POP-UP parking – water reservoir, parking and public space in one solution
Photo credit: THIRD NATURE
POP-UP parking – water reservoir, parking and public space in one solution Photo credit: THIRD NATURE

A Danish architecture gem

Flemming Rafn Thomsen is the co-founder of Third Nature, an architecture studio with 25 people based in Copenhagen. The office’s ambition is to bridge the gap between sustainable urban development and Nordic liveable architecture.
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Monster rain made a difference

Third Nature wanted to tell the untold story about how our cities and buildings have a huge impact on the global ecological footprint. The two architects Ole Schrøder and Flemming founded the office after winning a 100 Ha large masterplan in 2011 – The Climate Neighborhood. Their proposal refurbished a classical city district into a resilient nature-based hybrid that used the streets to connect all the missing dots between housing, urban space, nature and climate change. Two weeks after handing in the proposal to the jury, Copenhagen was exposed to what was quickly coined as a ‘monster rain’ disaster. The city was heavily damaged by the flooding, and action needed to be taken. Flemming Rafn Thomsen says:

– Our proposal came to be the first and most radical response to the new climate reality and is now a household approach to resilient urban transformation. Today, Third Nature does a lot of different projects, that currently range from ½ square meter scalable climate adaptation components to a completely new island of almost 3 million square meters, that will secure Copenhagen from storm floods.

Lynetteholm – a new 2,8 km2 island that will become a new neighborhood in Copenhagen and furthermore work as storm flood protection for the city. Photo credit: COWI, THIRD NATURE and Arkitema for By & Havn.

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– We work with low carbon architecture and multifunctional urban spaces, that promote water management and biodiversity. The main motive of all our projects is to simply reconnect people with our planet. We call our projects humane solutions to man-made problems. At Evolve Arena, Flemming Rafn Thomsen will talk about how humans fundamentally can bridge the gap between city and nature and how we can approach urbanism and placemaking with empathy and optimization. He will showcase several optimization strategies for climate adaptation, mobility, hybrid urban smart space designs and low carbon communities to his audience.

Climate Tile – a sidewalk tile that can work as a climate adaptation in our dense cities and at the same time contribute to greener and more livable public spaces. Photo credit: THIRD NATURE

How to approach urbanism and placemaking

At Third Nature, they work specifically within the framework of the Paris Agreement and UN’s sustainable development goals and benchmark their projects within the DGNB systems. They dive in to upcycle cases as well as renewable construction, as well as high micro climatic comfort design in urban spaces that manage water, wind and heat. Flemming Rafn Thomsen explains that he quite often sees the discussion of the climate crisis and the necessary green transition landing in a very polarized situation. One minute it is ‘Yes we can!’ and the next it is ‘We are screwed!’. He hopes people will leave his speech with both a sense of clarity on the ecological impact of urban development, but also with a sense of how many new possibilities these challenges can drive. Possibilities that makes it worth getting up in the morning to face the music. 

Enghaveparken – historic park becomes a climate park that can hold 22.600 m3 rainwater. Photo credit: THIRD NATURE, COWI and Platant

Leave with a sense of clarity

– I believe the power of human ingenuity, faith and responsible professionalism can take us to a very constructive place, where we can remedy the impact of our own nature, and create new communities, spaces and cities, that are much richer and more sustainable and profitable, says Flemming.

– A smart and humane city is a city that is adapted to what is living and not vice versa. People, planet and profit should go hand in hand.

Written by: Ann-Sophie Stene

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