1.4.1 Vejle’s Kanten/The Edge design competition
We are not going to build high walls to protect Vejle… Storm surge protection that grows with the city.
Excerpts from Kanten/The Edge design competition brief by Vejle Municipality (translated from Danish)
(Vejle Municipality, 2020a, p.218).
Water as a threat, resource and potential – Competition brief
On the 1st of April 2020, Vejle Municipality announced an open design competition called “Kanten”. The competition invited architects, landscape architects and artists to develop innovative, nature-based and recreational proposals to protect Vejle from future storm surges. A total of 25 proposals were submitted 3.5 months later, on the 15th of July 2020 (entries from Denmark and abroad). Vejle Municipality wanted to invest in future large-scale projects that might provide artistic and innovative solutions to future storm surge protection that is nature-based, attractive, and adaptive. The brief invited entries that might facilitate good access to the water can invoke another perspective on the water (Vejle Municipality, 2020a). Moreover, as part of adhering to its green vision, Vejle Municipality is currently working on investigating ways to reduce 70% of CO2 emissions to meet its goal by 2030; thus, Kanten/The Edge projects need to be considered as part of this vision (Vejle Municipality, 2020a).
The purpose of the competition is not to receive ready-made proposals that could be immediately built. Instead, the intention was to raise the common understanding in the city of alternative ways storm surge protection can contribute toward livability, identity and green transition. In other words, Vejle desired to move beyond the business-as-usual solutions (which are most often favoured), which can negatively affect city life and climate resilience (Vejle Municipality, 2020b).
Kanten/The Edge design brief asks the participants to demonstrate the design proposals in detail at the two main zones allocated called “The urban zone” at Havnepladsen and “The nature zone” at Tirsbæk Strandvej (see Figure 7). Both of these areas are places land meets water – places that, in addition to being key sites for creating storm surge protection, can be conceptualized as zones where recreational activities may occur (Vejle Municipality, 2020a).
The submission criteria for the design of the Kanten/The Edge needs to contain thorough contextual analysis, spatial illustrations, drawings and models that describe the design of the proposal and a description of Kanten/The Edge's main requirement for a protective, recreational and nature-based solution considering nature above and under the water.
Figure 7. The two zones and edge conditions were allocated for intervention by Kanten/The Edge design competition brief. The security line in Fjordbyen are green lines, and the two zones are: The Urban Zone (Havnepladsen – Habour Square) and The Nature Zone (Tirsbæk Strandvej – Beach Road). Image credit: (Vejle Municipality, 2020a).
(Extracted from Kumu Multiscalar map – Kanten scale node).
Sund Vejle Fjord
Figure 8. (Top half of the images) Underwater photos from the Sund Vejle Fjord project to revive the fish population, reinstate stone reefs, restore eelgrass, clean the polluted water via blue mussels on the seabed and as floating lines. Sund Vejle Fjord mainly works with areas closer to the coastline, in the mid-outer part of the Vejle fjord, where it is less prone to eutrophication and shows more signs of life as the shallow depth allows the marine life forms better access to sunlight. Image credit: Sund Vejle Fjord (n.d.).
(Bottom half of the images) 70-hour underwater footage from the Sund Vejle Fjord project largely shows the condition of the Vejle fjord as a dark, largely lifeless, muddy desert with old fishing lines and an unbalanced food chain.
Image credit: Sund Vejle Fjord (n.d.). (Extracted from Kumu Multiscalar map – Fjord scale node).
