With its 8,750 km of coastline facing the North and Baltic seas, Denmark’s flat terrain is particularly susceptible to the increasing impacts of climate change and the resulting flood events that may severely impact the country’s coastal regions. One such event was the cyclone Xaver of 2013, which damaged several structures, among them the location of the Danish Association of the Physically Disabled (DHF) in Charlottelund, Denmark, where flood waters infiltrated the outdoor area as well as the low-positioned waterfront communal building.
To remedy the damage from the storm, the A.P. Møller Foundation awarded the DHF a grant that would fund a raise of the flood control system to 2,20 m and protection against future damage. The initial plan was to construct a high wall that could retain flood water however, this would inevitably restrict water access to all users and limit the stunning view of the ocean. The challenge facing Stranden was thus twofold: to protect against major flood events while also accommodating the needs of its users, who did not feel comfortable with the existing structure, since it did not offer the privacy and accessibility they needed to swim and use the waterfront. They dreamed of a safe space tailored to their needs, where they could be free use the facilities independently without relying on support or worrying about being subjected to other people’s attention.
Kragh&Berglund chose to pull the landscape further into the coast and gradually slope the terrain towards the water. This solution rethinks the notion of a traditional retaining wall and merges seamlessly with the topography of the landscape: the park is also the wall, part of the recreational space offered to DHF’s members. The design protects against future flood threats with lower retaining walls and the slightly sloped terrain without compromising the users’ needs and vantage points. It creates a community space that gives the DHF members easy mobility and an opportunity to enjoy the view over the water, whether standing or seated. The casual yet defined gradient helps shield the area and divide it into zones, where the users can bathe and hang out undisturbed.
The design was developed in close dialogue with the DHF community. In a series of workshops, Stranden’s most frequent users contributed input and suggestions regarding how to best accommodate their needs in terms of accessibility and surfaces. As a result of these exchanges, Stranden was given new facilities that can be used by all members regardless of level of mobility. The parking was optimized to serve the different users’ needs, while concrete trails wound through the coast-inspired planting serve as both aesthetic pathways and safe accessibility ramps. The area contains spaces with seating as well as more secluded recreational spaces. The ramp leading into the water is gently sloped and lined with sturdy railings that provide easy access to the ocean with or without a wheelchair. We consulted the users to determine what kind of outdoor furniture to choose and designed details tailored specifically for this project like the drain.
Coastal grasses and bushes recreate a natural waterfront feeling, while larger needle trees provide shade and seclusion. All the plant species are salt water tolerant and robust enough to handle the salty sea air and survive floods. Low concrete walls act as edges and seating also provide flood protection. An opening between the walls is completed with a watertight closure which, when manually shut during major flood events, protects the association’s clubhouse building. Such manual action is in many instances more reliable than an electronic system due to the infrequency of major flooding.
Stranden is valuable to its users because it provides them with a sense of community and for this reason it was crucial to protect its spirit and character throughout the design process. Our design was driven by our dialogue with the DHF community and prioritized the creation of a safe space where all users could feel welcome and able to experience the same degree of freedom and enjoyment as everyone else when using the beach.
In addition to its anthropological virtues, our design also features a number of innovative elements. It allows sea water into the landscape when necessary while still protecting the community building and is the only beach in the world that combines flood control and optimal conditions for visitors of varied levels mobility. Technical problems are solved elegantly and architectonically, resulting in a space that is both functional and human in scale. The architecture emulates the soft bends of the coastline and lend the landscape a sense of peace and calm.
Project location: Strandvejen 142C, 2920 Charlottenlund, Denmark
Design year: 2016
Year Built: 2018