How will the future of the Danish cities unfold over the next 35 years? And which are the development tendencies with major impact on the transformation of the Danish cities towards becoming fossil-free societies in 2050?

Scenarios for the future

Today, there is a common agreement across the political spectrum in Denmark with regards to the ambition of creating a green society. However, the road towards achieving a fossil-free society is challenging and undefined.

DK2050 sets to use scenarios as a method of investigating possible developments and their significance for our society, in order to support decision makers in planning ahead for achieving what today seems to be a remote and ‘unthinkable’ reality. Scenarios enable to shift from the here-and-know political agendas and short-term focuses to broader perspectives, where a space of opportunities for what might occur can unfold. Scenarios are therefore valuable tools for strategic development and dialogue about the future.

Trends & tendencies

A number of trends and tendencies are certain today, and can therefore be considered as the foundations for future development.

We have strong indications that the current urbanization tendencies will continue in spite of new technological achievements. Increased transportation speed based on improved connectivity and infrastructure, maglev trains or driverless cars, might change our commuting patterns, but they will not reverse the steadily increasing urbanization which will place 90% of the Danish population in city environments by 2050.

We also know that the growth of the cities holds the potential for economic growth, as well as for integrating new technology and green solutions which support a sustainable development, thereby effectively addressing the climate change agendas. Optimized transportation, optimized energy and resource life cycles are upsides of large(r) cities.

New relationships between formal and informal structures open up for new opportunities for collaboration and knowledge-sharing, including co-creation, crowd-funding and growing patterns of collaborative consumption.


On the other hand, a number of changing parameters such as values, politics or technological development are difficult to predict. They are hence considered as uncertainties, as they can develop differently from one scenario to the next one.

Two major uncertainties have been identified as central for describing the successful transition of Danish cities towards fossil-free environments: will collective or individual values prevail, and to what extent will the political decisions interact with - and support the technological development?

Uncertainty matrix

The two uncertainties have been plotted along a horizontal axis (individual opposed to collective values) and a vertical axis (strong opposed to weak interaction between politics and technology), thereby defining a matrix of uncertainties. The point of axis intersection defines a 0-point, corresponding to Denmark in 2014, while the four sections define four different directions of development towards 2050.

4 scenarios = 4 degrees of green transformation

The four sections of the uncertainty matrix correspond to four scenarios, named respectively Green State and Green Networks in the upper half (right and left), and Green Guerilla and Green Compromises in the lower half of the matrix (left and right).

The scenarios describe varying degrees of society engagement in the process of transformation towards a fossil-free society. Will the transformation be state driven, or will municipalities, citizens and private companies become major driving forces? And what are the costs for achieving the desired transition?

Green State achieves a complete ‘green’ transition with100% renewable energy, CO2-neutrality and fossil fuels independency based on centralized and state subsidized solutions.

Green Networks achieves 80% CO2 reduction, based on a combination of ambitious state-driven environmental enforcement policies combined with bottom-up initiatives from citizens, companies and cities.

Green Guerilla achieves a 60% CO2 reduction due to a combination of a ‘weak’ state and a high degree of individual agendas lacking coordination and integration.

Green Compromises, which is a baseline scenario where no new policies and initiatives are taken except from the ones already adopted in 2014, achieves a 40% CO2 reduction, based on a state-supported development focused uniquely on growth, rather than ‘green’ transition.

4 different Denmarks

4 different maps corresponding to the four scenarios explore the relationships between energy and transportation infrastructure and urbanization for each single scenario on national and regional scales.

The 4 maps show how the growing and shrinking of the Danish cities will have a major impact on the city-regions and the network dynamics between cities, and a considerable influence on the possibilities of creating a CO2-neutral society.

The four scenarios unveil 4 different urbanization models, dubbed Magnet, Star Sky, Comet and Division. They correspond to four different geographies which outline 4 different Denmarks: 1h City (Magnet), Polycentricity (Star Sky), 5 million City (Comet) and East vs. West (Division).

The maps have been developed by MUTOPIA based on Damvad&Kairos Future’s scenario report ‘Fire veje til grøn vækst’ (Four roads towards green growth) in collaboration with Rambøll Engineers.

Within each scenario, further investigations of the relationships between green transition and urbanization have been conducted on specific sites in Danish cities in close collaboration with the other project partners including advisors and municipalities.

You can download the DK2050 reports and scenarios here:

Client: Danish Architecture Center DAC, in partnership with Realdania, along with the Danish Ministry of Culture, the Danish Ministry of Environment, the Danish Ministry of Business and Growth, and the Danish Ministry of Climate and Building

Project support: Grundejernes Investeringsfond (Landowners’ Investment Fund), Statens Kunstfond (Danish Arts Foundation), Rambøll

Program: Scenarios for a fossil-free Denmark in 2050

Year: 2014

Location: Denmark, with the participation of 10 Danish cities, including: Aalborg, Aarhus, Ringkøbing-Skjern, Sønderborg, Fredericia, Middelfart, Odense, Kalundborg, Høje-Taastrup and København; and 3 urban regions: Region Syddanmark, Region Nordjylland and Region Hovedstaden

Team: Serban Cornea, Kristina Jordt Adsersen, Henrik Ulsfort, Marcin Kruk, Julia Berenguer, Martina Skalicka, Carina Nissen, Claudia Scappini

Collaborators: Damvad & Kairos Future (report ‘Fire veje til grøn vækst’ - 'Four roads towards green growth'), Rambøll Engineers (report 'Grader af grøn omstilling' - 'Degrees of green transition'), Sleth, We, Pauliina Koskinen Tonboe, Cristina Marigo

Status: Commission, MUTOPIA has been head of the entire architectural production, as well as co-curator along with DAC