The Opera Park

010 cobe operapark exterior 0.625
628 trees
for Copenhagen

Year: First prize in competition 2019, completed 2023

Client: A.P. Møller og Hustru Chastine Mc-Kinney Møllers Fond til Almene Formål

Program: Public park including greenhouse with café and underground parking facility

Size: 21,500 m²

The mixed-use densification of Copenhagen’s inner harbour has resulted in a lively and bustling capital. However, as increasing density and activity result in more residents and more visitors, calm and quiet places are increasingly hard to find. The Opera Park is a new public park on the Copenhagen harbour front designed for recreation and contemplation in the middle of the dense city center. A green lung offering a diverse variation of trees, bushes, plants and flowers; a mixture of local and exotic species reminding us of the history of the area as an epicenter of international trade. Designed with inspiration from the European capital’s historical gardens with winding paths and pavilions, the Opera Park features programs such as a stair and plateau that connects the islands with the water, a café and greenhouse, underground parking garage for 300 cars as well as a pedestrian tunnel connecting the basement with the foyer of the neighbouring Royal Danish Opera.

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Dokøen (The Dock Island) consists of three former industrial islands in the inner harbour of Copenhagen. Today, the central island is the home of The Royal Opera House. In the future, the southward island will be developed into a generous public park and an underground parking facility for 300 cars.

In the middle of the 19th century, the site where the Royal Danish Opera now stands was the center of an amazing period in Danish history. Copenhagen was the center of trade in Europe: A place where ships would return from the far corners of the world with cargo and stories from places that people had barely even heard of.

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The historical romantic garden
in a contemporary context

Since the beginning of mass urbanization, gardens in the historic European cities have offered a refuge from the busy, noisy and polluted cities that surrounded them. Evidence-based studies dating back more than 40 years have concluded that classical gardens shaped with winding paths, defined views and a natural scenography have a healing effect on stress-related health issues.

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King Frederik VI in a sailboat through the newly established Frederiksberg Gardens, early 19th century.

Copenhagen’s most beautiful gardens were designed during this era, when the city was a melting pot of trade and impressions from the seven seas. The classical English romantic garden thus became the inspiration for parks such as Frederiksberg Gardens and Copenhagen’s Botanical Garden.

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170 cobe operapark render summer
180 cobe operapark render autumn
190 cobe operapark render winter

Each season creates a new setting. In the spring, guests are greeted by a thriving park in a lavish colour palette. In the summer of the various green shades, and in the fall, crisp red and yellow tones create a distinctive and eye-catching backdrop. The winter season is charactirized by green pines and frozen lakes.

The Opera Park uses the elements of the historical romantic garden to tackle contemporary challenges. A multilayered slice of dense urban nature that, on the one hand, supplies the city with nature, creates a calm refuge for its citizens and visitors and tackles stormwater and, on the other hand, stores 300 cars underground.

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The Opera Park uses the elements of the romantic garden in a modern setting. The garden contains various trees and plants, footpaths, small niches and an undulating hilly landscape.

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The Opera Park sets the stage for experiencing nature in the heart of Copenhagen. Like an opera stage, the park is a composed landscape with a foreground, a middle ground and a background. The plants and trees are placed, so their natural heights create the scenic setting facing the harbour.

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100 cobe operapark diagram
110 cobe operapark model

Just like an opera stage, The Opera Park is a composed landscape of foreground, middle ground and background.

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A composed landscape
of foreground, middle
ground and background
130 cobe operapark cherry trees

The decline of biodiversity in our growing cities forces us to rethink the purpose of our urban parks, viewing them not only as places for people, but also as places for life in the broadest sense.

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The English Garden

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Birch forest

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North American forest

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Cherry grove

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Oak forest

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Winter garden

A great variety of plant species and sizes spanning all seasons creates a rich environment for insects and birds to find food and shelter in the increasingly dense city.

254 cobe operapark model
255 cobe operapark model

The Opera Park is designed with small niches and pockets for people to linger, alone or in small groups, in close contact with nature. Defined views and pockets help visitors “get lost” for a little while, before returning to the busy everyday life of the city.

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Urban areas are experiencing a dramatic increase in extreme weather events. In the context of high-value urban development in Copenhagen, the Opera Park serves many and multilayered performative functions in the city. The park works as a complex water cycle of infiltration, evaporation, drainage, run-off, delay and storage of water designed to handle both extreme rain and drought.

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In the Opera Park the direct connection to the water is an essential part of the park experience. Challenges of extreme fluctuation of the waterline is solved by creating floodable surfaces creating an ever-changing shoreline.

250 cobe operapark undergound
A greenhouse functions as
the centerpeice of the park
210 cobe operapark winter

Like any classic garden, the Opera Park has a pavilion for experiencing the natural scenography protected from rain and wind. In wintertime, the wooden roof and lush greenhouse in the center of the building light up and provide a warm shelter in cold weather. The building ensures that the Opera Park will become an active destination all year round, also during the cold winter months when the other green areas in the city are largely deserted.

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220 cobe operapark plan

The winter garden connects to the underground parking garage. The parking level is deliberately designed as an entrance space to the Opera. The café and greenhouse are perceived as a physical and visible connection between the garden and the underground parking garage, bringing the park all the way inside.

230 cobe operapark plan underground
240 cobe operapark undergound

Location: Copenhagen, Denmark, Completed in 2024

Client: A.P. Møller og Hustru Chastine Mc-Kinney Møllers Fond til Almene Formål

Program: Public park including greenhouse with café and underground parking facility

Size: 21,500 m²

Year: First prize in competition 2019, completed 2023

Collaborators: VITA, Via Trafik, DBI, Waagner Biro

Team: Alberte Danvig, Alena Veselova, Alexander Ejsing, Andreas Jørgensen, Ariel Norback Wallner, Bachir Benkirane, Ben Goss, Bertram Stubbergaard Mørk, Clement Bue Maali, Connor Forecast, Dan Stubbergaard, Kasper Bak Mikkelsen, Katarzyna Starczewska, Liv Moodie, Mads Herskind Møller, Maiken Høj, Maj Wiwe, Margarita Nutfulina, Matilda Andersson, Mikkel Reedtz Morris, Morten Engel, Rasmus Lassen, Roberto Barbosa, Rosa Bui, Stefan Mylleager, Stine Bærentzen, Thea Gasseholm, Thomas Krarup.

Photographer: Rasmus Hjortshøj – COAST

Additional photos: C. T. Johansson, Eric Gross (flickr), Michael John Button (flickr), Eoghan OLionnain (flickr), Guillaume Baviere (flickr), Maria Eklind (flickr)

Image Credits: Please note that we have used a small number of images for which the copyright holders could not be identified. In these cases it has been our assumption that such images belong to the public domain. If you claim ownership of any of the images presented and have not been properly identified, please notify Cobe and we will make a formal acknowledgement.