Running almost in parallel with Kanten/The Edge competition is the “Sund Vejle Fjord” (translated as Healthy Vejle Fjord), a marine restoration project that also started in 2020. It is a five-year project funded by the Velux Foundation and Vejle Municipality (totalling 25million Danish kroners, approximately 3.4million euros) in close collaboration with the University of Southern Denmark (SDU) (Sund Vejle Fjord, 2022; Vejle Ådal & Fjord, 2022). First of its kind in Denmark, the main goal of Sund Vejle Fjord is to restore the existing poor ecological condition of Vejle Fjord (see Figure 10) and strengthen the ecosystem services lost in the fjord to revive the fish population. Currently, Vejle Fjord suffers from water pollution, a decline in biodiversity, an imbalanced food web, depleting fish population, algal bloom, and eutrophication, to name a few (Center for Marin Naturgenopretning, 2022). Additionally, the visibility of the fjord is poor due to the sea bed being mainly covered by a thick layer of mud (see Figure 10) and excessive fertiliser runoff from agricultural activity (Vejle Municipality, 2020a). Therefore, Sund Vejle Fjord is replanting the original eelgrass that has been significantly reduced due to the murky water (see Figure 8). It is also re-establishing stone/rock reefs to create habitats for mussels and seaweeds, which filter the pollutants in the water, capture CO2, dampen the waves’ impact on the coastline and stabilise the seabed along with many other inherent qualities (see Figure 9 for the location of the new stone reefs and see section 1.5.2 for details on ecosystem services).
It is expected that Kanten/The Edge’s design in both zones will contribute to an increase in biodiversity in parts of the Vejle Fjord’s coastline. The design needs to consider the time it takes for nature to establish itself. Furthermore, implementing new and innovative nature-based landscape designs such as Kanten/The Edge will increase the chance of hosting new animals and plants than we see today (Vejle Municipality, 2020a).
Figure 9. (Top left image) Current projects by Sund Vejle Fjord to reinstate the stone reefs are highlighted in yellow. Image credit: Sund Vejle Fjord (n.d.).
(Top right image) The current limited stone reef status (before Sund Vejle Fjord Project) in the fjord. Image credit: Vejle Municipality (2021).
(Bottom image) Most forms of coastal vegetation are sparsely spread out in the shallower waters near the coastline. Image credit: DHI (2019).
(Extracted from Kumu Multiscalar map – Fjord scale node).
Figure 10. (Top image) The sediment map of Vejle fjord shows that it is largely a mud substrate making it difficult for marine life to grow (the mud also makes it easily murky when it rains). Maps created by Soo Ryu, GIS data from: GEUS Dataverse (Jakobsen, 2022; Jakobsen, Tougaard and Anthonsen, 2022a; 2022b).
(Bottom image) Vejle Fjord is currently in poor overall ecological status based on several quality measures (data from July 2021 (Miljøstyrelsen, 2021). The streams and rivers are based on data from June 2016 (Miljøstyrelsen, 2016). The fjord is in poor condition because there are agricultural fields surrounding the fjord (Hedrup, 2021). Maps created by Soo Ryu, GIS data from: Miljøstyrelsen (2016, 2021).
(Extracted from Kumu Multiscalar map – Fjord scale node).
 The project brief was written in Danish, and submission was required in Danish (Vejle Municipality, 2020a).
 According to the marine biologist, people used to be able to see 10m deep into the Vejle fjord before the ecological collapse of the fjord in the 80s (especially on the outer fjord). Now the visibility is a maximum of 3m deep on a good sunny day. The mud can be, on average, 3m deep, making the water brown when it rains (Fjeldsø Christensen, 2021).
 Sund Vejle Fjord project is also working with voluntary associations, research units, state institutions, local schools, diving clubs, fishing associations and municipal networks using marine instruments based on reputable research methods (Sund Vejle Fjord, 2022; Vejle Ådal & Fjord, 2022).
 Currently, Vejle fjord suffers from an explosion of crab and starfish populations due to the absence of predators (large fish population). This is due to the lack of nurseries for fish as a result of poor water quality that hinders the formation of habitat-forming vegetation such as eelgrass and seaweed and the lack of stone reefs. The issue with the explosion of crab and starfish populations is that they consume eelgrass, mussels and seaweed, which is needed to establish nurseries for fish and clean the water. Currently, the crabs are actively fished out in order to prevent them from destroying the eelgrass replantation (Fjeldsø Christensen, 2021).
 Approximately 8 hectares of stone reefs (equivalent to 15 football fields) have been reinstated into Vejle Fjord’s mid-outer areas from July 2022 (Center for Marin Naturgenopretning, 2022).
 They are the ecological condition of phytoplankton, rooted plants, benthic invertebrates, environmentally hazardous pollutants (MFC) and chemical status of the EU’s list of substances. There is very little data on the oxygen and light levels of coastal waters, which will also impact the ecological condition (Miljøstyrelsen, 2021).