The pandemic has underscored the necessity for resilience in cities with public space taking center stage. According to recent studies and statistics almost half of the population had felt anxious or worried during the pandemic.
Nearly one in five people reported feeling lonely and has suffered from mental health as a result of lockdown being enforced around the world.
As cities grow in population and diversity the creation of quality public spaces is becoming more and more urgent.
Aarhus is a liveable city. From its close proximity to forests and nature to its bustling city center and cultural amenities many newcomers are attracted to Aarhus for its little big city charm. Aside from being the fastest growing city in Denmark, it is also growing in diversity with many of its new comers arriving from outside the EU.
Brabrand Sø, part of Aarhus’s green lungs, lie just to the east of the city center. An uninterrupted corridor of green space runs from here all the way to the central train station.
Aarhus is no stranger to urban innovation: much like when the city re-claimed its river and turned it into a space for everyone back in the 1950s. Not only that but it also prides itself on its spirit of strong cooperation and social cohesion. This will be challenged as the city will grows. However, with initiatives like Rethink Aarhus and Go Green with Aarhus the city is tackling its challenges head on while keeping an eye toward the future. One of these is to be Carbon neutral by 2030.
The whole city is looking at public spaces right now with new eyes. How is it possible to channel the energy, and expectations of this moment for long-term change? Trying to be smart about it.
Electrification of tracks brings new possibilities for activating space over Banegraven and the city has shown a will to address the potentials of the site and asked for views of its citizens. Now, Banegraven presents an opportunity to fulfil the green aspirations of the city and its inhabitants. However, the current plan to develop the area, proposed by a local firm, suggests decking the space over the railyard to make way for a new high dense neighbourhood.
The wall (current proposal):
Rather than unifying two areas of the city the proposal disrupts and divides it, both physically, as a wall of buildings, and socio-economically, as a gentrified development. It disrupts the site further by reducing sunlight, views, habitat and fresh air circulation into the city. The proposal suggests densifying what is already one of Aarhus’ most congested areas – Aarhus Banegaardsplads, and adds very little in the way of public space and smart mobility.
The Yard ( LOCØ’s proposal):
The people have spoken about their ideal urban setting. The demand for open public spaces is high, necessary and desired. They propose to turn the grey railyard valley into a green, social infrastructure bridge, with a lightweight blanket stretched over the railroad tracks. A new park and public space in the heart of the city prepared to take on the post COVID era and anchor two divided neighbourhoods.
Goals and vision
Landmark – Recognizes the trench as a significant element of nature- a unique and crucial part of the city structure.
Railways – Maintains and develops the railway trench as a green wedge into the city. A large open space with wild nature in real breeding ground, biodiversity, fresh air, light and views.
Outdoor spaces – Investigates the potentials of creating activity opportunities and attractive outdoor spaces that follow the wedge’s elongated course towards the river valley.
Connectivity – Sees the green wedge as a significant asset that creates coherence between districts – preferably expanded with pedestrian bicycle bridges.
Urban space – Does away with the idea that continued urban densification is always good – regardless of obvious detrimental effects on the city’s existing life and space.
CO2 Neutral 2030 – In line with the electrification of the train network, strengthens Aarhus municipality’s green main goal of being CO2 neutral by 2030.
Remote Working – More and more people are working remotely which means they don’t need to commute to the office anymore, they can work from anywhere, from an open space, a pop up store or a cafe.
Health – Parks, playgrounds and residential greenery can promote mental and physical health, reducing mortality in urban residents by providing relaxation and stress alleviation.
The Aarhus green rail yard ecosystem
A new urban and community anchor that seamlessly merges two divided neighbourhoods. An epicentre for urban and social culture for all.
The current site: Two areas of the city (Frederiksbjerg and Aarhus city centre) are divided by a rail yard that connects the city to the rest of europe. Two neighbourhoods are linked together by two busy bridges to the east and west. Large trees line the site and form an uninterrupted corridor for natural habitat into the heart of the city. Open space brings views, sunlight, and air circulation into the city.
Remove the buildings – Density can be good for a city, but not here. Move the development to the harbour where it is still possible and there is space from industry.
Respecting the site – Respect nature. Respect the established “flow” of the site. Allow the site to “breath”. All by pinching the slab towards the inside and therefore preserving the 100 year old trees located on the bank-side of the rail yard.
Relating to context – Turning up the edges of the park integrates it better into its surroundings. It allows for vantage points into the city and into nature. It allows for views “under the blanket” to the trains below.
Respecting the neighbors – Views out into the open spaces are preserved.
Go with the flow: elevated cycle lane for commuters – A strong circulation exists on the site with the linear nature of the tracks and board walk to the south. This circulation has shaped the character of the site and adjacent neighbourhoods. The design does not disrupt the existing circulation. Instead it uses this energy to shape its own, more fluid pattern of circulation.
Bring in the nature – A diversity of wild and maintained green spaces provide habitat for a diversity of site users (human and animal) and activities.
The space beneath the yard – Below the deck the existing green spaces are maintained and where possible enhanced to fortify the green corridor into and out of the city.
Active placemaking – Well studied public spaces are designed through the principles of “placemaking”, capitalizing on the local community’s assets, inspiration, and potential, in order to create places that promote people’s health, happiness, and well-being. The above program of activities is taken directly from the reflections expressed by the community.
Project Location: Aarhus, Denmark
Typology: Public space, urbanism, infrastructure
Design year: 2020
Area: 2.800 m²
Designers: Marco Antonio Maycotte, Wei Lesley Yang, Alexander Coulson
Client: Frederiks Gruppen, City of Aarhus
LOCØ is a group of emerging [next-generational] architects, designers, thinkers, and change-makers operating within the spatial frontiers of our evolving cities, based in London and Copenhagen. LOCØ builds upon the fields of architecture, urbanism, research and development with an holistic development process in mind. Led by founder and creative director, Marco Antonio Maycotte, joined by co-founding partners Alexander Coulson and Wei Lesley Yang. They are as ambitious as they are creative and driven to change the shape of our world for a better future. They want to bring spaces and experiences of life, work, enjoyment, and play into a greater focus. Together, they bring a sum of high profile projects that they have had the opportunity to lead, design, and contribute to. These factors make their approach unique and their skills and experience invaluable.