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Superkilen, Copenhagen, Denmark

Issue 71 Feb / Mar 2013 : Architectural : Landscape

CLIENT: Copenhagen Municipality LIGHTING DESIGN: BIG Architect PHOTOGRAPHY: Iwaan Baan / Mike Magnussen

A new communal urban space for the residents of Nørrebro in Copenhagen combines the best of global street design in a true reflection of this most culturally diverse of Danish districts.

The district of Nørrebro in Copenhagen holds some of the most ethnically diverse neighbourhoods in Denmark. Its social make-up - a global village in miniature - and the social challenges it faces are typical of similar districts in major cities around the world. What sets Nørrebro apart, however, is the city’s unique response to these challenges. With the backing of Realdania, a philanthropic group dedicated to urban development projects, the Copenhagen Kommune has overseen a project that pulls away from a divisive response to multiculturalism, and instead chooses to celebrate the richness of the area’s collective heritage.

Superkilen is a 750m long communal space stretching between the streets of Norrebrogade and Tagensvej. Its development and design grew from one overarching concept: to create a giant exhibition of urban best practice, a collection of global found objects sourced from over 60 different nationalities - nationalities shared by residents of the surrounding neighbourhood.

The mix is truly eclectic. Exercise gear from muscle beach in Los Angeles sits alongside sewage drains from Israel, palm trees from China counterpoint neon signage from Qatar and Russia. Each object is accompanied by a small stainless steel plaque, inlaid in the ground, describing the object, what it is and where it comes from – written in Danish and in the language(s) of the country that inspired it.

The project is a creative collaboration between architectural practice BIG, landscape architect Topotek1 and arts collective Superflex. It constitutes a rare fusion of all three disciplines, from early concept through to construction stage.

The conceptual starting point was a division of the space into three coloured zones: green, black and red. These colours are applied literally to the surfaces and structures within their respective areas, helping to link together the eclectic objects within them and establish the distinct characters ascribed to each.

Nørrebrohall, the neighbourhood sports and cultural centre, sits at the edge of the Red Square, the southernmost section of the site. The square was created to act as an external extension for the hall. It provides space and equipment for a range of recreational activities as well as a location for one off events, weekly market stalls and seasonal attractions. Its presence is intended to not only enhance the space for locals, but also act as a draw for those living further afield, in Copenhagen’s centre and the surrounding suburbs.

The main source of illumination comes from Hess Residenza UL wire-suspended fixtures, chosen for their specially designed wide distribution reflector. Manufactured from anodised aluminium, they were equipped with a 70W metal halogen HIE-CE sources.

Four pole-mounted neon signs provide a light art element to the square. Supplied by Esbjerg-based SRI Sign Solution, they represent Russia, China, Taiwan and the USA.
The central section of the project is the smallest. The Black Square, also called Mimers Plads, is intended to be a more intimate, relaxed space – a shared outdoor living room. Again world objects have been transplanted to the site: a Moroccan fountain, Turkish benches, Japaneses cherry trees. A series of white lines flows from one end to the other, swerving around each item, evoking the carefully raked gravel of Japanese Zen garden.

While the Red Square is for sport and spectacle, this black zone offers a calmer tone. On weekdays, the permanent tables and benches create a space for backgammon and chess players to compete, while the Argentinean barbeque grills allow for communal outdoor eating.

At the centre of the square stands another neon piece, this time a dentist’s sign from Doha, Qatar. Beside that, a German-influenced 360º arrangement of six Hellux 153 fixtures mounted atop a 10m mast, to provide area lighting. Across the square, a twelve-metre mast is headed by eight Hellux 301 fixtures. This too is inspired by a German design, more specifically the Spandau borough of Berlin.

The twelve- and ten-metre masts also supports iGuzzini Maxi Woody spots fitted with HIT 35W sources. Similar spots are mounted around the perimeter of the square to create pools of light across the space.
Further area lighting is provided by a system of customised Bega Light Building Elements, a huddle of light masts fitted with LED strip sources, positioned between the road and the bicycle path that runs along the side of the square.

At the residents’ request, one corner of the square folds up from the ground to create a covered area, shielded from the roadway. LED strips were installed on the underside of the ‘fold’ to provide additional illumination.

UV lighting is built into American public showerhead-styled units helping to pick out the white lines and street furniture. 
The Green Park is the longest section of the scheme. It features gently rolling, grassy hills designed to appeal to children, families and young people. The parkland lighting takes a more ornate, classical Italian style. Seventeen Castora streetlights, part of Neri’s Heritage series, are scattered throughout. Each has a mast height of eight metres and is topped by between two and six heads, equipped with 35W HIE with frosted transparent asymmetric domes.

The existing hockey field and integrated basketball court has been incorporated into the park. Further, single-headed Hellux 301 post-mounted luminaires line this space to supply additional lighting. It has become a natural gathering spot for local youths from Mjolnerpark and the adjacent school.

Seen as a whole, the Superkilen provides a surrealist collection of global urban diversity that offers a true reflection of the local neighbourhood rather than perpetuating a petrified image of a homogenous Denmark. It is a landscape invested with the identities of all those who use it.

Client: Copenhagen Municipality and Realdania
Architect: BIG Architect  (Bjarke Ingels, Nanna Gyldholm Møller, Mikkel Marcker Stubgaard, Ondrej Tichy, Jonas Lehmann, Rune Hansen, Jan Borgstrøm, Lacin Karaoz, Jonas Barre, Nicklas Antoni Rasch, Gabrielle Nadeau, Jennifer Dahm Petersen, Richard Howis, Fan Zhang, Andreas Castberg, Armen Menendian, Jens Majdal Kaarsholm, Jan Magasanik).
Landscape Architect: Topotek1 (Martin Rein-Cano, Lorenz Dexler, Ole Hartmann,Anna Lundquist, Toni Offenberger, Katia Steckemetz , Cristian Bohne, Karoline Liedtke).
Art Consultancy: Superflex (Jakob Fenger, Rasmus Nielsen, Bjørnstjerne Christiansen).

Green Park
Neri Castora (Heritage series)  35 W HIE with frosted transparent asymmetric domes.
Hellux 301 mast mounted with 2 x 36W T26 fluorescent tubes
Red Square
Hess Residenza UL wire-suspended fixtures 70 W metal halogen HIE-CE

Black Square
Hellux 301 fixtures equipped with 2 x 36 W T26 tubes
iGuzzini - Maxi Woody spot (mast-mounted) with HIT 35W
BEGA Light Buidling Elements custom LED area light
Custom LED strip
SRI Sign Solution custom neon signs


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