An artificial peninsula will protect Copenhagen from storms

COWI, Arkitema and Tredje Natur are building an artificial island to protect against waves and help the city with rising sea levels.

In Copenhagen, the Danish Parliament recently approved the construction of Lynetteholm, an artificial island off the city’s coast that will house 35,000 people. The project, which begins in January 2022, is the work of COWI, Arkitema and Tredje Natur-a team of investors, architects and environmental consultants-and will run for fifty years. Spanning 271 acres, the project will be built by By & Havn (City & Port) using land from construction projects in Copenhagen and the surrounding area, narrowing the project essential for protecting the port city characterized by dangerous storms and severe flooding.

Lynetteholm’s design outlines a bat-shaped peninsula with a small western seawall protecting the city's harbor, while an artificial shoreline will overlook the Øresund, a water strait leading to the Baltic Sea. Instead of the typical concrete sea barrier, the landscape architects hope for an adaptive topography that can be modified in the future to suit the situation. Just as a natural beach can dampen and reflect powerful wave energy, the designers believe the artificial shoreline will absorb and dissipate incoming waves. The architects argue that the wide and deliberately jagged shoreline will be much easier to support and even raise, should sea levels exceed predictions, than extending a wall higher up.

COWI, Arkitema and Tredje Natur, Lynetteholm, Copenaghen, Denmark. Courtesy Arkitema

Despite being made official, Lynetteholm was not slow to receive criticism and protest. The multi-million-dollar environmental project has drawn strong criticism, especially from environmental groups. Those opposed fear that the peninsula’s construction is already damaging habitats and contaminating surrounding waters, poisoning the city’s harbors and disturbing the Baltic Sea’s delicate salinity balance. Indeed, when the proposal was approved by a parliamentary vote in June 2021, the decision was met with general public outrage, protests and even attempts at legal action.

Among several protests, By & Havn was forced to change construction plans after protesters argued that dumping the excavated soil in the city's harbors could pollute waters and harm wildlife. The project's fluid budget is another issue for critics. Construction costs were initially estimated at DKK 2.4 billion (about $350 million), but the budget has since risen to DKK 3.4 billion (about $492 million), according to a project spokesman.

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