Practicing ArchitecturePracticing Architecture
About Kai-Uwe Bergmann, AIA: As a partner at the Bjarke Ingels Group (BIG), Mr. Bergmann heads up the firm’s business development and communications. With offices in New York City, Copenhagen, and Beijing, the firm is currently working in more than 15 countries. Mr. Bergmann was project manager for the first carbon neutral master plan in Central Asia, at Zira Island in Baku, Azerbaijan. He also has been a visiting instructor at IE University’s School of Architecture and Design Management in Madrid and has served as a juror for many national and international prizes. BIG received a 2013 Institute Honor Award for Regional and Urban Design for Superkilen, in Copenhagen.
Superkilen, a sprawling urban park in Copenhagen’s ethnically diverse neighborhood of Nørrebro, received a 2013 Institute Honor Award for Regional and Urban Design. Can you explain the conditions of the site and surrounding neighborhood that led to a desire for a park on the site?
This site was formerly a regional light rail right-of-way that for years transported residents to and from the city. With the advent of freeways, the need for rail decreased, and the tracks were dug up. The long sliver of land fell into disuse and even became somewhat dangerous at night. This part of Nørrebro is one of the most ethnically diverse areas in all of Denmark, with more than 60 nationalities calling the area around Superkilen home. We wanted to reflect that diversity in creating a park for the people by the people.
In assessing the requirements of the clients, how did the BIG team arrive at an initial plan?
We knew that we did not want to ask recent immigrants to Denmark to sit on Danish park benches or swing on Danish-designed swings. We decided to ask residents to identify well-designed objects—the perfect fountain, litter bin, telephone booth, or bicycle stand—that they remembered using in their home country. By actively involving the residents in the design process, Superkilen could turn into a collection of best designs from the world over.
This collection of “urban furniture” makes the park unique. What was the process of selecting the pieces?
We asked the local residents via the airwaves, newspapers, and countless public forums to suggest pieces of urban furniture they would like to see integrated into the park. We received over 1,000 suggestions, and then we, together with landscape architects Topotek1 and the artist collaborative Superflex, selected 108 of these objects to scatter throughout the one-kilometer park.
Now that the project has been complete for more than a year, how has actual use of the park compared with what was envisioned?
It is beyond our wildest fantasy. The locals have set up their own advisory council, which receives money from the municipality to hold cultural events on the square. Dance troupes have held spontaneous performances, and more than 2,000 skaters rolled through the park on a recent summer afternoon. Everyone, young and old, has discovered parts of the park that speak to them. I highly encourage you to go and see it for yourself. Go to Copenhagen!
The Institute Honor Awards for
Deadline: August 23, 2013
Recipient of a 2013 AIA
Learn more about 2013
Kai-Uwe Bergmann, AIA, RIBA, LEED AP
BIG (Bjarke Ingels Group) is a New York-, Copenhagen-, and Beijing-based group of architects, designers, and thinkers operating within the fields of architecture, urbanism, research, and development.