Copenhagen is UNESCO-UIA World Capital of Architecture in 2023

Copenhagen, a city known for its people-centric architecture with a focus on function, art and design, is the World Capital of Architecture for 2023.

The General Assembly of the International Union of Architects (UIA) —  the only international organization of its kind representing architects on a global scale, according to its website — recommended Denmark’s capital in keeping with the partnership agreement established in 2018, through which UNESCO designates the host cities of UIA’s World Congress as “World Capitals of Architecture.”  

“Copenhagen has conducted formal urban and architectural experiments that are exceptional in more ways than one,” especially with regard to nature, Director-General of UNESCO, Audrey Azoulay, said during a ceremony earlier this month. 

“This architectural awareness is essential at a time when we need new solutions, new materials and new ways of thinking about shared spaces,” Azoulay said.

UNESCO and the UIA launched the initiative to highlight the key role of architecture, city planning, and culture in shaping urban identity and sustainable urban development.  

“Architecture is the gateway that either opens the world up to you or closes in around you,” Copenhagen’s website states. “The evidence is in our schools, hospitals and airports in our everyday lives – buildings where people, life situations, function and design form a perfect synthesis.”

Nyboder is a historic row house district of former Naval barracks and popular tourist attraction in Copenhagen, Denmark.
The Circle Bridge, designed by Olafur Eliasson, is a bicycle and pedestrian bridge spanning the southern mouth of Christianshavn Canal in central Copenhagen, Denmark.
Tietgenkollegiet (The Tietgen Residence Hall)  is a student residence located in the Ørestad district of Copenhagen, Denmark. It represents the future of student residences that supports and develops an attractive housing and student area, according to the anon-profit’s website.
Enghaveparken is a public park in the Vesterbro district of Copenhagen, Denmark, that is being transformed to handle the city’s current and future challenges with water and extreme rain.

Every three years, the city designated as World Capital of Architecture moves to the forefront of global discussions on contemporary urban planning, architectural issues and “to seek solutions on how to mitigate the effects of climate change,” UIA President José Luis Cortés said.

Copenhagen will host a series of major events and programs on the theme “Sustainable Futures – Leave No One Behind.” 

The torch was passed to Copenhagen from Rio de Janeiro, the inaugural “World Capital of Architecture.”

“Copenhagen will build upon Rio’s achievements, by continuing to show the way in which architecture and culture can respond to the challenges of our time, especially in the environmental field,” Azoulay said.

Danish climbers Michael Hjorth and Mikkel Frederiksen are on the 85m long climbing wall at the outdoor structure CopenHill in Copenhagen on December 6, 2020.
Designed by Bjarke Ingels Group, the first Urban Rigger was placed by the waterfront of the Copenhagen Island ‘Refshaleøen’ – which had been deserted for over 30 years after formerly serving as a shipyard. Today, it serves as a community with just over 100 residents living in 72 floating apartments. The floating architecture is an alternative to traditional buildings on land and aims to address several challenges, like crowding, sea level rise and the lack of available and affordable housing.
Kalvebod Fælled, also known as Vestamager, takes up roughly one fourth of the island of Amager near Copenhagen, Denmark. The area consists of reclaimed sea bed, with a number of former islets making up small isolated hills located close to the futuristic buildings of Ørestaden.
People ski down the artificial ski hill on the Outdoor structure CopenHill, December 6, 2020 in Copenhagen. - CopenHill is an urban mountain placed on top af a state-of-the-art waste-to energy plant, ARC, which is one of the most unique architectural designs in the world. The plant produces environmental-friendly energy with the newest technology by burning waste and turning the exhaust into energy which yearly provides the city of Copenhagen with electricity for 30,000 households and central heating for 72,000 households. The structure has a ski hill, a  hiking track and a climbing wall.
Grundtvig's Church is an example of expressionist church architecture located in the Bispebjerg district of Copenhagen, Denmark.
Ørestad is a neighborhood with new architecture and recreational offerings on the island of Amager, first erected in 2004. It’s located on the edge of a big nature reserve.
The SEB house, Danish headquarters of the Nordic SEB Bank, was built in 2010 by the harbor in Copenhagen.

Barcelona and Beijing are the two contenders looking to claim the World Capital of Architecture title in 2026 and host the next World Congress.

An official decision will be made later this year.

UIA President Thomas Vonier said the designation “is a chance for ordinary people and world leaders to see the value of design in everyday lives.” 

“Our partnership with UNESCO reinforces the place of architecture and urban design in advancing cultural values and influences in society, so sorely needed in today’s world. Architects can see the world both as it is — and as it could be.”

Pistolstræde (Pistol Alley) is a passageway in the Old Town of Copenhagen, Denmark.
Four climbers in Tour de France jerseys let themselves down along the facade of the Hotel Bella Sky during the official opening of the press center of the 2022 Tour de France cycling race in Copenhagen, Denmark, on June 28, 2022. The first three stages of the 2022 Tour de France took place in Denmark before the race moves to France. The competition is scheduled to start on July 1, 2022 in Copenhagen.
Two men look at the 45-meter-high observation tower of the Camp Adventure, designed by EFFECT Architects, as it is under construction at Gisselfeld Kloster near Haslev on Zealand in Denmark, on October 15, 2018.
An aerial photo taken on December 7, 2020 shows an area in the Port of Copenhagen.

Camille Fine is a trending visual producer on USA TODAY’s NOW team. 

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