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Superkilen

A Space for a Hyper-diverse


Neighbourhood

28.07.2016
GSSS Summer Programme
Social Policies & the Urban Fabric

CONTENTS

Contents
1 Introduction

2 Terminology and Area description


2.1 Hyper-diversity . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
2.2 Neighbourhood of Outer Nrrebro . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

1
1
2

3 The
3.1
3.2
3.3

2
2
4
5

Superkilen Project
A Space of Multiplicity . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Local Participation . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Responses and Changes in the Neighbourhood . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

4 Conclusion

A Appendices
iv
A.1 Three main areas . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . iv
A.2 Taking over the Square . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . vi
A.3 Swing bench . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . viii

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2 TERMINOLOGY AND AREA DESCRIPTION

Introduction

In June 2012 a new urban park in a less central part of Copenhagen was opened. Superkilen on outer Nrrebro should be a new site that exuded diversity. The project was
both announced as urban development but also as an art project. The project idea was to
create a form of world art exhibition included in the functional setting of the site. Within
the outline of Superkilen can thus be found elements like benches, lampposts, trash bins,
planting and more unique elements originating from countries worldwide. The site also
serves as a multi-functional space constituting of three areas; a red square, the black market and a green park. While the red square designates the urban life with cafs, music
and sports (Superflex 2012), the black market is a more classic site with fountain, trees
and benches. The green park offers grass fields and more greenery, where you can have
a picnic or take a stroll with the dog. The area of outer Nrrebro has a story of youth
crime, high unemployment rates and general social problems. Proper implemented urban
development is therefore both of great importance but also a greater challenge.
On the bases of a qualified assumption that outer Nrrebro can be regarded as a hyperdiverse area, how does a site like Superkilen respond and resonate with this diversity?
What effects can a suitable social site in the area have on the neighbourhood?
Firstly this smaller research will treat the term of hyper-diversity briefly, then the neighbourhood of outer Nrrebro is defined on a general level, whereupon the project of the
Superkilen site is presented. Finally the reception of the urban site among users and
neighbours is estimated and reflections upon newer changes within the local environment
of outer Nrrebro are made.

2
2.1

Terminology and Area description


Hyper-diversity

Terms like multicultural and diverse help us along the way in defining and describing
populations and neighbourhoods in the urban environment. Aspects such as emigration
and the mere fact that the world becomes more intertwined and globalized for each day
result in local populations with different cultural backgrounds and ethnicity. These terms
are useful and thoroughly described however Tusan-Kok et al. points towards the need of
a newer expression that treats the inescapable immense diverse way of life that unfolds in
cities. The fact that differences do not only occur in terms of cultural and demographic
background, but also in regard to individual ways of life is treated. To accommodate this
aspect the term hyper-diversity is presented, it refers to "an intense diversification of the
population in socio-economic, social and ethnic terms, but also with respect to lifestyles,
attitudes and activities" (Tasan-Kok and Bolt 2013, p.6). The term applies to more variables but also "the possible complex interactions between these variables" (Tasan-Kok
and Bolt 2013, p.6). The expression tries to alert us against labelling or categorizing a
seemingly homogeneous group as a uniform entity, since in fact very diverse activities may
most likely occur within the group.

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3 THE SUPERKILEN PROJECT


A simple but really good example of this i stated in the research on divercities 1 : "A
group of young poor Indian-born men living in a London neighbourhood may on first
sight be considered as a very homogeneous group. But at a closer sight they may in
fact be very heterogeneous, for example because some men of this group like watching
sports on television at home, another part of the groups main activity may be a constant
contact with the family in India, while a third section of the group likes to hang around
on the neighbourhood square and mainly talks with native Londoners" (Tasan-Kok and
Bolt 2013, p.6). The example may seem very obvious, but it nevertheless creates a vivid
conception of the simple but important outline of hyper-diversity.

