Article: The city’s next generation

By Flemming Wisler, Futureorientation November 2007

The young grassroots among Danish architects are seriously sticking their necks out these days, with wild and thoughtful visions for the city of the future. They sample intensively between historical solutions and global experience

There isn’t a lot of star-quality architecture on Siljangade, in Copenhagen’s Islands Brygge quarter, where EFFEKT has its offices, but it is what it needs to be – space, other small companies and the view of Kløvermarken. A good platform for hard work and, of course, the two universal ingredients for success as a entrepreneur: talent and luck.

“We started very well with our final project at architecture school,” says Tue Foged, one of the two partners in EFFEKT. “Maybe almost a little too well, because we started our business before we were finished with school. It was hard to do both at the same time.”

The final project brought needed attention and, not least, a strong network, and in the last year, has led to an sea of invitations that have turned into many articles, interviews, TV and – not least – exhibitions and work for the little architectural firm.

The tree and the forest

One get the sense that wholes fill more than individual projects in the world where EFFEKT and many new architecture firms move.

“We work with the concept urban management,” says Tue, “and overall, most of our ideas and projects spring from a more holistic approach, both to the whole project’s resource use and to the city space it’s a part of.”

Interest in urban planning, or urban design, as EFFEKT calls it, is increasing because cities are growing explosively, and have become international competitive parameters for their regions. The wild growth must be planned if cities are to work with regard to both inputs and outputs.

“We work on three factors, which must be in balance: finances, environment and the social,” says Tue, “And it’s this last that will be one of the most important success factors in the future.”

Identity, culture, entrepreneurial spirit and experiences will be key factors in the struggle to attract and keep resource-rich people and companies in the city, according to EFFEKT.

The cities as concept

Among other things, classic urban planning is about functionality, efficiency, finances and well-being. Factors that are the necessary foundation for a city. But cities of the future will also be as much about branding. Their reputation and renown will determine success, including, among other qualities, the ability to attract the right diversity of inhabitants.

“We have worked a lot at the boundary between architecture and branding,” Tue says. “It’s essential that a new urban area tells a story, and that the story history is a part of the planned solution if the project is to attract the right resources and become something.”

“An important part of our final project came to be called O-city: the round city. The project was about urban planning in a fully-developed part of world – the Øresund region.

O-city is a conceptual thought that springs from a park city, but in a more radical edition. The challenge was to find rooms for 20,000 homes on 350 hectares in a new urban development area, where the today’s critical consumers will move, and where a new regional hub can arise.

“Our choice ended up being Store Rørbæk near the Danish town of Frederikssund, where nothing calls to mind the concept of a hub,” says Tue.

EFFEKT suggested a city built in a circle around a green recreational hilly landscape. The city would gain a maximum exploitation of nature and, at the same time, gain a strong recreational center with countless prospects for play, leisure, relaxation and culture. The idea is almost glaringly simple, but it solves several practical problems and is extremely strong conceptually. The round city is easy to brand, and it eliminates a pressing problem, which is the depositing of displaced earth.

“We’ll simply use the mountains of surplus earth from the great infrastructure projects on Zealand to create one of Denmark’s largest artificial hilly landscapes as a center for the surrounding city. A model that combines the desire for recreational areas with the need to get rid of expensive earth,” says Tue.

O-city, in other words, is EFFEKT’s vision of the future for the next 25 years’ urban development.

The global challenge

The O-city vision has lead to many things for the young architectural firm, which last year was offered the big challenge of helping develop the master plan for Store Rørbæk in the real world. It also was in 2006 that EFFEKT – as one of four architect companies – represented Denmark at the architectural biennale in Venice, and was nominated to represent Denmark at the architectural biennale in Beijing.

Today, the contact to China has expanded to a co-operation with Tongji University in Shanghai and has led to project development of a whole new urban area in the region, which has 17 million inhabitants and grows by a million a year.

“Here we are talking about a completely different scale and a completely different approach at work than we see in Denmark and Europe,” Tue says. “It’s typical for third world cities that the human influx is huge, and that solutions come of their own accord in a sort of organized chaos. Health, environment, safety, education and well-being are less important than creating a survival platform.

The urban development in the new growth regions in China is extremely ambitious and EFFEKT’s challenge has been to show how sustainability and social considerations can be integrated into the solutions. Their suggestions for Shanghai reflect many of their visions for O-city, and the Chinese are very aware of integrating both viability and quality of life into the cities of the future.

“There is an enormous potential for Danish companies over there, but it’s a difficult market to enter except through the right contacts. So we have a pretty good head start there,” Tue says.

The city of the future pays back
The young architects’ great interest in experimenting across innovation, branding and design has led to the development of what EFFEKT calls “energy-plus buildings.” These buildings produce more energy than they use. This happens through a symbiosis between human beings in the buildings, materials and active exploitation of sun and wind.

“We have actually re-invented ancient knowledge about climate and materials and their ways of working together. In the old days, you were very aware of how a building should lie in relation to the sun, wind and passage of seasons. Windows, roof slope, wall thickness, fireplace placement, distribution of space – everything was constructed and placed according to wind, weather and seasons,” Tue says. “When you combine this knowledge with today’s possibilities of calculation and material choice, you can make a building into a net provider of energy.

EFFEKT has helped design a 10,000 m2 science centre in Sarpsborg, Norway, which is to demonstrate how a building can reduce consumption and be a net energy producer.

According to EFFEKT, the city of the future is a sustainable one at many levels – not least on the human level, where the social aspect will make the city into a net provider of finances, environment and good energy.

EFFEKT

EFFEKT was founded in 2005 by two architect students, Sinus Lynge and Tue Foged, and has participated in a range of projects and exhibitions, including Byens Rum, in cooperation with DR2 (2005), O-City, in cooperation with Frederikssund kommune (2005), Sustainable urban development in China, Beijing Architecture Biennale (2006), Danish Pavilion, Venice Architecture Bienalle (2006), CO-Evolution, Dansk Arkitekturcenter (2006), Metropolzonen København, in cooperation with the City of Copenhagen (2007) Sarpsborg Science Center, Norge (2007) and Connecting People ADPT, Copenhagen Architecture and Design Days (2007).

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