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Examples from Elsewhere: Copenhagen and Indianapolis

Examples from elsewhere: Copenhagen and Indianapolis—Part 1


Examples from elsewhere: Copenhagen and Indianapolis—Part 2


This event was part of the larger series, Fulfilling the Promise Community Building and the Emerald Necklace, which aims to frame the challenges and opportunities presented by the Columbia Road corridor as accurately as possible. Furthermore, the series seeks to draw on lessons learned from other similar projects to identify best practices in planning, process and design.

In particular, the two projects presented placed special emphasis on opportunities for cultural exploration and celebration within our urban open spaces. First, Martin Rein-Cano, director of the international landscape architecture firm TOPOTEK 1, shared the inspiration behind his team’s multi-cultural design for Copenhagen’s famed Superkilen Park. Then, Brian Payne, president and CEO of the Central Indiana Community Foundation, shared the story behind the Indianapolis Cultural Trail.

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Examples from Elsewhere: Copenhagen and Indianapolis, Fulfilling the Promise

Credit: BSA Staff

Superkilen Park: Fresh Perspectives from Abroad

Located in one of Copenhagen’s most diverse neighborhoods, Superkilen Park was designed to make immigrants feel welcome and at home in the city. The design, which was inspired by English landscape gardens of the 18th century, features cultural artefacts from around the world. The parks diverse cultural objects are meant to foster cultural understanding and celebration among the local community members who hail from every corner of the earth. The team worked with the local community members to select both every day and heroic objects to give them a true sense of belonging within the park and larger community.

The design team’s inclusive community process and innovative design yields the following recommendations:

  • Get to know the community. Take the time to get to know the community they were working in and what mattered to those who lived there. The Superkilen team did this by meeting with community members in places and situations representative of their cultures and personalities – they went to community meetings, bowling clubs and even bebop music group practices!
  • Create a sense of ownership. Offer community members an opportunity to actively shape their environment. This will likely inspire a greater sense of ownership and engagement in one’s community. The Superkilen team did this by including the community in the design process itself. Groups and individuals from the community were encouraged to suggest objects to include in the park’s design that would have meaning to them. Furthermore, several of the final objects were actually collected by community members on group trips to their homelands and other countries.
  • Take unconventional approaches. Sometimes you need to think outside the box, or in the case of the Superkilen Park, inside the boxing ring! To address violence in the neighborhood, the Superkilen team installed a boxing ring which not only held cultural significance to some community members but also offered an outlet to channel energy into athletic rather than violent activities.
  • Beautify, but not too much. Beautification is great, but it can also cause unintended gentrification. To counter this, Superkilen Park actually worked to keep its aesthetic slightly gritty to improve the local quality of life without pushing out current community members
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Examples from Elsewhere: Copenhagen and Indianapolis, Fulfilling the Promise

Credit: BSA Staff

Indianapolis Cultural Trail: Inspiration from the Heart of the Country

The Indianapolis Cultural Trail is an eight-mile walking and biking trail that takes rectangular route that loops around downtown Indianapolis, connecting the city’s cultural districts. This unique urban trail project kicked-off in 2000 in response to the city’s lack of cultural connectivity and anchor activities. The project was completed in 2013 and has produced great results social and economic result already. The trail is actively used and enjoyed by community members and visitors of all ages and $1 billion in new development is in the works along the trail. The city also saw a 148% increase in property values along the trail from 2008-2014.

The Indianapolis Cultural Trail team’s unique approach to urban corridor and trail planning offers the following recommendations:

  • Go big, bold and beautiful! Don’t hold back when creating an urban vision. The Cultural Trail prioritized landscaping and design to create a continuous identity and pleasant experience along the entire length of the trail. Today, people use the trail equally to get from point A to point B and for the pure enjoyment of the experience.
  • Get your story right. Having the right narrative is key to a project’s success and acceptance in a community. The Cultural Trial’s pitch was about positioning Indianapolis as a 21st century city for talent attraction and retention. The Cultural Trail team held 100 one-on-one meetings early on in their process to vet ideas and get their pitch correct before their first community meetings.
  • Money matters. Make sure to secure funding early. Telling a strong story can help with this. The Cultural Trail team’s one-on-one meetings allowed them to secure significant funding early on and establish the effort as a real project. The team targeted a handful of large donations and grants, rather than many small ones. In the end, the project raised $35.5 million from Federal Transportation funds and $27.5 million from donors, foundations and corporations.
  • Play to your strengths. Identify what makes your community great and celebrate that. In Indianapolis, this was the city’s cultural assets. The Cultural Trail connects many great existing but underappreciated cultural destinations to one another and the city itself. This urban trail also connects to the downtown canal – one of the city’s most popular destinations. Thanks to the success of the Cultural Trail and the pre-existing assets it connects, a new cultural district has even emerged!

Such insightful recommendations inspired a thoughtful conversation among the event’s attendees and emphasized the remarkable potential of cultural spaces and ideas to bring new meaning and life to our urban open spaces.