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Debbie Gabriel

13 Jun 19

Jesper Tjäder steams down CopenHill’s revolutionary new ski slope atop a waste-to-energy plant

Debbie Gabriel

13 Jun 19

An artificial ski slope is opening this summer in a highly unusual location: atop the roof of a waste-to-energy power plant in Copenhagen, Denmark. In collaboration with Audi Nines, Swedish freeskier Jesper Tjäder stopped by CopenHill to explore the possibilities of this convention-defying urban planning and recreation concept.

Designed by Danish architect Bjarke Ingels and his firm BIG, CopenHill is a waste incineration plant with a sloping, 85-meter high roof that doubles as an outdoor recreation center, complete with trail running and hiking trails, the tallest climbing wall worldwide and an almost 500-meter long ski slope. The power plant, which generates district heating and electricity by incinerating the waste from Copenhagen’s five municipalities, was completed in 2017, while the recreational facilities are scheduled to open later this summer.

Jesper Tjäder and Audi Nines seized the opportunity to get a little creative and explore the possibilities of the CopenHill slopes before they open, creating a custom series of features for the professional skier to navigate on his way down the roof’s switchbacking piste. “This building made it so easy for me to figure out what to do for this project,” said Jesper.

“It’s not really about what tricks I do. It’s skiing down a building that’s the cool thing.”

Architect Ingels was also excited to see his vision come to life beneath Jesper’s skis. “We want the world to know about this so that people will come and try this new kind of hybrid between a building and a landscape,” he said. “We would also love the people that are best at what they are doing to come and play with it.”

Both outside-the-box thinkers in their own fields, Ingels and Jesper hit it off during the skier’s visit to CopenHill. “It was interesting meeting Bjarke, because in fifteen minutes he pretty much figured out the future of freeskiing,” said Jesper.

“What you’re doing as a profession is finding ways to reinterpret some of the things you find in a way that goes beyond the immediate prescribed behaviour and takes it to the next level,” Ingels told Jesper. It’s an insight that also describes the architect’s own craft quite well.

The CopenHill site—known to locals as Amager Bakke (Amager Hill)—is influenced by Ingels’ philosophy of “hedonistic sustainability,” which seeks ways for sustainability projects to improve upon, rather than restrict, the quality of life of the populations they serve. That’s how this waste-to-energy plant, which produces district heating for 60,000 households and electricity for 30,000, was reimagined as a recreational landscape for Copenhagen residents and visitors to enjoy. Adding to the building’s sustainable aspects, Copenhageners now have the option to ski, climb and hike locally at their new local hill high above the Öresund, reducing the need to travel long distances to the nearest mountains.

To delve deeper into this radical vision of “what if” sustainability, check out the full CopenHill documentary click here!