Superkilen is a public park in the Nørrebro district of Copenhagen, Denmark. Not only is the park a meeting place for local residents, it is a tourist attraction for Copenhagen. Designed by the arts group Superflex with the collaboration of Bjarke Ingels Group and Topotek1, a German landscape architecture firm, the park was officially opened in June 2012.
The park is part of an urban improvement plan coordinated by the City of Copenhagen in a partnership with Realdania, a private philanthropic organization. The objective was to upgrade the Nørrebro neighbourhood to a high standard of urban development liable to inspire other cities and districts. It is designed as a kind of world exposition for the local inhabitants, covering over 60 nationalities, who have been able to contribute their own ideas and artefacts to the project.
Nørrebro is a neighbourhood plagued by crime and areas to the East and West of the park's location were cut off from the rest of the city by two major highways. The design is based on dreams that could transform into objects and is meant to make people of diverse backgrounds feel at home. It uses humour to represent the different cultures in a respectful manner.
Awards and Recognition
The project was rewarded with a 2013 AIA Honor Award in the Regional & Urban Design category by the American Institute of Architects. It was shortlisted for Design of the Year by the Design Museum in London as well as for the European Union Prize for Contemporary Architecture. Superkilen was also one of six winners of the 2016 Aga Khan Architecture Award recognized for promoting integration of the various religious and ethnic groups living in the area despite tensions between immigrant and host populations.
Stretching some 750 metres (2,460 ft) along either side of a public cycle track and covering a total area of some 30,000 square metres (320,000 sq ft), Superkilen is made up of three main areas: a red square, a black market and a green park. While the red square, painted bright red, orange and pink, focuses on recreation and modern living, the black market at the centre is the classic square with a fountain where neighbours can meet, with its barbecue grills and palm trees from China. The green park, literally entirely green, has rolling hills, trees and plants suitable for picnics, sports and dog-walking.
Many of the objects in the park have been specially imported or copied from foreign designs. They include swings from Iraq, benches from Brazil, a fountain from Morocco and litter bins from England. There are neon signs from throughout the world advertising everything from a Russian hotel to a Chinese beauty parlour. Even the manhole covers come from Zanzibar, Gdansk and Paris. In all, there are 108 plants and artefacts illustrating the ethnic diversity of the local population. These objects help symbolize residents' shared ownership of the park.
Furnishings and Activities
- Basketball hoops: from Mogadishu
- Exercise equipment: from Muscle Beach in Los Angeles, USA
- Gymnastic rings: meet new friends and training partners
- Swings: mothers bring their children to play
- Double swings
- Octopus: represents Japan and acts as a play area for children
- Black Market white stripes: visually striking, parallel yet diverging, meant to guide people toward objects.
- Inspired by the Lars von Trier film "Dogville."
- Black Market food market
- Cafes and retail spaces
- Black Market picnic area
- Armenian picnic tables
- Pergola: inspired by a dance pavilion in St. Louis, USA
- Bus stop from Kazakhstan
- Romanian stools
- Drain cover from Israel
Superkilen has succeeded in joining two residential areas formerly divided by a fence and has reconnected the surrounding areas to the rest of the city. Pedestrian and cycling traffic has increased between two major roads and the park encourages people to become more active. It provides a stimulating environment, particularly important for children. It has rejuvenated the problematic area and brought together the sixty different nationalities living nearby. Lighting in the area helps create a sense of security for residents.
Instead of designing the park with traditional public outreach catering to political correctness and preconceived ideas, the architects used extreme public participation to drive the park's design. They reached out to residents using internet, email, newspapers, and radio. The public consultation process was extensive, gathering suggestions from area residents for objects the park could contain to represent all sixty nationalities, then a local governance board selected the objects.
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