Copenhagen Tales I: Superkilen
Nestled centrally in Copenhagen’s eclectic Nørrebro neighbourhood, Superkilen Park is a creative and playful piece of urban planning that begs to be explored.
Designed by architect Bjarke Ingels and initiated in 2012, Superkilen encompasses an area the size of nearly six NFL football fields (30,000 square meters) on prime real estate, right in the heart of one of Denmark’s most diverse neighbourhoods—where nearly 1/3rd of residents came from outside of the country.
See the Google Maps 3D view below for an overview of the park space, a major portion of which is painted in shades of red, pink, and purple.
When I visited, the residents called the area, “Red Square”. Perhaps the Muscovite signage near Superkilen’s entrance has something to do with the nickname.
Objects for everyone
What makes Superkilen so interesting? It’s a park without grass or plants or flowers or trees (for the most part). Spread out over a couple of city blocks, Superkilen is filled with well over 100 objects from 60 different countries. It’s an international playground with every corner covered in unique things ranging from bar stools from Brazil to Bulgarian picnic tables to Missourian donut shop signs.
Every object has a plaque and a story. Park-goers can even download an app (Apple/Android) to help them keep track of what’s what in Superkilen. There’s also an extensive PDF file available for download that maps and documents the stories of the Superkilen’s objects.
Thai boxing, Baghdad swinging, Moscow neon, Tunisian and Portuguese sitting, and Spanish ping-pong
According to the Center for Active Design, the park was created to accommodate a wide spectrum of activities and interests for a range of physical abilities. Using the principles of “Participation Extreme“, which probes beyond the standards of conventional engagement, the elderly and youth were extensively consulted towards what sorts of objects they would like to see in Superkilen.
Apparently, residents even traveled abroad with artists in search of objects to procure for the park.
Centrally located in Nørrebro, Superkilen is well-positioned to be a community hub. Nearby are dozens of shops, restaurants, grocery stores, and residential buildings. There’s a large public market building right on the park, and Nørrebro’s public library is nearby.
Most streets in Copenhagen are bikable, and Superkilen is certainly no exception. A major separated bike route runs through the public space, and of course perpendicular roadways also have separated and elevated bike-ways. Of course, for as good as Copenhagen needs to do public transit (it doesn’t, really, given the awesomeness of cycling the city’s streets), there are transit amenities nearby, including a number of popular bus stops.
The net affect is that the park brings people out—young and old—to socialize and recreate. It’s easy to get to, interesting, and filled with gym equipment to provide opportunities for exercise.
Superkilen is also characterized by plenty of personality and reminds us that the part of the world we currently occupy is just one small piece of what’s out there. That everyday objects are culturally important, and that diverse societies the world over enjoy a good game of table tennis from time to time.
Photo credits: Keane Gruending. They’ll be on Flickr eventually, email me if you would like to use them