An architectural collage of cultural identity
Architects bring multiculturalism to a socially challenged neighborhood.
Superkilen is a half a mile long urban space wedging through Nørrebro, one of the most ethnically diverse and socially challenged neighborhoods in Copenhagen.
Being so multicultural this district is highly dynamic, but it has seen its share of violence and is known for its riots and street crimes.
The architectural competition asked for an urban park to address the underlying social issues of Nørrebro.
Ultimately the project was divided into 3 connected urban spaces designed by BIG, Topotek and Superflex. The theme and aim of the development was to cultivate the conflicts and differences connected to migration, by using cultural identities and their symbols as the main figurative palette for the design. In this new artificial context the symbolic elements taken from different cultures are stripped of their meaning, becoming a foreign folly to which immigrants from various parts of the world can relate.
The design process required a significant collaboration with the local communities, which provided the team with the objects and ideas that were installed in the park. Some elements – like the Palestinian soil – were brought in directly from their place of origin, while others were decontextualized. As a result the area is a place that everyone can identify with and which blends together the danish culture with that of the migrants.
The 3 areas of Superkilen are color coded and are named after the illegal activities that took place in each spot: the Red Square, the Black Market and the Green Park.
The Green Park is a park for picnics and walking the dog. The Black Market is the classic square with fountains and benches. The Red Square designates the urban life with cafés, music and sports.
The playful and diverse atmosphere of Superkilen draws visitors from other districts into its foreign character, while also giving the residents an active and inclusive meeting point.
In fact, the area as a whole is conceived as a giant exhibition of urban best practice.
Despite the simplicity of the idea, the design is complex and multi-layered. The unexpected mix of objects, trees and activities in Superkilen celebrates the success of subtle – yet powerful – architectural design in addressing major social issues.
But integration and multiculturalism are just a tiny part of the goals that shape the overall project, the others being:
- More nature. Increase of vegetation and plants throughout the whole neighborhood arranged as small islands of diverse tree sorts.
- Better infrastructure. Bike paths will be reorganized, new connections linking to the surrounding neighborhoods are created.
- Leisure and “active living”. A world exhibition of furniture and everyday activities.
THE RED SQUARE – MARKET / SPORT
Designed by Bjarke Ingels (BIG) as an extension of the sports and cultural activities at the Norrebrohall, the Red Square is conceived as an urban counterpoint of the internal life of the hall. A range of recreational activities and the large central square allow the local residents to meet. The façades are visually incorporated in the project: the pattern of the pavement is stretched out on all sides, conceptually folding up and including the borders of the square.
THE BLACK SQUARE – URBAN LIVING ROOM
This is the heart of the Superkilen Masterplan, and it was designed by Topotek. “Mimers Plads” is where the locals meet around the Moroccan fountain, the Turkish bench, under the Japanese cherry-trees. In weekdays, permanent tables, benches and grill facilities serve as an urban living room for backgammon, chess players and families.
THE GREEN PARK – PLAY
Green Park, designed by Superflex, is a landscaped terrain filled with activities and surfaces which appeal to children, young people and families. A green landscape and a playground where families with children can meet for picnics and sports: “No matter where people come from, they can play football together”. The residents were asking for more greenery, so the last stint of Superkilen is an entirely green park where even the bike paths and pedestrian ways are painted green.
photos by ©Iwan Baan, ©Hasse Ferrold, ©Jens Lindhe, ©Maria da Schio, ©Torben Eskerod, ©Mike Magnussen