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Copenhagen’s Lille Langebro – A Jewel of a Bridge for Pedestrians and Cyclists

By Frantiska Blazkova

Aren’t we all a little tired of seeing the world’s cycling capital, Copenhagen, trying to improve what’s already miles ahead? No, we are not. We watch with delight (and a little envy) how their cycling and pedestrian support and infrastructure keep reaching new levels of perfection, the latest addition being the stunning Lille Langebro bridge.

Elegant and clean-cut, the 160m-long cycle and pedestrian bridge by international London-based architecture studio WilkinsonEyre has recently been completed. The project is an outcome of a competition issued by a Danish client and has been since gifted to the municipality of Copenhagen. Apart from making life and commuting in the city easier for great numbers of cyclists and walkers, it managed to bring more activity to a part of Copenhagen Harbour that has been abandoned for decades. It crosses the river next to the recently completed BLOX building, which is home to Danish Architecture Centre, cafés, new public spaces, a playground, and other points of relax and interest, bringing more traffic and potential visitors in its direction.

The bridge designed by London-based WilkinsonEyre architecture studio. © Rasmus Hjortshoj

From the bird’s eye view, the novelty bridge looks almost like a graceful white ribbon joining the banks of Copenhagen’s Inner Harbour. The bridge’s silhouette sinks under the deck on both abutments, only to rise in the shape of two “wings” at midspan with the edge featuring a very acute angle, optically dividing light from shade.

In the middle, the structure is higher than at the quaysides to allow for the required 5.4-m navigation clearance for boats, which is further marked out by bracket-shaped dividers set in the river. This bulging of the bridge brings out a pleasant effect of a gradual reveal of the horizon for those crossing. At nightfall, the Lille Langebro’s precisely designed curvature is accentuated with subtle but functional spot lighting running alongside the whole length of the bridge.

The Lille Langebro is the third cycle and pedestrian bridge opened in the Danish capital in recent years, allegedly without a fanfare and red-ribbon cutting – but it surely deserves both. Besides the undeniable aesthetic and urbanistic qualities, its clear width offers a generous 3m-wide zone for pedestrians and a 4m-wide zone which has been subdivided into two lanes for cyclists.

The two central sections of the bridge can rotate. © Rasmus Hjortshoj

One of the bridge’s most amazing feats, besides its slender curve and seamless fit with the surrounding urbanscape, is that the two central sections can rotate and swing aside to let through more robust marine traffic – such as sailing boats with tall yards. WilkinsonEyre worked on the construction in collaboration with engineers from Buro Happold who helped them design the opening mechanisms, discreetly hidden in the piers.

Would you like to visit this unique designer feat?