Creating Urban Mediaspace. Reconnecting the city of Aarhus to the waterfront and sea by transforming industrial harbor areas into a contemporary urban locality.
Water is the central element in the layout of the Urban Mediaspace project which is the largest project undertaken by the City of Aarhus. In 2001, Aarhus City Council principally decided to construct a Mediaspace. Aarhus is a city by the sea, and the history of the settlement is closely connected to the place where the river flows into The Bay of Aarhus. One broad sweep of the architectural brush has reinstated this special position by the sea, linking the city and the public library and cultural centre Dokk1 with the north-south line of the bay and the river’s east-west axis – horizontally, vertically and in terms of transportation. The new city waterfront facilitates a whole new range of recreational activities by the sea; the urban waterfront spaces established there, known by the working title of Urban Mediaspace, provide the perfect setting for multifarious cultural activities, and for people to hang out, play and enjoy themselves in community with others.

The vision behind the new urban spaces is to recreate the original intimate connection between the city and the bay. This landscape, characterized by the waters of the bay and of the river, is to be brought into the limelight and moved centre stage,

The river, which from the time of the Vikings was a moat forming part of the city defenses, has now been fitted with sluices as a defense against future climate changes. In this way, Dokk1 and the new urban waterfront spaces will introduce the city to the water again.

Resources needed

Creating Scandinavia’s largest public library as well as an entirely modern waterfront in the very city centre of Aarhus meant a solid financial backing from the Municipality of Aarhus. The estimated cost is € 280,000,000 + VAT from which about 80,000,000 € is donated by the organisation Realdania.

Evidence of success

The establishment of Urban Mediaspace has not only given the city a new public library, new recreational spaces, secured the city centre from flooding, it has completely changed the self-perception of the city and its inhabitants.
By creating new urban areas along the seaside in the historical city centre, the project has transformed the waterfront into popular recreational spaces used daily by the city’s inhabitants and visitors. 1.3 million users each year visit the new public library Dokk1.

Difficulties encountered

Establishing the new electric railway “Letbanen” in Aarhus. It was constructed at the same time as Urban Mediaspace causing some technical and knowledge sharing difficulties in the building processes. Development of the same physical area also caused some challenges during the project period.

Potential for learning or transfer

The transformation of a key public area like the waterfront of Aarhus can be transferred to many locations around the world. It is all about seeing opportunities through local governance in the existing water-linked environments while aiming for a modern development through solid project management.

Success criteria achieved:
- High quality in architecture and in the functionalities.
- Increasing use of urban areas and in library functions.
- Development of new processes and citizen engagement.
- Service costs of areas and building are economically sustainable.
- Tying the city and the water together and changing the moving patterns in the city.
- Underground parking facility is a commercial success.
- High degree of security on level 0. Implementation of simple and intuitive user experiences.

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Main institution
Aarhus Municipality
Midtjylland, Denmark (Danmark)
Start Date
January 2011
End Date
January 2017


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