field trip: body culture in urban space (2/2)

April 29, 2008

our student group inside sjakket’s basketball court building

for our second bicycle-tour field trip, my ‘body culture in urban space’ class visited some different sports and culture facilities in nørrebro, a neighborhood north of the city center that is home to a concentration of different ethnic groups (and that seems to be just at the beginning of a gentrification cycle). we had a beautiful biking day – bright and sunny, and there were people using the outdoor spaces that we visited. having seen six or seven different sports and culture facilities in just two copenhagen neighborhoods makes me realize what a priority this combination of activities (and this type of facility) is in this city. the buildings that we visited are all fairly new, and seem to have been projects in which the designers felt comfortable pushing the boundaries of ‘normal’ urban architecture – perhaps inspired by the intended use of the buildings? – and this definitely makes them feel like energetic and active spaces. we visited three projects on this tour (and rode through nørrebro park, but i was unable to get off my bike and take photos). as in the post about our first field trip, the italicized text is lifted from the course flier, and my own comments are in ‘normal’ type.

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#1: Korsgadehallen (BBP Architects, 2006)

“The project is based on two main concepts – an indoor and an outdoor concept, that corresponds to a united whole. The indoor concept is to create an indoor ‘village green’ or ‘common’ for different sport and cultural activities. The Centre for Sport and Culture (Korsgadehallen) consists of a large central area with the necessary dimensions for different playing fields, handball, volleyball, badminton etc. This central space is encircled by a sequence of minor spaces with different characters: the open alcove, the balcony, the staircase, the closed dancing hall, the free standing wall bar, the small niche for a break, the glass facade etc. The construction is made of steel beams that are placed at slightly different angles hereby creating an irregularity enhancing the ‘cave concept.’ This irregular space also creates an informal atmosphere and expresses movement and multi-functionality. The keywords are daylight, transparency and flexibility hereby creating a connection between the different activities and users and a connection between indoor and outdoor areas. The outdoor concept is to cover the ‘indoor village green’ with a new landscape – a green hill for activities and recreation. To make this possible the playing field is placed in a level 3.5 m under street level. This new urban landscape – a ‘village green’ lifted 9 m above the street level is enriched by the evening sun 1-2 hours longer than the same area on the street level.”

i really liked that the roof of this building can be used – and was being used – by a group of school children while we were visiting. the mound/cave concept seems to fit rather well with the idea of a sports center, and it makes the experience of the building more active, as you are always climbing up or down to enter/exit it. the split-level interior also enhances the ‘buried’ quality of the building and was surprisingly well-lit and not dark or cave-like. one of the architects from bbp gave us a tour of korsgadehallen and told us that non-sports activities like concerts and flea markets happen on the gym floor, so it’s not strictly a sports facility. because of the building’s location in nørrebro, a somewhat socially distraught neighborhood, it sometimes suffers from vandalism of the glass windows. we didn’t really get a straight answer from the designer about how the building might be better integrated into the community, but at least our discussion highlighted how important this part of the building process is – that is, ‘selling’ the building, or the idea of the building, to the surrounding community so that a feeling of shared ownership and respect for the space might be established.

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#2: Multi Square (Morten Wassini/House Arkitekter, 2006

The Multi Square at the corner of Ravnsborgade and Skt. Hans gade is used for playing, sports and local cultural events. The square is primarily designed for kids and young people, but the vision was to rethink the playground concept by creating an exciting urban space, which can attract other groups of age and interest too. The central element of the square is a playing field for basketball, hockey etc. The field is defined by a steel and wood construction. Along one side spectators can settle down and on the other side a scene gives space for local theatre and music events. The square also offers a ramp-landscape for skateboarding.”

i love the simplicity of this project. it’s basically a white square painted on a wall (as a screen for projecting movies or images) and a very spare concrete playing field surrounded by a low wall. there were several kids using it when we stopped by, for soccer as well as for sitting and texting friends and skateboarding. it’s not at all institutional (like most of the other projects we visited) and is out in the open, which makes it feel very inviting and public. it really feels as if it belongs to the neighborhood and not to an organization. it’s interesting to compare this park to prags boulevard, a similarly simple (though larger – and evidently less successful) project in the holmbladsgade neighborhood.

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#3: Sjakket (BIG and JDS Architects, 2007)

“Sjakket is a rough oasis in the city – a refuge for children and young people, where they are coached by engaged adults, who gives them help and support. The renovation of the former industrial building took place with respect for the existing qualities of the place, emphasizing the rough atmosphere. The renovated building is adapted to suit the activities of Sjakket and other local needs. The complex exists of two curved spaces – the inside was taken out and only the rough concrete walls, columns, bricks and steel curves were left. A long red container is placed on top of the two curved halls.”

this building seemed like an inspiring place for disenfranchised youth – it’s got PLOT’s trendy-funky signature style and has a very ‘young’ and active feeling to it. it’s brand new, having just opened in november, but the employees seem to be happy with it so far (there were no kids there on the day we visited). the two main halls are reused factory buildings that are now joined by a roof deck and a salvaged (and certainly repainted) shipping container that bridges the rooftops. this project makes good use of color – inside the cherry-red shipping container is a studio for recording rap music (painted entierly in bright magenta), while the basketball court has windows in different shades of pink and the boxing/kickboxing room is vivid turquoise. the different colors (besides being kind of fun) help to distinguish the different spaces and give them each a specific characteristic and quality of light.

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