I have wandered into a world of vibrant colour and bold form, of unexpected peace and stillness. It feels like an artistic back-drop, a colourful fantasy, a huge adult playground. Amongst the urban landscape of Copenhagen’s most culturally-diverse neighbourhood, Nørrebro, lies Superkilen. This urban park stretches for 750 metres, covers over 27,000 square metres and functions as a pause in the buzz of the city. Standing on a small tarmac hill, I peer around at the apartments on either side of me. The road ahead is bustling with cars, bicycles and passers-by – all on their way somewhere. Where I am, there is a momentary balance between movement and stillness as children run and play, parents sit and talk, and I stand, feeling unusually calm. The black tarmac under my feet is
distinctively contoured with white stripes. The hypnotic lines run vertically through the site, undulating and parallel to one another. Some lines widen as they dodge park apparatus, benches, trees or even empty space.
They contour in ways evocative of water flowing past obstacles. This area is known as The Black Market, one of Superkilen’s three zones, and is the zone assigned as a place of meeting. As I look ahead I can make out The Red Square. Flanked by buildings on either side, warm shades of vibrant pinks, reds and yellows plaster the ground in subtle geometric shapes. Behind me, labelled The Green Park, is the third and longest zone. Grass entirely covers the sloping ground, a winding path carving its way through.
The idea of Superkilen started in 2007, through the collaborative work of Architectural firms Topotek1 and BIG, along with artistic group Superflex. The aim was to transform a previously-forgotten piece of land and bring this diverse community together. The fun, aesthetic appearance of Superkilen is an important part of the project, but crucially, it’s not all about aesthetics. I love the fact that this was a collaborative project between the designers and the community; local people were asked for their opinions and suggestions. It makes sense that if these people are going to be the ones that use the space, they should give their input. And so, Superkilen became its own little celebratory world of cultural diversity, moving on from the old idea of Denmark’s homogenous past into the modern, culturally-diverse 21st century. Influenced by over 60 nationalities living in the area; objects, furniture and plants from these 60 different countries were transported and implemented into the space. As the designers, Superflex said, Superkilen is “a sort of surrealist collection of global urban diversity that in fact reflects the true nature of the local neighbourhood – rather than perpetuating a petrified image of homogenous Denmark.”
Playground equipment from India, tree benches from Belgium, palm trees from China suitable for a Danish climate and even a Moroccan fountain, are just a few examples of the things included in the three zones. Each one makes the point: when you find inspiration from all over, just look what you can do. With 95% of the implemented objects being actually useable, Superkilen becomes a multitude of functions. Its central aim is community, bringing people together and utilising public space in an efficient and, most importantly, positive way.
The space is more than just its appearance, of course, but I think the success of its functionality is because of the creation of such an attractive and artistic area. The simplicity of the painted lines and block colours, enhances its ability as a successful communal space of gathering. The distinctive and fun aesthetic draws people in but maybe it’s what you can do in the space that makes them return. This forgotten wedge of land, previously passed through without a second thought, has now become a place recognised as a destination in itself.
Written by Lola Crace
All images: Iwan Baan
Iwan Baan Photography, Rozenstraat 145, 1016 NP Amsterdam, The Netherlands
all images © Iwan Baan 1996 – 2019
Featured image courtesy of archdaily.com