Civic architecture used to be something special; utilitarian buildings such as water treatment plants and pumping stations were objects of civic pride. Look at Chicago’s pumping station or Toronto’s R C Harris water treatment plant or Some of Thames Water’s pumping stations around London.
Then they all got boring, particularly in North America where the value management people scratched joy and beauty off the list of building requirements and architects were deemed unnecessary luxuries on engineering projects.
It’s different in much of Europe. You get firms like BIG designing incinerators and now you get C.F. Møller designing a new sewage pumping station. It’s next to a rather nice original one from 1901. The firm has some experience doing what are normally considered non-architecture, from prisons to gas compressor stations. Now they tell TreeHugger:
The new pumping station and its associated operational functions are closely integrated into the dense urban context, as a new distinctive layout that creates an overall architectural coherence between new and old and between the city and its infrastructure. The many constructional and technical constraints, the location of the historic plant, the limited site space and the many sub-installations, have posed great demands on the overall architectural expression and physical workspaces.
It has two tall and dramatic pressure towers, and a round shape that “reflects an “underworld” whose circular geometry is an expression of the optimized layout of the underground pumping well.” It also has a green roof and gardens that harvest rainwater and provide recreational areas.
In an earlier post on BIG’s design for a waste-to-energy plant I noted:
It really is a completely different attitude toward infrastructure. In North America nobody will spend a dime on amenities; design competitions are rarely held, infrastructure projects are often design-build where there is barely an architect involved. In Copenhagen, they make it so enticing that people are probably saying “put it in my backyard, please!”
More lessons from Denmark about how to do things right.