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Superkilen, Copenhagen

Robert Schäfer

A new book recently published welcomes the challenges raised by the Superkilen neighbourhood park by Topotek 1 in Nørrebro, Copenhagen.




The Superkilen neighbourhood park in Nørrebro, Copenhagen, was realized from 2010 to 2012 after the architects, landscape architects, and artists from the offices of BIG, Superflex, and TOPOTEK 1 had won the competition held in 2008. The park quickly gained international attention and was awarded a number of recognitions and prizes.

Since its inception, Superkilen has evoked wide-ranging debate. This book welcomes the challenges raised by the park and examines the implications emanating from it with regard to changes in the conception of public space and to the increasing expectations nowadays associated with public investments.

Superkilen is a one-kilometer-long, wedge-shapedopen space cutting through one of the most ethnically diverse and socially challenged neighbourhoods in Denmark. The striking design concept usesabout hundred objects and 11 tree species from all over the worldto transform this urban open space in a unique way. Three parts make up the park: the Red Square, the Black Market, and the Green Park. The objects installed – ranging from litter bins and benches to street lighting, playground devices,and a fountain – were selected by the inhabitants of Nørrebro themselves and reflect the variety of their cultural and ethnic backgrounds.

Superkilen Park in Copenhagen

According to Barbara Steiner, the editor of the book, Superkilen is the expression of a society that is becoming more and more heterogeneous and fragmented:“Superkilen deliberately complicates a consumerist as well as an analytical or discursive understanding of public art projects and sets them in relation to one another. Rivalling ideas about parks, its function and uses, are literally exposed and stimulate debate.“

Titled “Beyond being nice”, Steiner’s essay is comprised of six interviews, or conversations to be more precise, with the planners, designers, and other project contributors that offer insight into the complicated planning process characterized by “extreme participation”. The conversations also explain the typology and urban development aspects of the project. A further chapter is dedicated to the area development, providing relevant plans and maps. The conversation on “extreme participation” elaborates on five particular items of the park and gives a forum to those who provided theideas for them. The index of objects lists all installations in the park and the stories connected to them.

The book’s purposes are essentially twofold. It presents and advertises the work of all those who contributed to this much-debated project, and it tells the story of how it became possible, against all social and political odds and against the obstacles presented by the terrain itself, to realize a highly unusual public space.

Barbara Steiner (Ed.): Superkilen. A Project by BIG, TOPOTEK 1, SUPERFLEX. Stockholm 2013. ISBN 978-91-87543-02-09

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