2.2

Neighbourhood of Outer Nrrebro

When studying the neighbourhood of outer Nrrebro in the area around Superkilen, the
term of hyper-diversity becomes useful. The area has earlier been agonized by youth crime
and unsuccessful integration. A park called Mjlnerpark which is right next to Superkilen
is still on the list the ministry of housing, urban and rural districts list of ghettos. In
order to be designated as a ghetto, the housing area should meet two of three criterias,
which deals with crime, unemployment and a proportion of immigrants. The area of
Nrrebro is the one with the lowest gross income in the capital region of Denmark, which
is the biggest region population wise out of the five that constitutes Denmark. Almost
one fourth of the inhabitants on Nrrebro fall within the category of unemployment for a
minimum of 6 months or completely out of labour. In line with urban renewal of the area
within the latest ten years, the area has also become a popular place for young students
(Wikipedia 2016), and more and more families are now spotted in the street scene. The
area of outer Nrrebro houses inhabitants from more than 55 cultural backgrounds (DAC
2014). Consequently the area is characterized by low middle-class income, social issues,
low employment rates and in general a presence of immense diversity.
Considering Nrrebro as a hyper-diverse place without mobilizing groups in a generalizing
way, could be as useful tool when implementing urban solutions. In the later it will be
considered whether the project group behind Superkilen seems to have envisioned the
area of outer Nrrebro with the means that the hyper-diversity expression offers.

The Superkilen Project

3.1

A Space of Multiplicity

Superkilen houses elements from more than 55 different cultures and countries implemented on the site. Parents can sit on the side of a Moroccan fountain while they watch
their children play on a slide from Thailand formed as an octopus. In line with this there
are 17 different kinds of benches at the site, representing almost as many countries. In
total there are more than 100 objects presenting the different countries, however it is not
only cultural diversity the site addresses. The site is organized in three different areas,
two squares and a park each with different expressions and fundamental elements, for a

Diversities refers to the concept of diverse cities (Tasan-Kok and Bolt 2013)

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3 THE SUPERKILEN PROJECT


layout of the three areas see Appendices A.1. The areas in themselves invites to different
use activities, which in a total constitutes a very wide range of applications of the site.

Children playing on the very popular playground octopus late in the day (Photo taken: July 2016).
It is an exact copy of the original one, which is placed within a park in a suburb of Tokyo, Japan.

It may all sound a bit messy and surely the site has been called the strangest park in the
world announced by CNN (Eriksen 2014), but this extreme variety in design and origin
has a purpose. May these foreign elements help inhabitants with different nationalities
living in Denmark feel more at home? This is definitely a desirable effect; nonetheless this
statement might be a bit bold. Stating this insinuates a problematic view coupled to the
term of multiculturalism sometimes linked to malpractice within urban planning (Fincher
and Preston 2014). It applies to a more primitive belief that if some cultural recognizable
element is implemented in the urban environment, it creates an accommodating effect,
which is defiantly not necessarily the case. This a complicated aspect and a less bold
statement would be; the mere fact that all these elements are so diversified in layout and
design and subsequently invites to so many different forms of activities and usages almost
inevitable apply to the hyper-diversity of the neighbourhood. Everyone will most likely
be able to find one thing they can relate to, an item that becomes their favourite one
when using the area. Maybe it speaks to their preferred form of activity or perhaps the
layout fits their personal taste. If you love to skateboard, practise boxing, exercise, play
a game of ping-pong or perhaps a game of chess, lay in the grass or just take a stroll you
can find the space to do so at Superkilen.

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3 THE SUPERKILEN PROJECT

A group of young guys seen practising each other in boxing techniques at


the Red square of Superkilen in the evening (Photo taken: July 2016).

3.2

Local Participation

The project group behind Superkilen has also made sure of an even stronger incitement
to foster connections between the diverse neighbourhood around the site. At the beginning of the project several representatives from the area were actively involved in doing
research for the project. The project group went travelling with five different groups
of residents to some of their home countries, together following memories that lead to
choosing of objects that were later included in Superkilen (Barnes 2015). Furthermore
local residents were asked to nominate specific city objects such as benches, bins, trees,
playgrounds, manhole covers and signage from other countries. The elected objects were
either produced as replicas or bought and transported to the site. A plan that one of the
project groups behind Superkilen themselves characterized as an extreme version of public participation (Superflex 2016). Bringing a group of people abroad in order to import
some objects from one part of the world to another is of course quite exclusive and sounds
costly, but this will not be an aspect treated here. However as far as participation of the
locals goes, the effect of an initiative like this should not be underestimated. Studies show
that involving local users in an initiative, it being a policy or a local project, can have
immensely positive outcome.
Laurens de Graaf et al. describes the invaluable aspect of inviting people to participate in
their own environment, and in doing so learning from their "lived experience". The locals
themselves are experts on their environment, and through time they have acquired "an intimate understanding of local conditions" (Graaf and Michels 2015, p.46). In the scenario
with this project, the local participants contribute with their unique set of experience
from the neighbourhood of outer Nrrebro as well as with their ethnographic background.
This primarily describes the knowledge that can be withdrawn from the locals, enhancing
the conditions for a successful project in the long term, but a more important aspect is
the broader social effects of such participation. Activating people and giving them responPage 4 of 6

