Karens Minde Aksen: Cloudburst Park with a Grassroot Soul

Urban spaces

© Thomas Hjort Vesterbæk, Schønherr

In the southern part of Copenhagen, a brick path meanders like a river through a green landscape. On dry days, you can walk on the path and enjoy nature, and when the rain falls heavily, the area serves as flood protection for residents around the park.

Karens Minde Aksen (Karen’s Memorial Axis) is a large, green area by Sjælør Boulevard and Karens Minde Kulturhus in Sydhavn (Copenhagen’s South Harbor district). The area has been revitalized as part of the South Harbor Area Renewal. The project is designed with the motto: To add as much and take away as little as possible.

The reason for this motto can be found in the area’s residents. It is described as a place with a special grassroot soul, characterized by great social diversity and strong local identity. The residents have also shown great commitment and have been involved in the project, and at local request, already existing places such as playgrounds, dog parks, and horse paddocks have been integrated into the new. Yet the entire area has changed.

Cloudburst Protection in a Green Urban Space

In addition to serving as a new and green urban space, Karens Minde Aksen is also used for passage, storage, and purification of rainwater. Previously, the area had a substantial risk of flooding due to its low elevation, but it is now used for cloudburst protection.

The path, which winds in and out between the trees, serves two functions. You can walk on it, and when it rains heavily, it can guide the water that comes. The water is led through the facility and over a so-called trickle meadow, a series of smaller filtration basins, that purify it of heavy particles. Finally, it ends up in a rainwater basin in the southern part of the area.
Instead of securing against cloudbursts by laying large sewer pipes in the ground, a solution has been created that not only handles substantial amounts of water but also gives back to the neighborhood and ties the area together.

Increased Biodiversity in the Area

The park’s path system has also been renewed. Previously, there were many paths crisscrossing, but now, an elevated, circular wooden bridge has been set up to replace the many transverse paths.

Although much is new, most of the existing trees in the park have been preserved, and about 70 new trees have been planted. The goal has been to increase biodiversity throughout the area, and this is especially evident around the rainwater basin. Here, the slopes are planted, and large stones create habitats for small animals and insects. In addition, there are no benches or artificial lighting at that end of the park, to disturb the wildlife as little as possible.

Near Karens Minde Aksen

In the park, you can walk past Karens Minde Kulturhus, also called Sydhavn’s “red castle.” Inside, you can have a cup of coffee or a beer at Café Karen. If you’re more into outdoor activities, The Children’s Animal Field is only a short walk away. Here you can be lucky to see sheep, horses, rabbits, alpacas, and chicken.


Facts about Karens Minde Aksen

  • Karen Wancher, born Schmidt, was the grandmother of the merchant and wine trader Jacob Arnkiel, who in 1856 named his farm Karen’s Memorial (Karens Minde) after her. Since then, the name has stuck.
  • The park is built to handle rain from surrounding neighborhoods. The area can hold up to 15,000 cubic meters of water.
  • Karens Minde Aksen is about 600 meters (about 2000 ft) long and covers an area of 37,000 square meters, equivalent to just over 5 soccer fields.