Skt. Kjelds Plads: Wild on purpose

Urban spaces

Mikkel Eye

Less asphalt, more greenery. At Skt. Kjelds Plads and Bryggervangen, 9000 sqm of asphalt has been replaced with 586 new trees, 3,000 sqm of perennials, 500 sqm of wild grass, and 30,000 snowdrops. A new form of natural climate adaptation has arrived in Copenhagen.

Some might say that the term “urban nature” is an oxymoron. Whereas nature is wild, the city is planned and controlled. Nonetheless, urban nature is now an everyday concept in the climate adaptation and green solutions undertaken by big cities like Copenhagen.

Although nature cannot be disassembled and relocated, we can create spaces and experiences in the city that remind us of nature. One of the strongest proponents of this new type of urban nature is Stig Lennart Andersson and SLA, the architects behind one of Copenhagen’s newest urban spaces at Skt. Kjelds Plads.

Two-thirds of the area at Skt. Kjelds Plads and Bryggervangen was dug up and replaced with modern storm water protection systems disguised as wild nature. More than 600 trees and bushes have been planted in a network of green rainwater beds. The network combines beds, canals, roads and underground pipes, creating a storm water protection system that, even in the case of the most extreme downpours, will keep basements in the neighborhood around Skt. Kjelds Plads dry and free of water.

Taking a new approach, SLA sought to encapsulate aspects of nature in an urban context. This means that every single bed, tree, bush, perennial and area is directly inspired by natural areas in the Copenhagen area, e.g. Utterslev Marsh, Amager Common and Kongelunden Forest. The idea is to create biotopes in balance, imitating nature and hopefully ensuring more resilient growth with less maintenance.

Incorporating nature into the city like this can provide valuable solutions to issues such as overheating, biodiversity and noise/air pollution. Localized overheating in cities is typically a result of large glass facades, dark surface colors and a lack of shade. But the project also has social ambitions. Benches line paths winding between the square’s trees, and intentionally placed “fallen” trees reinforce the sense of “real” nature. All of this aims to create new meeting places, new experiences and a new social venue that invites a more active everyday life, thereby improving quality of life in the area.


  • The square was designed using the latest technologies in storm water protection, e.g. “First Flush”, which separates the initial dirty rainwater from the sewer pipes before the cleaner water (second flush) is then channeled to seep into the green rainwater beds.
  • In 2019, Copenhagen has more than 300 climate adaptation projects. They are typically designed to withstand a “100-year (rain) event”, which means extreme downpours that, statistically speaking, should only occur in Copenhagen once every 100 years. The 2011 cloudburst was a 100-year event. Since then, locally there have been two 400-year events and a couple of 100-year events. Unfortunately, this means that the storm water protection systems will not prevent all damage.

Close by:

  • A wild idea can be found just around the corner on Æbeløgade. On top of an old car auction house is the pioneer project ØsterGro (, which in 2014 became Denmark’s first rooftop farm. Here, plants grow for the benefit of 40 local families, the small eatery Gro Spiseri, which is also located on the rooftop, and a lot of nature enthusiasts. Gro Spiseri ( is open from March to November, 5:30 pm to 8:30 pm. Reservations are necessary, as the small greenhouse does not have a very large capacity.
  • Right around the corner is the Climate Neighborhood’s other spearhead project, Tåsinge Plads. Other similar projects in Copenhagen include: Skt. Annæ Plads by the Royal Danish Playhouse, Bymilen by SEB Bank, Scandiagade in Sydhavn and Vadestedet in Ørestad.