Superkilen: “Let’s meet on the red square.”

Client: Copenhagen Municipality, Realdania
Location: Nørrebro, Copenhagen
Function: Public space
Site area: 30.000 m2 / 322917 sq.ft / 750 m long public space
Authorship: BIG, Topotek1, SUPERFLEX

“Let’s meet on the red square.” The artists behind Superkilen explain how this colorful wedge shaped public park in Copenhagen, Denmark, was a collaboration based on extreme civic participation. This text and images were first posted on the Louisiana Museum of Modern Art website.

‘Superkilen’ is a kilometer long park situated through the Nørrebro area just north of Copenhagen’s city centre, considered one of the most ethnically diverse and socially challenged neighborhoods in the Danish capital as it is home to more than 60 nationalities. the large-scale project comes as a result of an invited competition initiated by the city of Copenhagen and the Realdania Foundation as a means of creating an urban space with a strong identity on a local and global scale. Designed by BIG architects, landscape architecture studio topotek1 and artist collective superflex, ‘superkilen’ is defined by  three color-coded areas, each offering distinctive functions and atmospheres, and stands as a vehicle of integration for the cultures represented by the area, which meant involving the inhabitants within the design process. conducting public meetings as well as providing a ‘suggestions box’ for the public to submit their ideas for the urban proposal.

Two members of Superflex, Jakob Fenger and Bjørnstjerne Christiansen, talk about ideas behind the project, and how it came about as an example of citizen inclusion and collaboration:

“We found it interesting to look at this very diverse group of people in regard to culture, social standing, nationality, etc., and then see it as a rich and significant foundation for impacting the area these people live in.”

The people living in the immediate vicinity Superkilen relate to more than 50 different nationalities. The idea for the project was to create a space which reflected the people living in the area, by letting the locals suggest object from public spaces around the world. 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 artifacts illustrating the ethnic diversity of the local population.

“We did what we termed extreme civic involvement. We talked to various groups that we had talked to before and asked: What if you could pick whatever you want for Superkilen – and we go out to find it next week?”

Five groups of people traveled to Palestine, Spain, Thailand, Texas and Jamaica in order to acquire five specific objects. The objects have since been installed throughout the park. But, as Superflex explain, Superkilen is “not just a feel-good social project, it also has a strict conceptual frame. It started out with three colors. We defined 3 very marked symbolic surfaces that are to have a signal value in the public domain.” The idea was to create referral points, meeting places, based on strong signals and values.

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 an urban park project divided into three main areas:

superflex

The Black Market
This is where the locals meet. There are benches and barbeque facilities, tables for playing backgammon and chess, and a Japanese octopus playground. The pattern here is composed of white lines, which curve around the furniture to highlight it.

The Red Square
A red carpet covers the entire square, the lines and edges creating a big red pattern. If entered from Nørrebrogade the square is an open space, serving as an extension to the activities in the nearby hall.

The Green Park
The soft green hills appeal to children, young people and families. Many of the sport facilities have been moved here, with brand new pitches for hockey and basketball. The area also attracts people for picnics, sunbathing or just taking a nap on the grass.

Superkilen was rewarded with a 2013 AIA Honor Award in the Regional & Urban Design category by the American Institute of Architects. It was shortlisted in 2013 for Design of the Year by the Design Museum in London as well as the European Union Prize for Contemporary Architecture.

Superflex is a Danish artists’ group founded in 1993 by Jakob Fenger, Rasmus Nielsen and Bjørnstjerne Christiansen. Superflex describe their projects as “tools”, inviting people to participate in and communicate the development of models that alter production conditions. Often the projects are assisted by experts who bring in their special interest, these tools can then be further used and modified by their users.

Text and images: Louisiana Channel, Louisiana Museum of Modern Art + Superflex

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