A power station that doubles as an urban mountain park – welcome to Copenhill in Denmark, where the very idea of urban areas is being reinvented.

16 July, 2019

Of course this is no ordinary power plant, but is the cleanest waste to energy power plant in the world

Although building a ski run in the middle of a city is nothing new, building a ski run on top of a power station takes the very idea to new heights – literally.

In Denmark on Amager Island, an ambitious project is underway to do just that. To create an entire mountain park on top of a clean power station and in the process, change the very way we view urban spaces and how they’re used.

Ironically, there are no hills or mountains on Amager island, but that is the name given to this groundbreaking building – Amager Bakke, which translates to Amager Hill. Standing 100 metres high at its tallest point, the power station has been designed not only to harness energy from burning waste products, but also to act as ‘man-made mountain’ for various activities, from skiing and snowboarding, to climbing and hiking. This is Copenhill, essentially a giant mountain park integrated into the building and boasting one of the largest artificial ski runs in the world down the length of the building’s roof.

Of course this is no ordinary power plant, but is the cleanest waste to energy power plant in the world. Here, 400,000 tons of waste a year, from the five municipalities surrounding Copehagen is used as the fuel to power the plant which in turn creates both heating and clean electricity for the Danish capital. Although a mist often envelopes the ski slope from within ‘the mountain’ the plant emits no toxins and is completely safe for humans to be around, making it the perfect place for a park like Copenhill.

The idea of turning it into a workable, mountain park was the better part of a decade in  the making, the rationale being to demonstrate that sustainability need not detract from our current way of life, but can in fact improve on it.

The architect responsible for Copenhill, Bjarke Ingels, sees the whole concept of hybrid buildings – a mix of functioning building and urban landscape – as the future.

“It’s an idea we call hedonistic sustainability,” says Ingels.

“If sustainability is always seen in the context of this urgent situation, where we have to take drastic action … that it’s got to hurt to do good it will be harder to implement.”

“But what if a sustainable building and a sustainable city has more opportunities and is more enjoyable than the non-sustainable one?”

Ingels sees no reason why this style of development could not become the norm, and the next generation grow up not knowing that there was ever a time when you couldn’t ski on the tops of power plants.

In total, the building allows up to a kilometre of downhill skiing, covered in an artificial compound for those months when there is no snow so that skiing and snowboarding can be year round pursuits. Those looking to challenge the ‘face’ of the building will be able to climb what is the largest climbing wall in the world at 85 metres, but what better way to show off this unique mountain environment ahead of its public opening than with a professional freestyle skier putting it through its paces. Jesper Tjader was the man given the task of testing the mountain, his sensational run caught on camera.

In total, the building allows up to a kilometre of downhill skiing