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Power station to double as laser-firing ski slope

  • An old waste-to-energy power plant in Denmark is set to receive a mountain makeover
  • By 2016 the building's exterior will be a 31,000 square-meter ski slope
  • The plant's chimney will also puff a vast smoke ring every time one ton of C02 is released

(CNN) -- Waste-burning power stations rarely pass for stylish weekend resorts. But in an industrial town on the fringes of Copenhagen, an old incendiary plant is set for a seductive alpine makeover.

The 40-year-old power station, which converts domestic waste into electricity, is being rebuilt to incorporate a 31,000 square-meter ski slope around its towering exterior.

"What we have here is a synthesis of beauty and function -- a bit of architectural alchemy," said Bjarke Ingels, a Danish architect and founder of the Bjarke Ingels Group (BIG), which won an international design competition to secure the €420 million ($570 million) project.

"Why must buildings be defined by one particular function?" asked the 36-year-old. "Rather than create another part of the city that is lost to more mechanical infrastructure, our ambition is to add a social space that will enrich the local community," he said.

Planned for completion in 2016, the former factory-shaped eyesore will ferry visitors up a vertical elevator to a series of slopes at the top of the smokestack.

Meanwhile -- as a gentle nod to the pyramids of garbage churning beneath it -- the chimney is designed to puff a 30-meter-wide smoke ring every time a ton of C02 is produced.

"You'll be able to stand in the middle of Copenhagen and tally-up exactly how much carbon has been emitted into the atmosphere," said Bjarke. "It's this kind of visual connection that should encourage people to consider their own energy consumption."

The BIG founder said that heat-tracking lights will also be used at night to position lasers on the smoke rings and turn them into glowing artworks, or even pie charts.

Further embellishing the power station's facelift will be a vertical green "mega lattice" made up of plant pots stacked like bricks. Along its western border a field of hills will mimic a mogul piste.

Why must buildings be defined by one particular function?
--Bjarke Ingels, architect

Built from a recycled synthetic material, the plant's alpine identity embodies a philosophy that Bjarke describes as "hedonistic sustainability" -- the idea that environmental projects can increase our quality of life.

According to Bjarke, the 2009 COP15 summit in Copenhagen was a "total failure" because the debate was too focused around the idea that saving the environment means eliminating many of the things people enjoy.

"This is a sort of Protestant attitude of moral penitence," he said. "In my view it's completely the wrong starting point for talking about sustainability."

A network of artificial ski-resorts may not sound like like the most sustainable idea, but Bjarke is quick to defend it.

"This is not the same thing as building a fake ski slope in the middle of a Dubai shopping mall," he said.

Denmark burns 54% of domestic waste to generate power, according to Eurostat data. So, Bjarke says, it makes sense to harness the unused physical potential of its vast incendiary plants.

"In a country with the perfect climate for skiing, but which has long suffered from a lack of skiable slopes, why not kill two birds with one stone?" he said.

Capping off the multi-purpose power plant will be a terrain park that offers go-carting, sailing, and rock climbing.

But what about the all-important apes-ski aperitif?

"Of course!" Bjarke enthused. "At the very top of the slopes, underneath the chimney there will be a giant disc -- housing a bar with the best 360-degree panoramic views of Copenhagen anywhere in the world."


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