Colour Case Study #3

03 Oct 2011

Vibrant urban design scheme looks to promote integration across ethnicity, religion, culture and languages

The past two case studies in this colour series have incorporated specific hues for their aesthetic beauty, their effect on the human psyche, artistic qualities or as an orientation device. This week we look at the Superkilen urban design project in Copenhagen by Bjarke Ingels Group, Topotek 1 and Superflex, which takes inspiration from the 57 different nationalities that reside in the Nørrebro neighbourhood to ‘make up a global vernacular’. Spread over a long, thin site the Superkilen scheme is split into three definite sections characterised by colour: red, black and green.

The Red Square borders a sports hall and cultural centre ‘so the idea is that they can take the sport out and use this area also’ explains Project Architect Nanna Gyldholm Møller. Rather than the generic grass or Astroturf pitches that young people are so used to frequenting, the Red Square offers a scarlet open air space where individuals from all cultures can come together and engage in various street sports.

Across a dividing road is the Black Market section of Superkilen. This ‘urban marketplace’ is a relaxed social space where children can play in the sightline of their parents either reclining on one of the many benches that dot the site or from their homes in the apartment blocks that flank the black square. Gyldholm Møller details: “All the neighbours asked for a lot of places to sit and meet, and that’s why there’s going to be a lot of chairs around, with barbeques when the weather allows.”

Street furniture plays a key role in this ambitious urban design project. Aside from an imposing black octopus for children to play in and around there are a huge variation of benches, from a Mexican piece where two users can sit facing one another to a Belgian seat where users sit face in opposing directions ‘in a nice little cultural twist’. A lip in the corner of the black square is curled like the edge of a page, providing additional seating or shelter from the rain.

The third and final stretch - and the only section yet to begin construction - is a lengthy green park which rises and falls in subtle landscaped folds. Designed as an urban playground for use as a picnic ground, sunbathing spot, informal sports venue and general social space, the Green Park looks to provide a communal haven from the rush of city life and with an injection of colourful flora.

Communication with local residents was an intrinsic part of this scheme and the team spent vast quantities of time discussing design details with the multicultural community, ensuring that each nationality had an input into the final concept. BIG clarifies: “The choice of colours and materials begin as neutral to language and culture but acquire a meaning over time as they are used in the cityspace and populated by the inhabitants. The different surfaces and colours of the area are integrated so that they become a backdrop for a variety of objects chosen by the citizens and curated by the designers. This backdrop is at the same time neutral, distinctive and discreet.”

WAN is now accepting entries for the inaugural Colour in Architecture Award. Click here to find out more or contact Amy Knight at with any queries.

Key Facts

Urban design

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