Leisure & Culture #57

Superkilen Park

An urban park project in Copenhagen

Written by Kit Chan
Translated by Derek Leung
photos by Kit Chan / Superflex

It is often said that parks belong to the people. If it is a park designed BY the people, what will it be like?

Copenhagen's Superkilen Park can provide us with a warm and wonderful reference answer. Built for the community, the park located in the Nørrebro community, home to most diverse ethnic groups in the capital city, accommodates the people hailing from more than 60 countries.

The figure of one in every six residents being new non-Danish immigrant concluded in the statistics of the year 2017 leads to the accusation of minglement of undesirable characters and accordingly public disorder, giving rise to a so-called "stain" in striking contrast with the flashes of brilliance and the modernity of civilization in this Danish city.

In 2012, an image improvement project was carried out by the local government to build a park in the north of the city center, serving as a goodwill ambassador in duo sense – connecting with the existing population in Nørrebro and attracting outsiders to reconstruct the neighbourhood that might fall apart easily in a modern city.

Jointly planned by the art consultant Superflex in conjunction with the construction companies BIG and Topotek1, the vacant lot of the project concerned was designed into a public space consisting of three parts with three different colours.

Photo source: Superflex

As a statement of vitality, Red Square wears various shades of red and shows a 3-D illusion in the bird's eye view. The charismatic place features a coffee shop and serves as a sports ground equipped with a skateboarding area and a wide range of fitness equipment.

Photo source: Superflex

Black Market, named after its colour, is a fun living area featuring a playground and leisure facilities, such as tables for backgammon and chess, and even barbecue pits. Loops of white lines are drawn to accentuate the undulating hiIl and create a myriad of vivid flowing patterns when viewed from different angles and heights.

Photo source: Superflex

Last but not least, Green Park, the largest among others, has a grass-covered area that welcomes picnickers, sunbathers or yoga practitioners. It works exactly what a park should do.

Photo source: Superflex

The combination of three colours, deliberately uncoordinated but at the same time individually pulchritudinous, turns out to be a groundbreaking piece of contemporary art in the public area.

Nonetheless, the very elements that convey the social significance of the communal masterpiece are a multitude of cultural symbols from all over the world, each of which represents the respective nations and their people: the big black octopus slide represents Japan; the octagon star symbolizes the Islamic culture; the neon sign writes Sam Chong Milk King from Taiwan in Chinese; and the bull-shaped iron plate is the billboard for a Spanish food brand. Others adding the colour of the park include but are not limited to the Russian neon lights, the Armenian table, the Thai boxing ring, the Moroccan fountain, the Turkish chair, the Iraqi swing and the Israeli manhole cover.

The big black octopus slide represents Japan
Photo source: Superflex

The half-mile-long park with more than 100 installations illustrating the styles of fifty different countries can be considered the smallest version of United Nations and a storyteller about homesickness and mutual acceptance. In addition to the facilities, the plants in the park are well selected --- the Japanese cherry blossoms, the Lebanese cedar, the Chinese palm trees. They are served as the cultural carriers of unparalleled vitality.

What has to be emphasized is that the project only partially pivots on the designer and is, on the contrary, mainly designed by local residents with some installations duplicated in a one-to-one ratio and some brought by residents from their motherlands.

Each exhibit of cultural significance is described in Danish and the language of the country it belongs to.

Without doubt, the park becomes an eye-catching landmark in the city soon after its opening to the public, earning the Annual Best Design of the London Design Museum and the honorary award of the American Institute of Architects in the following years. Most importantly, there is one more place for Nørrebro residents to have social gatherings and relaxation. It is a place where visitors could find their own identities and the beauty suffices to show proudly to the world.

When city development is getting more aggressive, parks turn out to be more socially important. It is necessary to have more user-friendly public areas so that communication can be facilitated. Likewise, we see a need to have the parks we like so that the city can live its vibrant life.

Know more about Superkilen Park: www.superflex.net/superkilen

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