Lille Langebro

Copenhagen, Denmark

The elegant Lille Langebro cycle and pedestrian bridge enhances Copenhagen’s waterfront and contributes to its reputation as the world’s best city for walking and cycling. The 160m horizontal swing bridge across the Inner Harbour was won in competition for Danish client Realdania By & Byg, and will be gifted to the municipality of Copenhagen.  It seamlessly connects the vista down Vester Voldgade from the City Hall to the harbour and onward across the water to Christianshavn on the Langebrogade quayside.  Immediately adjacent is the new BLOX building by Realdania which, among other things, is home to the Danish Architecture Center.

Three key ideas characterise the design concept; firstly the bridge follows an elegant curve in plan which aligns with and continues the sweeping ramparts and moat of the historic Christianshavn beyond the opposite bank. Secondly, the structure is arranged as a triangular wing on either side of the bridge that dips below the deck at the abutments then gradually soars up at midspan in a sinuous curve before falling again.  These wings give the bridge a clear but subtle line where light meets shade. Finally, the curved bridge profile affords a surprising visual spectacle when the two swinging sections open for marine traffic.

At midspan the structure is higher than at the quaysides to allow for the required 5.4m navigation clearance for boats. Together with the curved alignment and raised 'wings' this means views are modulated in a gradual reveal of the surroundings.  Working in collaboration with engineers BuroHappold and Eadon Consulting, the opening mechanisms have been discretely concealed in the piers giving the bridge its uninterrupted flowing lines.  Split into five spans, with two 37 m approaches either side of the 85 m main section, the Lille Langebro has a minimum clear width of 7m, split into a 3m pedestrian path and a 4m cycle way subdivided into two lanes.

The primary steelwork is painted a uniform off-white, highlighting its curved form and catching the changing light reflected from the water. The piers are painted in a contrasting dark grey to minimise their visual impact, further enhancing the flowing lines of the bridge.  Other materials have been selected for their robustness. The parapet is fabricated from brushed stainless steel, with a lightweight stainless-steel mesh infill for transparency. Concealed lighting in the handrails illuminates both deck and wings; at night the bridge appears as a twisting ribbon of light between abutments.