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1.4 Single case study context: The city of Vejle as a representative of East Jutland

The initial PhD call from AAA asked the applicants to investigate the relationship between coastal cities and sea-level rise from the Eastern Jutland context. Initially, two case study sites, Vejle and Randers, were chosen from the European Union’s Coastal Directives’ risk cities in Denmark (i.e. a total of 14 cities/areas at risk) due to threats from flooding, sea-level rise and storm surge (as shown in Figure 5) and another coastal city called Middelfart. They all are part of Realdania’s “Cities and the rising seawater” pilot project cities[6] (as outlined in the Preface). These three coastal cities represent a variety of geological and physiological conditions to represent other coastal typologies in East Jutland (and Denmark). However, due to COVID-19, the involvement with Middelfart Municipality became reduced and limited the original intention of the engagements to be more interactive and participatory (via workshops). The data gathered with Middelfart Municipality was insufficient to derive a more meaningful and useful analysis that could be compared with what I was doing with Vejle. Furthermore, the city of Randers was more of a river city than a coastal city, where the salinity level was too low to consider marine life forms like seaweed. Therefore, both of these cities as case study sites were dropped to pursue Vejle as a single case study site. The case study method is based on real-world problems in a context-driven process (see Methodology section Figure 29). It is a method that conducts an in-depth investigation into a real-world contemporary phenomenon over which context is likely to be pertinent (i.e., sociocultural, historical, economic, political, ecological, geological and hydrological factors). The essence of the case study is to try and understand a set of design and planning decisions: why they were taken, how/if they were implemented, and with what result (Yin, 2017). Understanding the complex reality of the entangled relationship between the phenomenon (i.e., sea level rise) and context (i.e., coastal cities of Denmark) is crucial in this research, making a case study method relevant.

   Moreover, the city of Vejle[30] represents one of the most vulnerable and most common coastal typologies in East Jutland. For instance, according to a study by COWI (2017), Danish cities have four main coastal typologies, as shown in Figure 5. One of the coastal typologies that are most vulnerable to the impacts of water is the deep fjord with river estuary and the bay with the low-lying hinterland like Vejle. Vejle, therefore, is a type one[31] (as shown in Figure 5) in which similar conditions and characteristics exist in other cities of East Jutland, such as Horsens and Kolding (another risk area). Learnings from Vejle could provide insights relevant to many other coastal cities in Denmark.

Figure 5. (Top left image) A map showing the 14 risk areas in the EU’s coastal directives (mainly concentrated around the middle of the South-Eastern part of Jutland, Denmark, outlined in a blue dashed circle) Image credit: Danish Coastal Authority/Kystdirektoratet (2019) and Miljøministeriet Kystdirektoratet (n.d.).
(Top right image) The municipality of Vejle is highlighted in yellow, among the East Jutland area is in red. Image credit: Edited from Ita (2008).
(Bottom image) There are four main Danish coastal typologies: Coastal typologies in relation to storm surge type (COWI 2017). From left to right: Type 1 – Deep fjord with river estuary (in Danish Tragten); Type 2 – Bay with elevated hinterland (in Danish Skålen); Type 3 – Bay with low-lying hinterland (in Danish Den diffuse skål); Type 4: Cliff (in Danish forhøjningen) Image credit: (Faragò et al., 2018)
(Information extracted from the Kumu Multiscalar map – National scale node).

    Vejle also has various conditions that can be considered a typical urban context of Eastern Jutland, with its B-A-U development[32] of harbourfront and waterfront areas similar to other Danish coastal cities (see section 3.1.5 for more details). However, Vejle also has a unique set of conditions at the bottom of a river valley with a relatively higher elevation of the hills and a deeper intrusion into the land by the fjord. Vejle is a particularly vulnerable city due to its landscape characteristics and its exposure to water from the fjord, the surrounding streams, the rising sea, and groundwater, as shown in Figure 6. Moreover, Vejle has been relatively frequently hit by cloudbursts, floods and storm surges[33] (Vejle Municipality, 2020a). Future forecasts predict that Vejle is vulnerable to future storm surges, which will inundate all of the city centre called “Fjordbyen” and the river valley (translated to “The Fjord City” in English - a district in Vejle where the town meets the fjord) (see Figure 6) (Vejle Municipality, 2020a).


