Super Park in Copenhagen

Superkilen urban park by Danish architecture studio BIG, Berlin-based landscape architecture studio TOPOTEK1 and artists group SUPERFLEX from Copenhagen, conceived as a giant exhibition of urban best practice by incorporating everyday objects from more than 60 different cultures, constitutes a rare fusion of architecture, landscape and art.

The kilometer long urban park wedges through the Norrebro area just north of the Copenhagen city center, creating a different yet unifying space in one of the most ethnically diverse and socially challenged neighborhoods in Denmark. The aim of the invited competition initiated by the City of Copenhagen and Realdania Foundation back in 2005 was to create a truly unique urban space with a strong identity on a local and global scale. The 13.4 million euro development started construction in 2009 and opened to the public in June 2012.

Superkilen is divided into three color-coded areas, each with a distinct atmospheric and functional condition: the large and expansive red square which serves as an extension of the adjacent sports hall offering a range of recreational and cultural activities; the black square as the heart of the Superkilen where locals can meet by the Moroccan fountain or a game of chess; and a linear green stretch as a natural meeting place for large-scale sports activities providing vantage points over the surroundings. The three areas form the backdrop to the surrealist collection of global urban diversity of more than 100 objects from 60 cultures which reflect the true nature of the local neighborhood. The objects were selected through an intensive curatorial process in close collaboration with the local population.

“Rather than a public outreach process towards the lowest common denominator or a politically correct post rationalization of preconceived ideas navigated around any potential public resistance – we proposed public participation as the driving force of the design leading towards the maximum freedom of expression. By transforming public procedure into proactive proposition we curated a park for the people by the people – peer to peer design – literally implemented”, says Bjarke Ingels, Founding Partner of  BIG.

The objects ranging from exercise gear, including muscle beach LA to sewage drains from Israel, palm trees from China and neon signs from Qatar and Russia are all accompanied by a small stainless plate inlaid in the ground describing each of the objects and their origin.

Nanna Gyldholm Moller, project leader from BIG, says: “When our team was invited to propose a project in this neighborhood we realized that we had to do more than just urban design. Rather than plastering the urban area with Danish designs we decided to gather the local intelligence and global experience to create a display of global urban best practice comprising the best that each of the 60 different cultures and countries have to offer when it comes to urban furniture.”

The Copenhagen-based art group Superflex took the public participation further into the extreme by handpicking five groups of people and travelling to the country of their origin to document the process of selection. “Our mission was to find the big picture in the extreme detail of a personal memory or story, which on the surface might appear insignificant, but once hunted down and enlarged became super big. A glass of palestinian soil in a living room in Norrebro serving as a memory of a lost land, enlarged to a small mountain of palestinian soil in the park. A distant Mediterranean flirt in the seventies symbolised by a great iron bull, hunted down and raised on a hill in the park.“, explains the group SUPERFLEX

Throughout the Superkilen red maple, Japanese cherry trees, larix, palm trees from China and Lebanese cedar trees are planted to offer more shade and vegetative interest, augmenting the existing trees. The diversity in tree and plant species complements the diversity of the site furniture. “While the Romantic Gardens of the 19th Century attempted to give the visitors an exotic experience of the world that was still big and hard to travel around – allowing people to witness a Chinese pagoda or a Greek temple – the Super Park in Copenhagen does the opposite. Rather than perpetuating a perception of Denmark as a mono-ethnic people, the Super Park portrays a true sample of the cultural diversity of contemporary Copenhagen”, explains Martin-Rein Cano from Topotek1.

A bike path runs through the entire park improving the infrastructure locally in the area while integrating it into the broader, citywide context.

Photos and drawings: © Bjarke Ingels Group


BIG, Copenhagen, Landscape architecture, Urban design, Urban public space, Urban renewal

Leave a Reply