Nørrebro and Superkilen

Updates, Nov 2016: three years later, Superkilen is just as tatty and Den Røde Plads is just as bleak (it could have had 20% more greenery and still maintained its unique flavour), but the whole thing kinda works as a linear park, opening up what can be a claustrophobic area – and for fans of street furniture, it’s quite a treat (see Flickr album)

Took a drift along Nørrebrogade yesterday. One of central Copenhagen’s old ‘bro’ or bridge districts, a long way from our greater CPH suburb, today Nørrebro is characterised by multi-ethnic types, high density housing coupled with a lack of green space and a range of other inner city issues.

Points of interest include Assistens KierkegaardLiteraturhaus and a Jewish burial ground. I find I still have to adjust to the lack of cars on the streets in some areas of Copenhagen – it all a bit echoey with a post-nuclear holocaust flavour while you dodge the bikes. There’s little hustle and bustle, it feels lifeless and nondescript, in particular during the grey autumn and winter. It was only when I got to the foot of the street where it opened out onto the Lakes, that I got any feeling of grandeur or of being in a big city. (Walk round the Lakes drift?? Must have been done.)

On Blågårdsplads I spotted a sign for Vinterbyen.dk, an initiative inspired by the Winter Cities Institute with the aim of embracing winter rather than pretending it isn’t there by lighting yet another tea light and hiding inside with the hygge. Interesting.

The pièce de résistance aimed at revitalising the area is Superkilen. Feted in the urban design press, this ‘urban park’ is a classic top down scheme which doesn’t seem to have quite worked. Visit Copenhagen’s places we like series has the details:

  • award winning 750m long park in a former freight marshalling yard
  • by Superflex in collaboration with BIG and Topotek1, opened June 2012
  • runs between Nørrebrogade and Tagensvej in outer Nørrebro, part of an urban renewal project
  • three areas, each with a different function and differentiated by colour: Den Røde Plads (Red Square), Det Sorte Marked (Black Market) and Den Grønne Park (Green Park)
  • finalist in the Financial Times/Citibank Urban Ingenuity Awards for its ability to bring different cultures together

Yes it really is that colour…

the Red Square on Superkilen

Where to start? Is taking the need to brighten up the city literally the answer? The Generøs By boys (qv) acknowledge that it is not aesthetically attractive, but that it’s ‘fun’. This fun thing is going to get old pretty soon, like gameification and BIG’s childlike approach, playing with the city, as it was described to me by Copenhagen Cool. Notice how the trees look like plastic trees and the whole thing resembles a plastic model.

Den Røde Plads (Red Square; comparisons with the real thing are odious) is designed for outdoor activities, concerts etc. I missed the chessboards at the Den Sorte Marked, but apparently it could be used as a market by local shopkeepers – don’t think so. At the far end is a neon sign from a drive-in doughnut shop, if only….I really have issues with these forced efforts to create life, it has to be there already in the form of culture, history, nature…creating its own momentum. They seemed to have the hang of it around 50 years ago – almost tempted to start a Pinterest board with little gems like this:

Vällingby, 1955

Vällingby, 1955 (from Generøs By’s Facebook timeline)

The concept is intended to include the 60 nationalities who live in the area, primarily by using 108 objects as street furniture, including bins from Blackpool. The Superkilen app reveals the ‘stories’ about the different objects…no doubt this was great fun to put together (see video), but it’s classic over-thinking and a bit of a non-event. Better is the Jeg er Nørrebro audio walk, put together by local residents.

Have local residents embraced the vision? Not on a November Saturday. I overheard one girl telling her companions:

They’ve put in benches but no one sits on them.

The paint is peeling and the whole thing looks very tatty, in a rather post-Soviet way. Other issues include the trees, with the two biggest cut down in August 2012 (see Red Byens Træer), and the slippery surface on Den Røde Plads, which means it will be cordoned off in summer 2014 for repairs.

Going forward, the Superkilen website (Facebook) has details of how residents can obtain funding for activities such as a Somali culture day, cross fit workshops, street football.

Den Røde Plads took the form of a  pop-up community centre during Metropolis 13:

Embrace your urban grit!

More: Classic Copenhagen takes stock of the Superkilen treesNathan Romero Muelas isn’t a fanCNN sort of is4/6 from Politiken

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