3 THE SUPERKILEN PROJECT


sibility gives them an automatic sense of meaning as to being a part of the community.
De Graaf et al. states that "participation contributes to the development of civic virtues,
citizens feeling of being public citizens and part of their community" (Graaf et al 2014,
p.48). With this in mind the participatory aspect of the Superkilen project did not only
pose as a factor creating more attention and popularity to the project, it also created
opportunities for possible change on a social level within the neighbourhood.

3.3

Responses and Changes in the Neighbourhood

When visiting Superkilen you truly get an impression of a hyper-diverse space, where children from different backgrounds play lively together and diverse young groups are being
active with a large range of activities. Families with several different cultures seem to be
taking in the space as if it was a natural extension of their home. You see older generations
having a rest on the benches and people engaging in conversations with their neighbours.
It is not an easy task to try and accommodate so many different sub cultures and groups
in one place, but it seems Superkilen has succeeded in responding to this diversity. The
result seems to be a space where the different sub-cultures can thrive side by side and not
on the expense of each other. This harmonious and pleasant feel to the site, may actually
be something that in time could have an effect on an even larger scale. Tasan-Kok et al.
states in regard to social cohesion in hyper-divers cities that "if non-conflicting relations
between these diverse groups could be structured at lower spatial levels (neighbourhood
or district), a high social cohesion is possible in the urban system as a whole" (Tasan-Kok
and Bolt 2013, p.48).

Several kids and a dog have jumped into the Moroccan fountain on this
warm summer day for an avid water play. (Photo taken: July 2016).

People are responding to Superkilen, saying that it has become much better and safer to
move around in the surrounding area. (Palle 2014) "It has become a better place to live.
There is not as much trouble and crime as there were some years ago" two young girls
express to a national newspaper talking about the area around Mjlnerparken and the
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4 CONCLUSION
outer part of Nrrebro, where the two girls have lived their entire lifes. They say that
among other things Superkilen has helped make the area a better place to be in residence
(Nielsen 2014).
In a local newspaper from 2015 it was stated that serious kinds of youth crime on Nrrebro
has fallen drastically, almost down to one third from 2013 to 2014 (Marthin 2015). This
of course can not be coupled directly to Superkilen, but it is most likely that this project
as well as other new urban initiatives at outer Nrrebro have a part in this positive
progression. Superkilen is continuously location for a lot of happenings and initiatives
that actively includes the inhabitants of the neighbourhood and other users and just by
visiting the area, taking in all the impressions and social expressions it seems the project
is on to something right.

Conclusion

Studying the project of Superkilen it seems that the implementation really responds to the
surrounding hyper-diverse neighbourhood. The easy conclusion would be; that bringing
in elements from all over the world creates this diverse expression that resonates with
the multi-cultural residents - this however rings quite hollow. It is of personal believe
that the public participation in the project has had a great effect, and the fact that
the site is so utmost diverse in terms of sport facilities, planting and layout creates a
way to addresses the individual. A project that at first glance seems messy and almost
humorously diverse after all manages to create a common ground were people obviously
perform super various activities, play, talk and interact. A hypotheses that the site, with
its open space and invitation to socialize and interact, has helped the area on the way to
a safer and better environment now linger. However the social aspect of bringing people
together with spaces like these inescapable has positive effects for a neighbourhood. It
may be that the execution of the site could have been performed in many other ways,
but it seems that aspects to take away from this research becomes; the importance of
understanding the natural hyper-diversity of most populations and responding to this.
Along with the significant importance of activating and inviting the citizens of the urban
environment to continuously participate on engage on a significant level.

