New bold ideas presented by the Nordic City Challenge for developing Kulbanekvarteret area in Copenhagen

Imagine a meeting point with an outdoor library, green walls, or a lighthouse powered by cycling. Or think about a memory trail showcasing shared history and barefoot pathways that improve the wellbeing of both nature and humans while strengthening the identity of the local community. These are a few of the innovative ideas presented by Nordic multidisciplinary student teams.
Nordic City Challenge 2018 participants

Winners of the multidisciplinary case competition Nordic City Challenge (NCC) 2018 were selected on the 10th of October at Maersk tower in Copenhagen.  Jury selected student team Tree Hygge as winners of the challenge. The team describes their proposition (Tree Hygge Interventions) in the following way:  

Kulbanekvarteret is a diverse area of renewal in southwest Copenhagen with social housing projects. It’s experiencing several challenges such as physical borders, social barriers and ecological degradation that have created a disconnect between people and nature. Therefore, seven hectares of land will be reshaped into a park. This area offers potentials such as a central neighborhood location, an attractive topography, and a willingness of co-creation from the locals. Thus, we envision using the space to connect people and nature and create a sense of community, which will enhance well-being. To meet our objective, we propose to establish social and ecological connections through modular green wall interventions and a lighthouse made of recycled materials. The modular walls will provide vertical planting space, habitats for pollinators and birds, and seating options, as well as creating cosy spaces for gathering of locals. The lighthouse is a wooden structure with a bicycle-powered generator connected to lights, creating opportunities for education, engagement, and highly-visible gatherings. Our implementation strategy includes intermediate action plans where residents can engage in the development and maintenance of the area; interventions include forming hyperlocal media and hosting small projects such as birdhouses construction in cooperation with youth organizations.

Members of the winning team are:     

  • Aino Vasankari, Environmental politics & regional science, University of Tampere
  • Alexis Neukirch, Environment & natural resources, University of Iceland
  • Antti Takkunen, Spatial planning and transportation engineering, Aalto University
  • Janna Kampers, Architecture and planning beyond sustainability, Chalmers University of Technology
  • Monica Quevedo, Climate change, University of Copenhagen
Nordic City Challenge 2018 Winners

The jury described the winning proposal as “simple, focused, mobile, cohesive, and feasible.” They also praised the winning team for using all members’ competencies in a balanced manner and for introducing a human scale to the case location. Their presentation is available here. Also, the other team presentations will be available on the webpage of the Nordic Sustainable Campus Network.

The organizers invited 24 master’s students from five Nordic countries to participate in the multidisciplinary course in urban planning. The participants in the Nordic City Challenge represent a variety of academic fields, including architecture, urban planning, global health, urban theology, geography, social sciences, sustainable development, and industrial design engineering.

The project brought together students, teachers, practitioners and leading experts from the Nordic countries to work on a real-life planning case. The case this year is the renewal project Kulbanekvarteret in Copenhagen. Prior to the on-site work the students worked with a pre-task, which provided  scholarly knowledge on social-ecological sustainability. 

The intensive days were held from the 7th of October until the 10th of October at Schæffergården in Gentofte, Copenhagen. The course included a walking tour of the case site, Kulbanekvarteret along with discussions with local residents. 

The course highlights social-ecological approach to urban planning. The student teams create plans to develop Kulbanekvarteret by using the urban space to enhance the health and wellbeing of the community. Another goal is to strengthen the shared understanding and identity of the neighborhood of Kulbane. In the proposals, the student teams focused on development of the health and wellbeing, but also integrating environmental initiatives in combined solutions.  

Nordic City Challenge 2018 Kulbanekvarteret

The program included input from Area renewal project of Kulbanekvarteret, local residents, local assemblies and youth organizations as well as representatives from University of Helsinki and Aalto University.

The group work was facilitated by experienced researchers with different orientations into urban planning. The course work also included a written pre-assignment before the intensive course as well as a written report after the course on the learning experiences and case outcomes. On the final day, the student teams presented their solutions to the other teams, a jury, an external audience. The jury evaluated the results and gave feedback.

Nordic City Challenge academic tutors:

  • Salla Jokela, University of Helsinki, Urban Academy (Political geography / Urban studies and planning / Tourism)
  • Meeri Karvinen, Nordic Sustainable Campus Network (NSCN) (Urban ecology / Sustainability in higher education)
  • Katri Pulkkinen, Aalto University (Architecture / Social-ecological approach)
  • Donovan Moloney, NCC 2017 alumnae, University of Copenhagen
  • Claire Zarb, Climate-KIC visiting expert trainee

Nordic City Challenge jury members:

  • Niels Wilken Silkjær Pedersen, Urban Planner, Områdefornyelsen Kulbanekvarteret
  • Sune Porse Carlsen, Urban planner, Carlsens Planer
  • Bjørg Elvekjær, Senior Advisor, Department of Public Health, University of Copenhagen
  • Tomas Refslund Poulsen, Head of Energy & Sustainability, University of Copenhagen

The project is administered by Hanaholmen cooperation centre for Sweden and Finland. Organizers include also Urban Academy, University of Helsinki, Aalto University and Nordic Sustainable Campus Network (NSCN). The course is financially covered by Nordplus Horizontal.

Warm thanks for collaborators and congratulations for the successful teams!

Read more about the Nordic City Challenge.

Contact persons:

  • Jonna Similä, Project Leader Nordic City Challenge, Hanasaari – the Swedish-Finnish cultural centre,, +358 40 6495454
  • Janne Wikström, Project Leader, HanaAcademy, Hanasaari – the Swedish-Finnish cultural centre for Sweden and Finland,, +358 444637071
  • Meeri Karvinen, Researcher, coordinator of the NSCN, Aalto University,, +358 50 407 1884
  • Katri-Liisa Pulkkinen, researcher, Land Use Planning and Urban Studies Group, Aalto University School of Engineering
  • Salla Jokela, post doctoral researcher, Urban Academy, Helsinki Institute of Urban and Regional Studies, University of Helsinki,,+358 50 448 9190,