roller-coasters of speculation. For example, there is now an over-build of condos, but helpfully a new mania for harbour-side offices is just heating up. This is all because the ancient seat of Danish kings is emerging as the portal city for global business, choosing to locate here to serve all of Scandinavia from its comfortable streets. The Vikings had nothing on these all-business Danes.