Five Circles: Pedestrian Bridge in Copenhagen
Client: Nordea-fonden, Kopenhagen
Design: Studio Olafur Eliasson, Olafur Eliasson, Sebastian Behmann, Robert Banovic, Jan Bünning
Location: Cirkelbroen, DK–København K
Supporting engineer: Rambøll A/S
Project control: KMA Advisory A/S
Supervisory staff: Arpe & Kjeldsholm A/S
Steelwork: KSM Industry A/S
Hydraulic systems and control: SH-Group A/S
MVRDV’s Gemini Towers, the beach designed by Bjarke Ingels’ former studio PLOT, Schmidt Hammer Lassen’s National Library, the theatre by Lundgaard & Tranberg, Henning Larsen’s National Opera House: these are just a few of the many architectural sights erected at Copenhagen’s harbour over the past 15 years. What’s more, Arne Jacobsen’s National Bank, Daniel Libeskind’s Jewish Museum and – a culinary place of pilgrimage – René Redzepi’s Noma restaurant are only a short distance away.
In order to get from one place to another, pedestrians and cyclists always had to make significant detours. This has now changed: in the past two years, several new bridges have been completed or are currently under construction in the harbour area.
Eliasson’s Cirkelbroen, which is 40 metres long, is one of the smaller bridges at the harbour. But it fills a significant gap. Although it is directly opposite the National Library, the southern part of Christiansbro island was, until recently, a rather dull living and office district in the middle of bustling Christianshavn. Canals surrounded the area, which had no bridges to connect it to the rest of the city. Since the 1990s, the Nordea Bank has been located in a building complex designed by Henning Larsen.
The Nordea-fonden, the bank’s foundation, endowed the city with the long-awaited bridge. Eliasson designed a bridge for strollers and idlers rather than for those rushing from one side to the other. In fact, the main commuter traffic in this legendary cycling town is found elsewhere. Five circular concrete platforms are each supported by a central steel mast.
Three of these masts are anchored firmly underground. A 25-metre segment of two circles can be turned in order to allow boats from the canals of Christianshavn to pass. Skippers can open the bridge as needed using a chipcard. The opening process takes about 20 seconds.
Sailboats, apart from a few historical museum and restaurant vessels, have become a rarity in the centre of Copenhagen. Nonetheless, Eliasson was inspired by the image of typical yacht harbours with their boats moored cheek by jowl. From a distance, it looks as if a fleet of ocean-going yachts were anchored in the harbour, but the non-maritime red bridge balustrades give the game away. These are accented at night with LED lighting along the handrails. Moreover, two LED floodlights on each mast illuminate the bold rigging from which the platforms are suspended from the steel masts.