Copenhagen’s Urban Development is Just Old Wine in New Bottles

Mikael Colville-Andersen
14 min readSep 2, 2020
Copenhagen’s development is just old wine in new bottles

This is a time and an age where we are thinking differently about our cities for the first time in a century. Copenhagen is often revered as a benchmark city but hapless politicians with a shocking lack of modern vision merely dazzle with smoke and mirrors. City Hall continues to dust off urban development ideas that date from the 1950’s and 1960’s. It’s all just old car-centric wine in new bottles and none of it tastes good. Don’t believe the hype.

The political party that has controlled Copenhagen for well over a century — the Social-Democrats — have an dark, awkward history of urban development visions and the current Lord Mayor Frank Jensen is seemingly intent on continuing that tradition.

1910 proposal that would have destroyed Nyhavn and created a tunnel to Christianshavn

The political dream of a tunnel under the harbour goes way back. To 1910, actually. The Social-Democrats had a vision of tearing down Nyhavn — now the picture-postcard canal in the heart of the city, but there were plans to tear it down and build a tunnel to the other side.

The primary anchor of many of the proposals, past and present, seems to be a tunnel under the harbour. There is a bizarre obsession with completing the Ring 2 road. “It should have been a circle and by god it will be eventually”, is the mantra repeated ad nauseum by generation after generation of Social Democrats and their cronies.

I’m going to run through the current developments and proposals and show how they are just dusted-off relics from a previous century. Firstly, let’s talk about the latest monster.

Proposal for Lynetteholmen — an artificial island at the head of Copenhagen harbour


Lynetteholmen is a current proposal to create a massive artificial island at the head of Copenhagen harbour. It will feature 35,000 expensive homes and about the same number of workplaces. Probably the same number of coffee shops selling cafe lattes for €8, but that study isn’t finished yet.

Mikael Colville-Andersen

Urban designer, author and host of the global documentary series about urbanism, The Life-Sized City. Impatient Idealist.