Theme weeks in Gadehavegaard: Young people are the key to successful development of the neighbourhood

Educational programmes at local schools will help to see new potentials for the area's future development through the eyes of young people. At the same time, the process will provide young people with new skills and knowledge in biodiversity, circularity and inclusion/participation. Desire partner, the housing administration company Domea.dk and the housing association DFB are excited and hope to maintain contact with the young people.

Published October 3, 2023. Text Hanne Kokkegård, DTU

When you visit Gadehavegaard in Høje-Taastrup, about 20 kilometres from the centre of Copenhagen, the eye catches plenty of green. Yet nature is not a big part of young people's lives, according to several of the pupils at Ole Rømer-School, which is in the neighbourhood. But hopefully, this will change in the future, because through two theme weeks created under the auspices of the Desire project, the pupils have had to relate to nature.

The social housing neighbourhood Gadehavegaard is to undergo significant changes by 2030. (See the text at the bottom of the story). Social housing will be demolished, social housing will be renovated, new social housing for the elderly and new private owner-occupied housing will be built, and institutions will be established, including a campus area and a neighbourhood centre, so that the area opens up more to the surroundings. At the same time, a 30,000 m2 park area will be established in the development by removing two large car parks and a four-lane road.

The theme weeks in September have focused on circularity, biodiversity and user involvement, and the children have had to come up with ideas for what they want for the park area.

Along the way, the children have been introduced to how to design an urban space. In groups, they have worked with methods for idea development, looked at the area's characteristics and narrative, taken pictures, drawn and built small models of their own dreams for the future of the area. Finally, they have learnt to verbally formulate their plans in clear presentations.

The housing administration company Domea.dk manages Gadehavegaard and is responsible for the project management of the green park area. They hope that the theme weeks can be the starting point for making young people a driving force in the development of the green area, explains Project Manager Lisbeth Engelbrecht Jensen:

”During the theme weeks, the children have been introduced to how to develop and what competences you need as a designer, but also how to involve others in the process. We hope that we can use the children as ambassadors to get more citizens involved in the transformation of the neighbourhood.”

An important success criterion for the Desire project is that the young people initiate a broader dialogue about the development of the area through their contact with peers, adults, and elders such as friends, siblings, parents, teachers, grandparents, coaches, etc.

"But we also want to keep in touch with the children and involve them in new projects so that the involvement spreads like ripples to other parts of the Gadehavegård project and to other neighbourhoods. Our task is to convince them that we actually mean it when we say we want them to be part of the process," says Lisbeth Engelbrecht Jensen.

Photos from the theme weeks at Ole Rømer School, located on our site Gadehavegaard in September 2023. They have worked with design and urban planning and given their take on how a future park area can become a lovely place for the residents. Here you can see some of the pictures from the theme weeks. Photo: Benjamin Hesselholdt.

Gadehavegaard September 2023, credit Benjamin Hesselholdt

Gadehavegaard September 2023, credit Benjamin Hesselholdt

Gadehavegaard September 2023, credit Benjamin Hesselholdt

Gadehavegaard September 2023, credit Benjamin Hesselholdt

Gadehavegaard September 2023, credit Benjamin Hesselholdt

Gadehavegaard September 2023, credit Benjamin Hesselholdt

Gadehavegaard September 2023, credit Benjamin Hesselholdt


Space to dream big
The children have been divided into 12 groups throughout the two theme weeks, and on the final day, when the mayor, representatives from the housing organisation, people from the municipality and a few parents stopped by, the children's projects were on display with drawings and physical models they had built. In addition, the design studio GXN built digital models based on the children's work to give an idea of what the project would look like if it were built in reality. The children have not been limited by finances or legislation but have had the freedom to dream big.

Camilla Kikkenborg is a teacher for both 8th grade classes at Ole Rømer-School. She says that the theme weeks have been educational for both children and teachers:

"The programme has been a little different than usual because others have been responsible for facilitating the theme weeks and planning. So there has also been a lot of learning for us adults. But if we look at it from the children's perspective, I think it has been a programme where they have felt listened to. Even on a day when the mayor comes round."

