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This Danish power plant will poetically inform residents of how much carbon they’re using

Rendering ©2015 courtesy of BIG
Smoke signals.
  • Anne Quito
By Anne Quito

Design and architecture reporter

Published This article is more than 2 years old.

In less than a decade, Copenhagen expects to become the first carbon-neutral city on the planet.

There are plenty of reminders around the Danish capital to will the locals towards achieving a zero-carbon future by 2025: a 20-turbine wind farm, half of its population zipping around in bikes (and an infamous 180% import tax on cars), a mandatory green roof policy, or anti-food waste reminders on paper napkins.

But among the most poetic interventions is a planned chimney atop Copenhagen’s soon-to-be built power plant along its harbor. Like a SOS smoke-signal for the environment, the chimney will puff out a steady succession of steam rings into Copenhagen’s skyline for every ton of carbon dioxide the plant produces. The smokestack will be at the apex of the Amager Bakke (Amager Slope), a revolutionary waste-treatment plant designed by the visionary architects at BIG.

BIG I Bjarke Ingels Group
“An art piece to completely change people’s perceptions on what a power plant can be”

The project is bolstered by a thriving Kickstarter campaign that has already exceeded its target with almost a month left. “By sweeping nothing under the carpet, but rather projecting our carbon footprint onto the Copenhagen sky, we provide every single citizen intuitive information to help them inform the decisions they make for their lives and for the city that they want to live in,” declared the project’s lead architects, Bjarke Ingels and Jakob Lange, on their fundraising page.

The crowdsourced funds will support the development of the fifth and final prototype for the smoke stack (a.k.a. BIG Vortex), which was originally proposed to BIG by the Berlin-based studio, realities:united. Over the course of the development, the profile of the chimney has notably evolved since the original rendering in 2011, with the column now appearing to prominently stuck to the plant’s exterior based on the latest visualizations.

BIG I Bjarke Ingels Group
Design modifications, 2011 and 2015.

The mechanics behind the smokestack is being developed with in collaboration with scientists from aerospace firm Peter Madsen Raketmadsens Rumlaboratorium (Racket-Madsen Space Lab) and the Danish Technical University.

Watch a perfect steam circle rise in this lab test video that BIG shared with Quartz.

(The jarring explosions should hopfeully be eliminated in the final version.)

The waste treatment facility, which is being erected between Copenhagen’s largest yacht harbor and a water sports complex, has been called “one of the most radical representations of architecture as a means of public engagement of our time” by ArchDaily.

BIG I Bjarke Ingels Group

The Amager Bakke waste treatment plant is scheduled to open in 2017.

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