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REFERENCES

References
ArchDaily (2012). Superkilen/Topotek1, big architects, Superflex.
www.archdaily.com/286223/superkilen-topotek-1-big-architects-superflex [28 July
2016].
Barnes, N. (2015). Superkilen the Copenhagen park made up of 108 objects from 60
different nations. Backpacks and Bunkbeds.
www.backpacksandbunkbeds.co.uk/denmark/superkilen-park-copenhagen/ [26 July
2016].
Chan, K. (2013). Big ambition: Bjarke ingels crowdsourced park aims to unite diverse
community. Architizer. architizer.com/blog/superkilen-park/media/461298/ [28 July
2016].
DAC, D. (2014). Superkilen.
www.dac.dk/da/dac-life/copenhagen-x-galleri/cases/superkilen/ [23 July 2016].
Eriksen, L. H. (2014). Superkilen: Welcome to Europes strangest public park. CNN.
edition.cnn.com/2014/10/06/travel/copenhagen-surreal-park/ [23 July 2016].
Fincher, R., I. K. L. H. and Preston, V. (2014). Planning in the multicultural city:
Celebrating diversity or reinforcing difference? Progress in Planning, 92, pp. 1-55.
Graaf, L. De, H. M. V. and Michels, A. (2015). Enhancing Participation in
Disadvantaged Urban Neighbourhoods. Local Government Studies, 41, 1, pp. 44-62.
Marthin, J. (2015). Nrrebros unge begr mindre kriminalitet. Noerrebro Nordvest
bladet.
minby.dk/noerrebronordvest-bladet/noerrebros-unge-begaar-mindre-kriminalitet/ [24
July 2016].
Nielsen, J. B. (2014). Trygheden vokser p noerrebro og falder i valby. Berlingske.
www.b.dk/nationalt/trygheden-vokser-paa-noerrebro-og-falder-i-valby [23 juli 2016].
Palle, H. (2014). Ny film blotlgger superkilens integrationskraft. Politkken.
politiken.dk/kultur/filmogtv/filmanmeldelser/premium/ECE2314446/ny-filmblotlaegger-superkilens-integrationskraft/ [26 July
2016].
Superflex (2012). Superkilen opening. Superflex Activities.
www.superflex.net/activities/2012/06/22/superkilen_opening [27 July 2016].
Superflex (2016). Superkilen. Vimeo. vimeo.com/155427158 [26 July 2016].
Superflex (n.d.). List of elements. superflex.net/superkilen/list [20 July 2016].
Superkilen.dk (2009). Projektbeskrivelse for Superkilen.
superkilen.dk/projektbeskrivelse/
[20 July 2016].

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REFERENCES
Tasan-Kok, T., v. K. R. R. M. and Bolt, G. (2013). Towards Hyber-Diversified
European Cities: A Critical Literature Review. Utrecht: Utrecht University, Faculty
of Geosciences.
Wikipedia (2016). Nrrebro. da.wikipedia.org/wiki/N%C3%B8rrebro [25 July 2016].

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A APPENDICES

A
A.1

Appendices
Three main areas

Superkilen is divides into three main areas. The different surfaces and colors are integrated
so that they form a setting for the different objects. On this map greenery planted in the
park is outlined along with the indications of the area division. A lot of thought has been
put into the green setting of the whole site. Flowering periods, colors and originating
regions of the world, are taken into account and which all interacts with the history of
the other objects on site (Superkilen.dk 2009).

(ArchDaily 2012)

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A APPENDICES
A vision of the placement of the site within the city.

(Chan 2013)

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A APPENDICES

A.2

Taking over the Square

Here two photos taken from the black square of the area are presented. On a summer day
you will see allot of children paying here, and at night many people grill and have drinks
while listening to music.

This young boy is on top of the world about take a pretty steep ride down the hill
implemented on the middle of the black area. (Photo taken: July 2016)

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A APPENDICES

A young group has gathered on the top of the hill site and they stayed here for hours.
The formations at the black market square are definitely in use.(Photo taken: July 2016)

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A APPENDICES

A.3

Swing bench

The swing bench on the red square part of the site is one of the most popular items on
Superkilen. It is always in use when you stop by the park, even in the wintertime people
have a sit, a talk and perhaps a coffee on the swinging benches. The original location
of the swing bench is a park in the Qahira neighborhood in the Iraqi capital Baghdad
(Superflex nd)

(Photo taken: July 2016).

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