Silkeborg Pedestrian Streets and Søndertorv

From passage to green living room

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Karsten Thorlund

Head of SLA Aarhus, Partner, Architect MAA


Silkeborg, Denmark


5,000 m2


2019 — 2022


Municipality of Silkeborg


Lead consultant

Partners & Collaborators

Viggo Madsen, Urban Creators, and Ry Outdoor 365

In a time when malls and online shopping can pose a threat to the liveliness of town centers, the municipality of Silkeborg decided to rethink its central shopping area. Team SLA was chosen to lead the transformation with a proposal rooted in using city nature and climate adaptation to create better opportunities to live, shop, and do business – all year round.

fig. 2 Søndertorv / Søndergade
fig. 1 Vestergade
fig. 3 Citizen engagement workshop, 2019.
fig. 4 Citizen engagement workshop, 2019.

The pedestrian streets Vestergade and Søndergade and the square Søndertorv have been through a radical green transformation. With this, SLA has fulfilled the ambitions to weave the characteristic lake-highland landscape and Silkeborg’s outdoor culture into the streets of the town center. Starting with a comprehensive process in which both citizens, businesses, and the local disability and cyclist counsels were involved, it has been possible to create spaces where nature is omnipresent and where people stop rather than just pass.

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Vestergade and Søndergade have become Denmark’s greenest pedestrian streets. Though clearly connected, they are designed to have separate identities with strong associations to the nature of the lake-highlands. Besides creating a sensuous environment and many new experiences, the new city nature also regulates the microclimate and makes it more comfortable to shop and spend time in the streets, through all seasons. Creating better opportunities for urban life to flourish anew has been an important goal. Between the shops, we have therefore designed a number of new opportunities to take a break under a tree, play, climb and investigate the many plants. The new pedestrian streets of Silkeborg should inspire both community and curiosity.

fig. 8 Søndertorv
fig. 7 Søndertorv

Søndertorv has been transformed from an almost fully paved square into a large natural playground. The square’s existing oak trees have been joined by a large water playground surrounded by a variety of plant beds. Here you can go exploring among plants, inspect the insect hotels or try the various play activities. Just like the two pedestrian streets, Søndertorv has been climate-adapted and thus made the area resilient to increased amounts of rainfall.

Through close collaboration with the local community and stake holders, we have thus transformed Silkeborg’s central shopping area into a future proof, green living room that makes Silkeborg an even better place to live, shop, and do business, all year round.

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