Designing public spaces for extreme rainfall: green and blue infrastructure in Copenhagen

Designing public spaces for rainfall management through SUDS systems is a familiar concept in Scotland.  Innovative retrofit schemes aimed at dealing with extreme weather events locally and at a city wide level are also beginning to emerge, for example in Glasgow. I was therefore interested to explore the work the City of Copenhagen are implementing as part of their “Cloudburst Management Plan

The Copenhagen strategy takes a long term, site by site, approach to adapting the city’s existing public realm to cope with climate change. I was keen to see whether the projects implemented to date lived up to their objectives of also improving the quality of place and engaging local communities in the design process.

Inspired by the talk at the 2016 CSGN Forum from project designer René Sommer Lindsay, one of the sites I visited was Tåsinge Plads in the densely populated Osterbro district of the city. Working closely with the community, René and his team have transformed an extensive area of car parking and mown grass into a diverse and characterful open space. Surface water from surrounding roofs and streets is gathered in a series of linked swales, underground storage tanks and detention basins.

The project, now two years on from completion, is bearing up well. It has already been tested by extreme downpours, and the series of designed planted and paved spaces has proved popular with local people. It clearly demonstrates how high capacity stormwater infrastructure can be integrated within public spaces in a manner which also creates an attractive and liveable place for people.

Similar and emerging work in Scotland has real potential to realise these objectives.


Frazer McNaughton- Landscape and Placemaking Adviser, Scottish Natural Heritage


A series of three linked detention basins allows for a large volume of surface water from surrounding roofs and streets to be controlled before either percolating into the ground water or slowly entering the sewer system.

The detention basins utilise a densely planted mix of native and non-native species. The planting in the basins helps achieve good levels of ground water percolation and provides seasonal diversity.

Robust and simple detailing allows the existing tarmac street to drain directly into vegetated swales and below ground water storage tanks