How to turn temporary use into long-term development? | Placemakers’ Visual Stories #6

In this episode of the Placemakers’ Visual Stories, I received Alexander Stevns, co-director of Urban13 and actively engaged in the transformation of Bispeengbuen, in Copenhagen. We talked about public space activation and what it takes to turn temporary use into long-term development.

Bispeengbuen is an elevated 6-lane motorway on the border between Copenhagen and Frederiksberg. Heritage of the 70s, the bridge runs through a densely built residential area. It is often discussed as a source of nuisance, causing a lot of debate among politicians and citizens.

In 2017, the municipalities of Copenhagen and Frederiksberg launched a call for proposals to activate the space under the bridge (at least until a decision would be taken about its fate).

Turning a parking space into a lively place

Alexander and his friends already had a connection to the space, as they had organized a music festival there, called “Carpark Festival”. Even though they had no money and were not “experts”, they saw a great opportunity to turn the car parking into a lively place for “the little ones with the big ideas”. They won the project with the promise to transform the place into a cultural, social and creative urban space.

The space under Bispeengbuen used to be a car parking. Today, after a few years of collaboration with the local residents and associations, it has become a place for the daily life, and a meeting point especially for the youth in the area.

Colorful containers are home to a coworking space (where Alexander’s office is located), a diner, a meeting room, a concert venue and a repair workshop. Yellow lines run on the floor, indicating places where to sit or a basketball and football field for street sports.

But what does it take to create a place for culture, social life and creativity? And how do you handle it, knowing that it has an expiry date?

Read Alexander’s visual story to discover:

  • The story behind Urban 13 and the transformation of Bispeengbuen
  • Alexander’s key learnings after 5 years of working under the bridge
  • The success factors for turning temporary use into long-term development

You might also want to read Bettina’s visual story, whose office COurban is located under the bridge. She collaborated with girls in the area to make the space under the bridge safer and more inclusive.


Sketchnote showing with illustrations and text the history of Urban 13

Sketchnoting to highlight the work of placemaking professionals

In Placemakers’ Visual Stories, I invite some of the most seasoned placemaking practitioners in Copenhagen to share their everyday experience with participation and citizen involvement in urban planning. From the who, to the what, how and why… they explore and clarify the art of making cities with people – and not only for them.

Placemakers have a special drive for making a difference in the way we make cities, through their everyday practice. With the Placemakers’ Visual Stories, I want to make their inspiring work more visible and understandable, because I believe it matters!

I scribe the answers of my guests in real time, as they speak. For each episode, the end result is a visual sketchnote that maps out the key points of our conversation.

If you want more visual tips and guidance about participation in urban planning, sign up to the Urban Mycelium’s newsletter down below!

Mathilde Riou

Mathilde is an urbanist and facilitator dedicated to change the way we make cities. She created The Urban Mycelium blog with the aim of revealing the invisible human dynamics that help the city grow better.

Sign up to stay updated and receive future articles!