Copenhagen power plant turned into ski resort

Living on Earth

Story by Living on Earth. Listen to audio above for full interview.

Imagine taking a vertical elevator up through a power plant, and stepping out onto a ski slope. This is the vision of architect Bjarke Ingels of Copenhagen. His company, the Bjarke Ingels Group, won first prize in an international competition that challenged architects to design a new incinerator to turn waste into energy in the Danish capital.

“This building transforms all the trash of the Copenhageners into electricity and heating — it’s going to be not only the tallest, but also the biggest building in Copenhagen,” Ingels told Living on Earth. “We thought that since Copenhagen actually has the climate but not the topography for skiing — we could actually provide the Copenhageners with a man-made mountain that transforms the flat but cold, but snowy Copenhagen into a real alpine sort of man-made skiing resort.”

Visitors will be able to choose between a beginner, intermediate and expert slope. “One of the sort of main drivers of creating a sustainable city is to be able to integrate both the sort of ecological and economical infrastructure of the city into the city fabric itself,” according to Ingels. That’s exactly what he’s trying to do with the new resort.

“The challenge of the competition was to make a big factory beautiful,” Ingels says. “And we thought of just wrapping it in just beautiful wrapping — we would really turn the entire plant into a gift for the citizens of Copenhagen.”

The idea runs into direct conflict with an idea that doing good has to hurt. Ingels believes that many environmentalists focus on what people are willing to sacrifice to help the environment. Instead, Ingels wants to create sustainable architecture that is also increases people’s quality of life. Ingels calls it “hedonistic sustainability.”

Read a transcript of interview with Bjarke Ingels on the Living on Earth website.


Hosted by Steve Curwood, “Living on Earth” is an award-winning environmental news program that delves into the leading issues affecting the world we inhabit. 

More about “Living on Earth.”

Sign up for our daily newsletter

Sign up for The Top of the World, delivered to your inbox every weekday morning.