Figure 6. (Top image) Vejle faces several water issues from the fjord/sea in the form of storm surges (exacerbated by sea-level rise), rise in groundwater and the water coming down from the hills due to its location at the bottom of the river valley where the two rivers/streams meet. Image credit: Vejle Municipality (2020a).
(Second-row image) A diagram showing the dynamic of the water in Vejle. There is water coming in from the fjord, which presses into the Vejle stream and also causes the stormwater drainage system to overflow and spill over. The water coming down from uphill through the streams spill over onto the land in a storm surge and cloudburst event. Image credit: Vejle Municipality (2020).
(Third row) The Coastal Directorate's delineation of the risk area in Vejle in 2018 in blue shows the entire river valley as a vulnerable area to flooding. Fjordbyen is one of Vejle town centre's four main boroughs. Image credit: Vejle Municipality (2020a).
(Bottom image) A visualization of Vejle at a 100-year storm surge event in 2050 inundating most of Fjordbyen, calculated to cost more than 750 million Danish kroners for damages (equivalent to 100 million euros) (Vejle Municipality, 2020a). Fjordbyen, like many other Danish waterfront/harbourfront developments, has been undergoing major transformation; where the past decade, there has been continual construction of new high-density housing, businesses, infrastructure and recreational areas. These newly developed areas pose challenges from rising sea levels and storm surges and are critical areas that can be challenged for testing alternative ways to co-exist with water. Image credits: Vejle Municipality (2020a).
Extracted from the Kumu Multiscalar map – Kanten and Fjordbyen scale node.

     Another reason Vejle Municipality is a good contender for a single case study site is due to being one of Denmark’s cities known for being at the forefront of climate adaptation strategies. Its various involvements provide a variety of rich sources of strategic documents[34] that indicate Vejle Municipality’s overall vision for climate adaptation and mitigation. Some key documents are its “Storm surge Strategy”[35] and “Resilient City Strategy” as part of the global “Resilient Cities”[36] network. Moreover, I was presented with a unique opportunity to work on their coastal adaptation pilot project funded by Realdania’s “Cities and the rising seawater”, called “Kanten” (translated to English as “The Edge”), an open design competition (Realdania, 2019; Vejle Municipality, 2020a). As an advisor to the judges, I provided critical feedback to the brief formulation[37] and the deliberation process of the competition entries (see next section 1.4.1). The analysis of the design entries was an opportunity to shed empirical and qualitative light on some key theoretical concepts and design principles that reinforced and challenged my research questions/hypothesis. I had the opportunity to engage with all the winners through interviews, which led to insights that contributed to the research. I presented an online inspirational video on the status of my research[38] for the participants, especially the role of marine nature in urban transformation. I was asked to give feedback[39] on the design competition brief and attend the four deliberation meetings from August 2020 to September 2020. My role in the meetings was to present what I thought should be important (based on the design brief), give my informed opinion on which entries were the most deserving of the winning title, and participate in the discussions. I was able to observe the deliberation process and the various values and opinions held by different players from the judges (see Appendix 11D: Meeting Minutes from the deliberation meetings1). I also conducted my site observations (Vejle’s waterfront) and contextual analysis to make an informed judgement on the competition entries (see Part III and IV for more details on the contextual analysis).

     My involvement with Kanten/The Edge competition led to important resources, networks and data for analysis as part of a single case study. Therefore, I decided that looking closer at Vejle as a single case study would reap richer research insights and be sufficient to adequately answer the research questions rather than focus on other cities in East Jutland[40].

[30] The city of Vejle (Danish pronunciation: [ˈvɑjlə] ) is located in the region of Southern Denmark (Syddanmark in Danish) in the south-eastern part of the Jutland peninsula at the end of the Vejle Fjord where the Vejle river and the Grejs river and their valleys meet. It is considered one of the most beautiful areas in Jutland due to the view of the Fjord and the river valley (Visit Vejle, 2021a).

