This project won the 2013 Architizer A+ Popular Vote Award in the Landscapes and Gardens category. See the full list of winners here.
A lot can be said about a neighborhood from observing its parks. The social interactions that go on in these public areas—the groups of people who visit at different times and utilize the spaces and amenities in divergent ways—can reveal a great deal about the socioeconomic systems undergirding the community. So though an unsuspecting bench, tree, or bike rack might not seem to communicate much, these objects set the stage for very telling public exchanges.
For their design of Superkilen, a half-mile-long urban park in Copenhagen, Bjarke Ingels Group (BIG), Topotek 1, and Superflex took the concept of the park as a social laboratory a step further. The designers crowdsourced ideas from the community—a famously diverse group of local inhabitants—to come up with a collection of objects from 62 countries to incorporate into the park plan. .
Cutting through “one of the most ethnically diverse and socially challenged neighborhoods in Denmark,” Superkilen is designed to “celebrate the neighborhood’s multi-cultural heritage and unite everybody in one global neighborhood,” BIG explained in a project description. The firm asked local residents to nominate specific objects such as benches, bins, fountains, manhole covers, signage, and playgrounds to integrate into the scheme rather than “plastering the urban area with traditional Danish design,” thus encouraging communal participation even before the park was constructed.
The lucid minimalism that is so fondly associated with Danish design is, however, not completely lost in the melting pot of globally sourced street furniture. BIG, Topotek 1, and Superflex divided the half-mile stretch into three distinct, color-coded areas: the red square, reserved for sports activities; the green park, intended as a grass-covered children’s playground; and the black market, designed as a food market and picnic area. It is within these three programmed zones that the designers hope to foster a stronger sense of community in a neighborhood that has seen sporadic incidents of street violence. By wearing ethnic diversity on its sleeve, Superkilen strives to foster a more inclusive social environment.