25 April 2014

Superkilen revisited

Remember Superkilen? With the award winning red square, the bike highway and the giant octopus? Our first glance was in August 2011, back when the floors were red, the trees were alive, and it all looked so promising. It managed to stay presentable and appear in working order, just long enough for the fancy opening shots, and the many prestigious awards. And then it fell apart. 

First obvious problem was the epoxy floor that to the architects surprise turned slippery when wet. In the wintertime this led to heavy salting that in return killed almost all the trees. The City of Copenhagen just took a considerable chunk out of the city budget to fix the floor, but the trees are not so easily replaced. And who knows if anything can even grow there?

This is unfortunately a common problem here: architects throwing in trees not suited for the climate, and/or with poor living conditions, causing them to succumb quickly. The criteria seem to be, the chosen trees just have to grow fast and look nice for a short period of time. Like the poor imported palm trees by the giant octopus on the black part. I will spare you the pitiful sight.

The red square, not so red anymore. Same spot, before: here

And while we are at it, perhaps it wasn't the best idea to place a huge loudspeaker system in the middle of a square, and invite everyone to share their playlists? Unless you really don't give a damn about the neighbors.

Other things to be aware of, when designing a public square: where does the sun set? In Copenhagen this is where the light deprived citizens will gather. They will sit on the dirty floor uncomfortably close to others, just to suck up the precious rays. Don't block that spot with a bike rack, okay? That's just spiteful.

And, even if this wasn't the sunset spot, it is inconveniently placed, only very few people use it. It is simply too far from where you need to go. Check out the telling (lacking) traces in the snow below, same spot in the wintertime:

The mirabelle plum tree behind this wall is in safe distance, and still alive. Proving how important trees are to the public space. Just imagine this picture without it. Ugh.

The first harbinger of spring. It is a basic human need to be able to follow the changing seasons, in the city. We need the trees to absorb the noise, filter the polluted air, keep our basements dry and create oxygen. And, we need the confetti:

Architects should not be rewarded for destroying trees, and making their living conditions impossible.

By what can only be considered a miracle,  a row of cherry trees further down the path, survived.

 Hang in there, little cherry tree.

Previous posts on Superkilen:
A coming attraction Aug. 2011
Superlove Dec. 2011
Greetings from Classic Copenhagen June 2012


  1. You nailed it again! I wasn't a fan when I swung by in December, may have to take another look in the summertime.

    1. I really had high hopes for this place, and I am so sad about how it turned out. Disaster with the trees, especially the two old ones.

      I was told by an architect that the sponsor only wanted to contribute if the winner was Bjarke Ingels/BIG Group. This way people with money gets to decide how our city is shaped, despite the neighbors desire for a greener alternative. One of the other bids looked much more livable, but in no way as flashy. Flashy wins awards.

  2. I also wasn't a big fan when I went by last May. I mean, it looks kind of cool but I always wonder what is wrong with grass? I found it a bit hot (surface-wise) and not very user friendly for hanging out. It might be good for skateboarders???
    Perhaps Mother Nature also wasn't such a fan and moved out....
    xox to you!

    1. Apparently they have problems with the acoustics too. The trees would have helped absorb the street noise, but now it is just bouncing. When you think about it, it is not hard to understand how this large area sealed off with epoxy, is not good for trees. They are not only feeding from the soil just underneath it. City planning gone terribly wrong, here.

  3. Another place where just design in the concept phase matters and how good it looks when drawing it. No taking care of longevity, sustainability, city nature and usability for people.

    Someone else already said it: a shame that such concepts win awards just because they are flashy. And even worse that it´s driven by politics and big players.

    1. I just stopped by the other day (two years later), to capture the latest development. What it looks like now, makes this post seem like a fairy tale. It is a mess. I counted 13 withered young trees (the city's third attempt, even with replaced soil and webbing in the ground), and the colors are completely bleached. In several places replaced with grey asphalt.

      The city is trying out new patches of pavement to see which will stand the test of time (and sunlight), and there are warning signs everywhere, not to enter the square when it is wet, as it becomes slippery. In Denmark that is pretty much all the time.

      Knowing that BIG have been chosen to create a coast guard on Manhattan, makes me worry. Don't they check up on the usability of this guys wet dreams? It is all flash. New York can't afford a mistake at that level.

  4. I agree with the observations on the red zone, as they are all too obvious. But what about the other two sections the black and the green? When I visited in September last year they seemed to be in good condition. No tree deaths.

    1. The black asphalt part with the stripes and the big octopus is still working. The palm trees on that part are not happy, as could be expected. But you are right, the trees in the far end are still alive, and the bike lane is in use and not slippery. I would not go as far as to call it "super" anything, but then I don't know what that last part looked like, before the transformation.


I love comments! Go ahead, make my day. :-)