Jan Gehl’s
guide to
winter city
Copenhagen

Photo: Sandra Henningsson

At the age of 83, Jan Gehl is without a doubt one of Denmark’s most renowned and influential architects – despite the fact that the only building he has ever designed is his own conservatory.

Since the 1960s, Jan Gehl has studied people not buildings, which has resulted in, among other things, the seminal works: Life Between Buildings and Cities for People, which have been translated into dozens of languages. In the buzzing concrete jungle of modernism, he was pronounced a hippie and ridiculed by his colleagues. Today, with everyone talking about life in the city, he has become the undisputed guru of urbanists.

In summer 2020, DAC is shining a spotlight on Jan Gehl and his work when we open our “Hello Denmark” exhibition, which explores in-depth both the values and the methodology that form the foundation of Danish architecture and design.

Here in the winter darkness, we had a chat with the living legend about Copenhagen as a winter city. Where can we go in the city when it’s cold and windy outside?

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Explore Jan Gehl’s guide on your own

We Love the Sun – also in the Winter

We love the sun in Scandinavia, especially in the winter, where little patches of sunlight have an almost therapeutic effect on us. The Danish climate is characterized by Atlantic depressions rolling in regularly from the west, which means that even though we are on the same latitude as Alaska and Siberia, we have a mild, but windy climate.

Architecture plays an important role in making a winter city pleasant, especially because architecture has a direct impact on sun and wind conditions. Roaming the huddled streets of the coastal town of Dragør is a very different experience from walking among the ultra-modern high-rise blocks in the Copenhagen district of Ørestad. As different an experience as walking around Munich vs. Oslo. It may sound crazy, but according to Jan Gehl, shelter from the wind or sunlight can shift the local climate more than 800 miles.

Photo: Astrid Maria Rasmussen and Daniel Rasmussen, Copenhagen Media Center.

“As an architect, your design shouldn’t make the climate worse than it already is,” says Jan Gehl.

He is known as an outspoken critic of the many new high-rises in Copenhagen, which he believes cause more wind and more shade. According to Jan Gehl, it is possible to build tall structures without having a negative impact on the local climate, but it is rarely achieved with success. He notes that the City of Copenhagen’s new municipal architect, Camilla van Deurs, has yet to approve a high-rise, but she also spent 11 years with Gehl Architects, he adds with a smile.

Winter life is undoubtedly impacted by the weather. Something that is most conspicuous on that first spring day. The city literally bursts into life, because all of a sudden you don’t need to wear a coat outside.

Jan Gehl’s dos and don’ts in Copenhagen

Skt. Hans Torv

Skt. Hans Torv

Sankt Hans Torv 26, 2200 København, Danmark

The Inner-city Streets

The Inner-city Streets

Pilestræde 8B, 1112 København, Danmark

Damhussøen

Damhussøen

Damstien 33, 2720 København, Danmark

Konditaget in the North Harbor District

Konditaget in the North Harbor District

Helsinkigade 30, 2150 København, Danmark

Tivoli

Tivoli

Vesterbrogade 3, 1630 København, Danmark

Explore the city

How well do you know Copenhagen? The hidden gems and the quirky details? With our free app you can explore the city on your own.

Explore the city

How well do you know Copenhagen? The hidden gems and the quirky details? With our free app you can explore the city on your own.

Explore the city

How well do you know Copenhagen? The hidden gems and the quirky details? With our free app you can explore the city on your own.