Harbour Baths, Copenhagen, Denmark

Source: Milsgrammer, licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic Licence


BIG Bjarke Ingels Group ; JDS; PLOT

Type of Area

Back water

Land/water interaction


Built Environment Types

Completely built

Scale of Impact

District/ neighbourhood

Intervention Scale (Spatial)

Small site

Project Types

Urban waterfront development
Outdoor Recreation

Urban/ Rural

Urban core

Visibility and Openness

Fully enclosed
Fully contained view

Popular Swimming Spot.

This project, lying directly opposite the Kalvebod Waves project described above, is another part of the Copenhagen harbour redevelopment, this time on Islands Brygge, another former industrial area. Designed by BIG/Bjarke Ingels Group, JDS/Julien De Smedt Architects and PLOT, it was completed in 2003 and has been an exceptionally popular place to go for sunbathing and swimming among other activities every summer since then. 

It extends the adjacent park and promenade over the water by incorporating the practical needs and demands for water accessibility, safety and programmatic flexibility. People use it in the same way they would use the beach rather than indoor swimming baths –  not just to exercise, but mainly to socialise, play and enjoy the sun.

The design consists of a large floating timber-clad series of decks raised above the water. It is divided into three separate water pools equipped with ladders for access. The smallest one has a sloping floor for gradual access and shallow water and the biggest has a diving tower shaped like the prow of a ship and is much deeper, linked to the harbour water. A red and white striped building resembles a lighthouse used for storage.

The whole complex can be secured and closed. It is also fenced off along the outer waterfront sides to prevent access by boat – it is therefore a completely enclosed type of floating lido. Next to the baths is the park noted above, with grassy areas used for sunbathing, and the promenade, thus offering easy access and a range of activities linked to the baths, making them part of a larger recreational complex.

One of the risks with swimming here is the water quality: generally, the water in the Copenhagen canals are clean thus permitting the harbour baths to function as a safe bathing area (it also applies to the Kalvebod Waves). Occasionally, however, as a result of strong rains, sewage may spill into the harbour and cause E. coli bacteria pollution, closing the harbour baths temporarily.

Perception and Meaning

Sense of ownership

Health and Wellbeing

Increased physical activity
Place affordance

Interaction with Water

Tactile: fully in water

Website of the project:


Google map reference


The project scores show the site has excellent accessibility –apart from car parking – and very good design quality, although expensive to maintain. The range of facilities are limited (compared to other sites) due to the fact it has a primary function as swimming baths (it is also exposed to sun and wind) and the health and well-being aspects are lacking a sense of being away or  being in contact with nature, also due to its location and design. Water connections and physical activities are also strong although limited due to its main swimming function.