Atlas of the Copenhagens

  • Simpson, Deane (Project Participant)
  • Gimmel, Kathrin (Project Participant)
  • Lonka, Anders (Project Participant)
  • Jay, Marc (Project Participant)
  • Grootens, Joost (Project Participant)

Project Details


The Atlas of the Copenhagens is an ongoing research-based teaching project at KADK directed toward a critical examination of the city’s status as a revered object of sustainability and liveability discourse – particularly as it is presented in various city (and nation) ranking indexes claiming Copenhagen not only as Europe’s most sustainable city (Siemens 2009), but also the world’s most liveable city (Monocle 2008, 2014), best bicycle city (Tree Hugger, 2009) and the city with the happiest inhabitants (Der Spiegel, 2009). Such claims have a ubiquitous presence in municipal press releases and circulate widely in the local, national and regional media, culminating in the municipality’s claims for its status as future ‘Eco-Metropolis of the World’. Dissonant voices are few, but the architect and urbanist Jens Kvorning for example alludes to an alternate view of Copenhagen as a “Jekyll and Hyde town” characterized by a ‘sustainable’ dense inner city on the one hand, and a large ‘unsustainable’ postwar periphery on the other. Engaging these contrasting views, the Atlas attempts to demystify the mechanisms, dynamics and agendas of such indexes. This is done so with the postulation that the self-congratulatory landscape that surrounds them, and the resultant positing of Copenhagen as the model ‘solution’, hinders a necessary engagement in the contestability of two related terms: firstly, what constitutes the ‘city’, in this case Copenhagen; and secondly, what constitutes ‘sustainable’ urbanism. The discussion of the first term will engage in the problematics of urban borders and their corresponding role in the production of cities as distinct objects. This will involve a discussion of the increasing regional and global dynamics attached to what has previously been loosely described as the ‘city’. The discussion of the second term is directed, not toward arriving at a definitive definition of ‘sustainable or liveable urbanism’, but rather, toward an engagement of its controversies and problematics – with the objective of expanding understanding and debate.
The publication is scheduled to be published with Ruby Press in late 2016.
Effective start/end date01/09/201130/03/2018


  • urbanism
  • sustainability
  • liveability
  • city ranking indexes