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Photo: Lise Hannibal

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Discover up and coming Refshaleøen

The island of Refshaleøen in Copenhagen used to be home to one of the world’s biggest shipyards. Today, this post-industrial landscape is the most progressive part of Copenhagen, with water, wilderness and space for everything from street food, festivals and container homes to modern art and Michelin starred restaurants.

Having said that, this doesn’t mean it’s become trendy. Even though urbane entrepreneurs, restaurants and cultural initiatives have breathed new life into the industrial buildings, Refshaleøen still retains a sense of the untamed about it. Weeds growing through cracks in asphalt and self-seeded trees forcing their way out of concrete. Rusting railway tracks that lead nowhere, pitted roads that end in thickets and wilderness. This patchwork of old and new, organized and superannuated, gives the area its own special character.

One of Refshaleøens new attractions is Reffen Street Food. Photo: Lise Hannibal

The island was a no man’s land just a few years ago, but has now become a hub of gastronomy, architecture, culture and art in Copenhagen.

Such as world class food at Noma 2. 0, Amass and Alchemist, while the microbrewery Mikkeller, quayside bistro La Banchina, beach bar Halvandet and Reffen street food comprise an al fresco eating and drinking scene.

Photo: Lise Hannibal

When it comes to events, Distortion, Copenhell and Haven are popular festivals, and the island also hosts the food fair MAD symposium, Nordic Race, bungee-jumping, climbing and paint ball.

The former warehouses and workshops are now home to sustainable enterprises making clothes, recycled plastic tiles and scenery for Det Kongelige Teater. The former welding works is now the Copenhagen Contemporary, an art center that exhibits large scale art from round the world. They have all found their way here thanks to the available space, rather than as part of a grand plan.

Nobody knows what's going to happen here in the longer term, so everything feels on borrowed time. This permits scope for experiments - including on the housing front. Affordable housing is always in short supply, but on Refshaleøen they have thought inside the box and converted containers into sustainable homes as part of the solution.

Architects Studio Bjarke Ingels’ BIG is behind Urban Rigger, floating homes on the island, that are made of old containers with steps straight down into the water for bathing, solar and hydro power plus communal areas with spectacular views.

Urban Rigger af BIG. Photo: Lise Hannibal

Although container conversions are nothing new, the container homes on Refshaleøen are a first for Denmark.

“It is actually only recently that building temporary housing has been permitted in Denmark,” says Mads Møller, a partner at Arcgency and the man behind Urban Village, student housing in containers in two stages, that are right by the water and houseboats and with an unparalleled party area.

“Urban Village is designed with a 10-year lifespan, after which it will be dismantled and relocated. However, it's a fantastic experiment and exciting to be part of developing it here,” says Møller.

Relax by the water infront of Reffen street food. Photo: Lise Hannibal

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