Superflex: A cool urban space

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“Let’s meet on the red square.” The artists behind Superkilen explain how this colorful wedge shaped public park in Copenhagen, Denmark, was a collaboration based on extreme civic participation.

A public park in the Nørrebro district of Copenhagen, Denmark, Superkilen was developed by artists’ group Superflex in collaboration with architectural firms Bjarke Ingels Group (BIG) and Topotek1. The park was officially opened in June 2012.

In this interview two members of Superflex, Jakob Fenger and Bjørnstjerne Christiansen, tell us about the ideas behind the project, and how it came about as an extreme example of citizen inclusion and collaboration: “We found it interesting to look at this very diverse group of people in regard to culture, social standing, nationality, etc., and then see it as a rich and significant foundation for impacting the area these people live in.”

The people living in the immediate vicinity Superkilen relate to more than 50 different nationalities. The idea for the project was to create a space which reflected the people living in the area, by letting the locals suggest object from public spaces around the world. Many of the objects in the park have been specially imported or copied from foreign designs. They include swings from Iraq, benches from Brazil, a fountain from Morocco and litter bins from England. There are neon signs from throughout the world advertising everything from a Russian hotel to a Chinese beauty parlour. Even the manhole covers come from Zanzibar, Gdansk and Paris. In all, there are 108 plants and artifacts illustrating the ethnic diversity of the local population.

“We did what we termed extreme civic involvement. We talked to various groups that we had talked to before and asked: What if you could pick whatever you want for Superkilen – and we go out to find it next week?” Five groups of people traveled to Palestine, Spain, Thailand, Texas and Jamaica in order to acquire five specific objects. The objects have since been installed throughout the park. But, as Superflex explain, Superkilen is “not just a feel-good social project, it also has a strict conceptual frame. It started out with three colors. We defined 3 very marked symbolic surfaces that are to have a signal value in the public domain.” The idea was to create referral points, meeting places, based on strong signals and values.

Stretching some 750 metres (2,460 ft) along either side of a public cycle track and covering a total area of some 30,000 square metres (320,000 sq ft), Superkilen is an urban park project in Copenhagen divided into three main areas: The Red Square, The Black Market and The Green Park. While The Red Square designates the modern, urban life with café, music and sports, The Black Market is the classic square with fountain and benches. The Green Park is a park for picnics, sports and walking the dog.

Superkilen was rewarded with a 2013 AIA Honor Award in the Regional & Urban Design category by the American Institute of Architects. It is shortlisted for Design of the Year by the Design Museum in London as well as for the European Union Prize for Contemporary Architecture.

Superflex is a Danish artists’ group founded in 1993 by Jakob Fenger, Rasmus Nielsen and Bjørnstjerne Christiansen. Superflex describe their projects as “tools”, inviting people to participate in and communicate the development of models that alter production conditions. Often the projects are assisted by experts who bring in their special interest, these tools can then be further used and modified by their users.

Superflex has gained international recognition for their projects, participating in international arts biennials such as the Gwangju biennial in Korea, Istanbul Biennial, São Paulo Biennial, Shanghai Biennial and in the “Utopia Station” exhibition at the Venice Biennale.

Superflex were interviewed at their headquarters in Nørrebro, Copenhagen, by Jonas Hjort, 2013

Camera: Jonas Hjort and Klaus Elmer
Edited by Sara Laub
Produced by Christian Lund
Copyright: Louisiana Channel, Louisiana Museum of Modern Art.
Supported by Nordea-fonden.