"They have also learnt some professional techniques. And they have been allowed to be themselves - authentic because they are also the authentic end users in relation to what the nature area should be able to do in the future. So, they've been allowed to say some things that there might not normally be room for in the classroom. I think that's kind of cool," says Camilla Kikkenborg, citing an example.

Architects often come to Høje-Taastrup and talk about the urban space Den Røde Plads and Superkilen in Nørrebro, where the many different cultures of the residents have been united in a common, coherent, and colourful urban space with benches, lamps, and playground equipment from many countries.

But when the children learnt about this during the theme weeks, one of the children asked why everything must be just like Copenhagen? Why can't we just be 'us' out here?

"And that's not something you would normally talk about in regular lessons. So, we've talked about something that has seemed right to them. So, I just think it's really cool that they've had this opportunity to work with their own ideas," says the teacher.

Gadehavegaard September 22, 2023. Photo: Hanne Kokkegaard

Gadehavegaard September 22, 2023. Photo: Hanne Kokkegaard

Pia, Chairwoman of the DFB Resident Board in Gadehavegaard, September 22, 2023. Photo: Hanne Kokkegaard.

Pia, Chairwoman of the DFB Resident Board in Gadehavegaard, September 22, 2023. Photo: Hanne Kokkegaard. 

Jesper is a member of the Resident Board at Gadehavegaard, on September 22, 2023. Photo: Hanne Kokkegaard

Jesper is a member of the Resident Board at Gadehavegaard, on September 22, 2023. Photo: Hanne Kokkegaard

Gadehavegaard September 22, 2023. Photo: Hanne Kokkegaard

Gadehavegaard September 22, 2023. Photo: Hanne Kokkegaard

Gadehavegaard September 22, 2023. Photo: Hanne Kokkegaard

Gadehavegaard September 22, 2023. Photo: Hanne Kokkegaard

Gadehavegaard September 22, 2023. Photo: Hanne Kokkegaard

Gadehavegaard September 22, 2023. Photo: Hanne Kokkegaard

Gadehavegaard September 22, 2023. Photo: Hanne Kokkegaard

Gadehavegaard September 22, 2023. Photo: Hanne Kokkegaard

Gadehavegaard September 22, 2023. Photo: Hanne Kokkegaard

Gadehavegaard September 22, 2023. Photo: Hanne Kokkegaard

Gadehavegaard September 22, 2023. Photo: Hanne Kokkegaard

Gadehavegaard September 22, 2023. Photo: Hanne Kokkegaard

Gadehavegaard September 22, 2023. Photo: Hanne Kokkegaard

Gadehavegaard September 22, 2023. Photo: Hanne Kokkegaard

Gadehavegaard September 22, 2023. Photo: Hanne Kokkegaard

Gadehavegaard September 22, 2023. Photo: Hanne Kokkegaard

Gadehavegaard September 22, 2023. Photo: Hanne Kokkegaard

Gadehavegaard September 22, 2023. Photo: Hanne Kokkegaard

Gadehavegaard September 22, 2023. Photo: Hanne Kokkegaard

Gadehavegaard September 22, 2023. Photo: Hanne Kokkegaard

Gadehavegaard September 22, 2023. Photo: Hanne Kokkegaard

Gadehavegaard September 22, 2023. Photo: Hanne Kokkegaard

Gadehavegaard September 22, 2023. Photo: Hanne Kokkegaard

Gadehavegaard September 22, 2023. Photo: Hanne Kokkegaard

Gadehavegaard September 22, 2023. Photo: Hanne Kokkegaard

Gadehavegaard September 22, 2023. Photo: Hanne Kokkegaard

Gadehavegaard September 22, 2023. Photo: Hanne Kokkegaard

Gadehavegaard September 22, 2023. Photo: Hanne Kokkegaard 


Exciting proposals with room for peace and life
The 12 project proposals cover a wide range. There are shelters, playground equipment, an outdoor swimming pool, a sports centre, a peaceful greenhouse and a treetop cabin with a library and homework café. Several groups emphasise the need for places to find peace and quiet, but also the need for a kiosk to buy food and drink in the area.

