Tomsgårdsvej — The Courtyard of the Future

Nature-based climate adaptation with rammed earth, new sounds, and upcycled solutions.

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Anders Koefod

Project Manager, MA in Sustainable Architecture


Copenhagen, Denmark


6.400 m2


2018 — 2022


The City of Copenhagen. Co-financed by HOFOR, Bolig- og Planstyrelsen and AB Storgården


Lead consultant, landscape architect

Partners & Collaborators

NIRAS, Scheller, Hougaard & Petersen, Egen Vinding & Datter, Logik & Co and Næste

How do we secure Copenhagen’s courtyards against cloudbursts while making them greener, more sustainable, and more livable? This was among the challenges driving Tomsgårdsvej – Courtyard of the Future, a new innovative climate adaptation project in Copenhagen’s North-West quarter.

The project demonstrates a number of the possibilities that nature-based climate adaptation and upcycling of locally sourced materials provide. In addition to cloudburst protection, the noise-plagued courtyard at Tomsgårdsvej has been given a new soundscape, two multi-functional rammed earth walls, and space for much more life – both the residents’, the birds’, and the insects’.

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fig. 4 Process video from SLA's studio, 2020. To develop the best soundscape for the new water staircase we made a series of 1:1 tests.
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Coming cloudbursts will be delayed and handled in two depressions that form part of an undulating, biodiverse courtyard. Here, children and adults can explore the 450-meter-long adventure path and on the route find ‘the forest playground,’ hammocks, a large orangery, and a completely new type of water staircase that uses circulated rainwater to mitigate the area’s massive traffic noise with trickling water:

“Tomsgårdvej is surrounded by a lot of traffic noise that is too loud to remove. Instead, we came up with the idea of 'camouflaging’ the traffic noise with nature's own sounds. We have done this by planting a dense forest of beaver aspen, as their leaf structures create pleasant rustles in the wind, and by specially designing an 80-meter long 'water staircase' whose rippling sounds of water mask the traffic noise within its pleasant soundscape.”

— Mette Skjold, CEO and partner in SLA

The courtyard’s new plantings and wetlands are designed to strengthen the local biodiversity. During the climate adaptation, we planted 195 new trees and shrubs and introduced 92 new plant species. Even before the new courtyard was inaugurated, our biodiversity survey showed that 20 different insects had found their way to the new city nature.

SLA’s lighting design is made to consider both the natural sleep rhythm of birds and people’s access to the starry sky. By lighting at two different heights and wavelengths, the design minimizes the negative effects on biodiversity — and has a positive effect on the sleeping rhythm of the residents.

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fig. 6 Image of the final, 80-meter-long (rain)water stairway at Tomsgårdsvej.

In the new courtyard at Tomsgårdsvej, upcycling, natural materials, and recycling go hand in hand with a story about local geology.

Central to the new design are the two winding moraine walls of rammed earth. By building the 83 and 53-meter-long walls of clay rather than concrete, approx. 156 tons of concrete has been saved. Functionally, the walls are part of the rainwater management and tie the three-meter terrain drop together while dividing the large courtyard space into smaller social areas.

The courtyard’s steep terrain dates back to the last ice age that formed a moraine edge here. In precisely the same location, the rammed earth walls now stand, as interpretations of the original edge, in a modern urban landscape.

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fig. 8 The new orangery is made from recycled bricks and windows.

CO2-light constructions are repeated throughout the project. A new orangery has been built from recycled bricks and upcycled windows from the housing association’s last window replacement. All of the courtyard’s new sheds and board fences are made with recycled wood and are carried out by the circular design and construction company Næste. The rammed earth walls are constructed by ‘Egen Vinding & Datter’ and the upcycled orangery by ‘Logik & Co’.

In this way, The Courtyard of the Future at Tomsgårdsvej demonstrates how re- and upcycling can also strengthen the identity of a place and how new nature, new sounds, and rammed earth can form the framework for a new type of climate adaptation.


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