Three colours – Red Black Green: Landscape Park in Copenhagen
Text: Peter Popp
With a length of almost one and a half kilometres, the landscape park Superkilen stretches through the north-west of Nørrebro, a multi-cultural district in Copenhagen considered to be one of the most socially challenged areas of Denmark. The striking open space concept aims to strengthen the different identities and characters of the district. A mono-functional thoroughfare has been turned into a contemporary space with a variety of different qualities, reflecting the urban reality of Superkilen.
Architects: Topotek 1 + BIG Architects + Superflex
Location: Nørrebro, Copenhagen
Superkilen is the result of a creative collaboration between the offices BIG and Topotek1, and the artist group Superflex. The trio has produced a rare fusion of architecture, landscape design and art, from the stage of initial conception to structural realization. Starting point of the design is the division of the landscape park into three zones and colours – green, black and red. Different surfaces and colours are combined to form new, dynamic scenarios for everyday objects that furnish the urban park.
Market, culture and sport: the red square
The red square serves as an extension and expansion of the sporting and cultural offerings of Nørrebrohall. A large central space and all sorts of gym equipment invite residents to meet for and through physical activity and games. The cheerful design of the square matches the new main entrance of Nørrebrohall, where the outside surface merges with the new foyer.
Urban living room: the black square
Mimers Plads is the heart of Superkilen. This is where the locals meet at the Moroccan fountain, on the Turkish bench or under the Japanese cherry trees. Permanently mounted tables, benches and barbecue facilities serve backgammon and chess players – an open-air living room in the middle of the city. Bicycle paths were moved to the east side of the square, while a hill in the north offers a view of the square and what's going on there towards the south.
Sport and play: the green park
The green park with its softly undulating hills and spaces is especially attractive to children, young people and families. This green landscape with playground is a place for families with children to meet, for picnics, sunbathing or relaxing on the green lawn, for hockey tournaments and badminton matches or other physical activities.
The park presents itself as a gigantic exhibition of urban elements with a collection of everyday objects from over sixty countries of origin of the residents, ranging from exercise equipment from Muscle Beach in L.A., to sewage drains from Israel, palms from China, and neon signs from Qatar and Russia. Each object has a small stainless steel plate mounted in the ground bearing a description of the object in Danish and in the language of the respective country of origin. The surrealist collection of global urban diversity that can be found here reflects the true mix of the local residents, rather than depicting an outdated image of a homogeneous Denmark.
The project was initiated by the City of Copenhagen and the Realdania Foundation. Work first commenced in 2009 and the park was handed over to the public in June 2012. The American Institute of Architects (AIA) has chosen Superkilen as one of the winners of the 2013 Institute Honor Awards, the highest award of this professional organization for projects that serve as examples of excellence in architecture, interior and urban design.
"The project ... is not only original but stunning to behold. It is noteworthy for its aesthetic approach, which is straightforwardly artificial rather than pretending to be natural. One of the project’s most exciting dimensions is its inclusion of the diverse community of users. Its bold use of colour and public art in spaces that promote social interaction and engagement all exude a high level of excitement and energy through what once looked like residual space. Superkilen shows what can be done with an open, inventive approach within severe cost limitations. It demonstrates the value of powerful visual and spatial moves while keeping connected to the realities of a contemporary multicultural context: the condition of many European cities," stated the jury responsible for allocation of the Institute Honor Award for Regional and Urban Design.
The city park has also been proposed for the Designs of the Year 2013 award by the Design Museum in London. Superkilen and other nominated projects, including the Olympic Cauldron by Thomas Heatherwick and The Shard by Renzo Piano, will be presented in an exhibition at the museum from 20 March to 7 July 2013. The winners will be announced by the Design Museum in April.