photo by Peter Guthrie (Flickr CC)

Young architects in Copenhagen, Denmark are designing buildings and infrastructure that aim to be environmentally sound without sacrificing a bit of the convenience and pleasure that is synonymous with an affluent urban lifestyle.

Can the residents of the Danish capital have their cake and eat it too?

Award-winning architect Bjarke Ingels of BIG seems to think so. He believes the way towards sustainability is not by inconveniencing people, but rather by re-engineering the structures of society to make them less wasteful.

From the Guardian:

I work with the idea of hedonistic sustainability, which is sustainability that improves the quality of life and human enjoyment. The fact that Copenhagen is so clean you can actually jump in the harbour [water] in the city centre is almost a miracle. The city is sustainable but doesn’t become synonymous with making lots of sacrifices.

–Bjarke Ingels

Ingels’ latest project is a giant waste-to-energy plant that doubles as a ski slope. The incinerator will be Copenhagen’s tallest building and will send a giant smoke ring into the sky every time a ton of CO2 is released, in order to remind the city’s residents of greenhouse gas emissions.

Sounds like something out of an episode of Futurama.

Such projects are fun, progressive and laudable, but do they adequately address problems like how much the wealthy world consumes in terms of raw resources, food, water, etc.? Labeling them as “sustainable” would at least suggest that they do.

I agree that revamping infrastructure, city planning and government projects do more than market-based solutions like buying organic cola or putting solar panels on your McMansion. But the idea that we can carry on consuming and enjoying in the rich world without consequence – believing that scientists, engineers and architects will solve the Earth’s problems for us – seems a bit optimistic and kind of reminiscent of what got us in into our current eco-mess in the first place.

Read more on Denmark’s ski slope waste-to-energy plant in the Guardian and check out the below video report from CNN on Copenhagen’s hedonistic sustainability

About The Author: Graham Land

Greenfudge editor and London-based writer Graham Land grew up in the suburbs of Washington, DC, where he was part of the local hardcore punk scene, playing in several bands. Through this musical movement he became involved in grass roots interests such as anti-racist activism, animal rights and Ecology. In 2000 he relocated to Europe, eventually earning an MA from Malmö University in Sweden. He has also lived in Japan, Ireland, Portugal and Greece.


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