[31] Another common coastal typology of East Jutland is Type 2 and 3 – Bay with low-lying and elevated hinterlands such as Middlefart, Fredericia and Juelsminde (Faragò et al., 2018). Middelfart (Type 2) and Randers were dropped as case study sites due to the complications from COVID-19 and other factors (see research scope and limitations, section 1.7 for more details).

[32] Currently, these new developments are inept at adapting to changes in climate due to inflexible construction that is not designed for inundation with hard surfaces that are not permeable, which worsens the impact of flooding.

[33] Some of the key historical storm surge events in Vejle: In 1872, Vejle fjord’s water level rose +2.15 meters above the normal water level. In 2006 Vejle fjord water level rose +1.68 meters above normal water level. In 2013 (called Storm Bodil), the Vejle fjord water level rose +1.52 meters above the normal water level (Vejle Municipality, 2020a). Future predictions for Vejle are: a 100-year storm surge event in 2050 is likely to be +2.0 meters above normal water level, and a 100-year storm surge event in 2100 is likely to be +2.44 meters above normal water level (ibid.).

[34] Every six years, Vejle is required to draw up a risk management plan. The risk management plan aims to come up with proposals for how Vejle needs to protect the city from flooding. The goal is a resilient city where citizens' health, well-being and values are protected against, among other things, the negative impacts of climate change. In 2017, Vejle City Council decided to draw up a storm surge strategy to clarify how the city should deal with the increasing frequency and strength of storm surges, combined with the constant rise in seawater. Vejle is in one of the most vulnerable situations in Denmark (Vejle Municipality, 2020a).

[35] Vejle’s storm surge strategy (“Stormflodsstrategi” in Danish) is called “Storm surge protection that grows with the city”, which began in 2017 and was adopted on 9 December 2020 by Vejle Municipality after a public consultation period from February to September 2020. The purpose of the storm surge strategy is to designate a direction for how Vejle Municipality plans for integrating urban development and storm surge protection to go hand in hand and that the strategy is adaptive, which means that it can be developed along with the new forecasts and new technical solutions. The storm surge strategy identifies a number of criteria and principles for how storm surge protection can be designed so that it contributes to plural values for the entire municipality and maintains a good encounter with the water with new recreational opportunities but also ensures future investment and property value (Vejle Municipality, 2020c; 2020a).

[36] Vejle was selected to join the 100 Resilient Cities (100RC) global network in 2013. Cities from across the world have developed a resilience road map and share best practices to tackle the physical, social and economic challenges facing the 21st century. The partnership with 100RC has been a major driving force for the development of Vejle’s resilience strategy, the first of its kind in Denmark. The Resilient Cities document introduces the Municipality of Vejle’s resilience strategy for 2016-2020. The resilience strategy consists of a range of existing actions and new actions and supports the values for co-creation (citizen involvement), innovation and sustainable growth. The actions are structured around four strategic pillars and 12 goals (Vejle Municipality, n.d.). Visit: and for more information.

[37] Along with my supervisors.

[38] Due to COVID-19, the initial plan of a start-up workshop for the competition was replaced by a series of small inspirational videos from the presenters (see Appendix 11). These inspirational videos were rather influential for the entrants and their proposals. For instance, the presentation video by the biologist of the “Sund Vejle Fjord" project gave ideas on how to incorporate mussels and eelgrass plantations to improve the quality of the water and about the various contextual conditions of the Vejle fjord (Vejle Municipality, 2020b). These videos included talks from the city architect of Vejle Municipality, an artist, and presenting my research on Urban Seascaping. See for my inspiration video on 24 April 2020.

[39] The feedback was on the draft design competition brief on February 2020, where I placed an emphasis that while the competition may be called “The Edge” (Kanten), it needed to communicate clearly that it is not an edge but an interconnected zone, especially when working with water and marine lifeforms.

[40] However, it is important to note that there are many other similar initiatives happening in various risk cities in Denmark under Realdania’s “Cities and the rising seawater” pilot projects, which also could have been explored as a comparative study; however, the timeline for these projects did not align.

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Section 1.4 footnote
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