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26.10.2020

Superkilen, Copenhagen

Superkilen is a public park in the Norrebro area in Copenhagen, Denmark. The park aims to bring refugees and locals together to promote tolerance in one of Denmark's most ethnically diverse and socially disadvantaged communities. The park is not only a meeting point for locals, but also a tourist attraction in Copenhagen. The park was designed by the art group Superflex in collaboration with Bjarke Ingels Group and Topotek1 , a German landscape architecture firm. The park was officially opened in June 2012. The name of the park, which is almost a kilometer long, is associated with its shape: "keel" means "wedge".

The park is part of a city improvement plan coordinated by the city of Copenhagen in partnership with Realdania, a private charity. The aim was to bring the Norrebro area to a high level of urban development that could inspire other cities and areas. It was conceived as a kind of global exposition for local people representing more than 60 nationalities, who were able to contribute their own ideas and artifacts to the project.

Norrebro is a crime-stricken neighborhood, and areas to the east and west of the park were cut off from the rest of the city by two major highways. It was also the scene of the 2006 riots provoked by a controversial cartoon. Architects from Copenhagen experienced the vandalism and violence of these riots in the streets outside their offices immediately after designing a mosque in the city center and decided to focus on creating urban spaces to promote the integration of different nationalities, religions, cultures and languages. 

Designers see in the park not the final project, but an "unfinished work of art". The design is based on dreams that can turn into objects and is designed to help people from different backgrounds feel at home.  It uses humor to represent different cultures with respect.

It was put into operation in June 2008, the design process lasted from January 2009 to February 2010, and construction from August 2010 to June 2012.   The cost of the project was $8,879,000. 

The project was awarded the AIA Honor Award 2013 in the category "Regional and urban design" of the American Institute of Architects . It was nominated for Design of the Year in the Design Museum in London, as well as for the European Union Prize for Contemporary Architecture. Superkilen was also one of the six winners of the Aga Khan Architecture Award 2016, recognized for promoting the integration of different religious and ethnic groups living in the area, despite tensions between immigrants and the host population, with a mixture of humor, history and arrogance.

On various tourist platforms the park is among the top ten most popular attractions of Copenhagen. In many advertisements, the park was used as a background.

Stretching approximately 750 meters (2460 feet) on either side of the public bike path and covering a total area of about 30,000 square meters (320,000 square feet), Superkilen consists of three main areas: the red square, the black market and the green park. While the red square, painted bright red, orange and pink, focuses on recreation and modern life, the black market in the center is a classic square with a fountain where neighbors can meet, with barbecue grills and palm trees from China, the city living room. The green park, literally completely green, has hills, trees and plants suitable for picnics, sports and dog walking.

Many objects in the park have been specially imported or copied from foreign samples. These are swings from Iraq, benches from Brazil, a fountain from Morocco and urns from England. Neon signs from around the world advertise everything from a Russian hotel to a Chinese beauty salon. Even hatch covers are produced in Zanzibar, Gdansk and Paris. In total, there are 108 plants and artifacts that illustrate the ethnic diversity of the local population, whose origin is associated with 62 countries. These objects help symbolize the joint ownership of the park's residents.

The sign on the ground next to each object describes it in Danish and the language of their country, and visitors can download the application to learn more about each object.

Superkilen managed to unite the two residential areas previously separated by a fence and to reunite the adjacent areas with the rest of the city. Between the two main roads increased the number of pedestrians and cyclists, and the park encourages people to become more active. It creates a stimulating environment that is especially important for children.

The park serves as a meeting place for residents of the most ethnically diverse district of Denmark and attracts visitors from all over the city and the world. It has rejuvenated the problem area and brought together representatives of sixty different nationalities living nearby. In addition to the wide range of ethnic groups using the park, it attracts people of all ages, from small children with parents to the elderly.

Although there is a history of vandalism in this area, it was not a big problem for the park. The lighting in the raion helps create a sense of security for residents. Some residents of the raion were initially concerned that this would not be a traditional green park, but on the whole are happy to have a meeting place and a high level of activity in the park, and are proud of their neighboring park. The addition of green areas in the neighborhood helped manage water resources.

Instead of designing a park with a traditional public relations approach that takes into account political correctness and preconceived ideas, the architects used extreme public participation to design the park. They addressed residents through the Internet, e-mail, newspapers and radio. The public consultation process was extensive, gathering proposals from local residents on the objects that the park could contain to represent all sixty nationalities, and then the local management board selected the objects. Variety was not so much a problem that needed to be solved as a useful tool in the creative process of creating the park's individuality.

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