Jesper is a member of the Resident Board in Gadehavegaard and has lived in the building for 37 years. He is very enthusiastic about the children's proposal.

"It's a great idea to involve children in this way. After all, they are the ones who will take over from us. There are certainly useful ideas among the suggestions. For example, the idea with the shelters is exciting. They could perhaps be placed along the noise barrier, and these are actually some of the ideas we have been working on ourselves. So, it resonates with me. Especially because it will be a large area that we need to develop in a good and exciting way with room for everyone," says Jesper.

He is supported by Pia, who is the Chairwoman of the DFB Resident Board in Gadehavegaard.

"I think it's exciting. It's interesting to hear what young people think about activities and about involving nature more and creating space for biodiversity and circularity. It's also interesting that many groups want places where they can find peace and quiet together and socialise - or perhaps be alone. So young people are also thinking about creating space for diversity. Several groups are also working on new ways of using light as an entrance to buildings or in the neighbourhood to create a sense of security, and this is also something that is exciting to continue working on," says Pia.

Even though the theme weeks are over for the two 8th grade classes, all models and materials will be preserved until the end of the 9th grade, because the classes will take a so-called portfolio exam at the end of Danish. The test is an oral exam where children each select five programmes from their 8th and 9th grade classes, which they prepare to present if they draw it for the exam. One of the programmes could be the Desire theme weeks on circularity, biodiversity, and user involvement.

The theme week ended with an exhibition with ideas from the 12 groups and with guests including the mayor of Høje-Taastrup Municipality, Michael Ziegler. All groups gave a presentation and each received a special prize like The Fantasy Prize.

Lisbeth Engelbrecht Jensen, Project Manager at Domea.dk. Credit: Hanne Kokkegård, DTU

Lisbeth Engelbrecht Jensen, Project Manager at Domea.dk. Credit: Hanne Kokkegård, DTU

A walk in the Gadehavegaard of the future

Selected quotes and descriptions that BACKSCATTER has collected from the groups' presentations.


1: 
"The three friends were walking around GHG (Gadehavegaard) and came across a house that looked interesting. Everything was blue in there and there were little stars. They went inside and found a place to sit.

“Wow, this is beautiful!” said one of them.
"Yes!" answered the other.
“Just try to look here; there are drawers with books and games.”
“Do you want to play kalaha?” Agnius Amin asked.

Medina found a place to sit down to read while the others played the kalaha. There was a cosy atmosphere in there. People were talking and laughing.”


2:
"We walk towards the old parking lot, and there is a lot of greenery, many plants and flowers, and there is room for many sports such as basketball, football, volleyball, etc. It is a huge long staircase with people watching movies and a café right next door where you can buy snacks and something to drink. We go further and see a large and new playground with many young people of all ages. The apartments have become nicer and look much better than before.”

3: 

“There are also lots of wooden benches for the elderly, so they can sit down and watch their children/grandchildren play. There is also a playground for even smaller children. Many insects have arrived and there are flowers everywhere.”

Rendering below: GXN

Credit: GXN, Visions for Gadehavegaard, Theme weeks at the school.


Fact: Therefore, Gadehavegaard must be transformed

The social housing area Gadehavegaard in Høje-Taastrup 20 km from Copenhagen is one of a row of areas in Denmark that will be redesigned as a residential area to ensure a special preventive effort according to the Danish law for parallel community (formerly called ghetto).

Folketinget - the Danish Parliament - has agreed that a number of residential areas must have a significant boost in the coming years to get more people into work, more people to receive higher education after primary school, fewer people to be convicted of a crime and the average income must increase.

The developing plan for Gadehavegaard is adapted to the needs of the area and the surrounding area with different types of housing.

Social housing must be demolished, social housing renovated and new social housing for the elderly and new private owner-occupied housing must be built and institutions established, including a campus area and a neighbourhood house, so that the area opens up to the surroundings. At the same time, a 30,000 m2 park area must be established in the area by closing down two large parking lots and a four-lane road.

Link to the plan for Gadehavegaard (Danish)
Source - Blandede boliger (Danish)