TOPOTEK 1’s Martin Rein-Cano On Superkilen’s Translation of Cultural Objects

Founded in 1996 by Buenos Aires-born Martin Rein-Cano, TOPOTEK 1 has quickly developed a reputation as a multidisciplinary landscape architecture firm, focussing on the re-contextualization of objects and spaces and the interdisciplinary approaches to design, framed within contemporary cultural and societal discourse.

The award-winning Berlin-based firm has completed a range of public spaces, from sports complexes and gardens to public squares and international installations. Significant projects include the green rooftop Railway Cover in Munich, Zurich’s hybrid Heerenschürli Sports Complex and the German Embassy in Warsaw. The firm has also recently completed the Schöningen Spears Research and Recreation Centre near Hannover, working with contrasting typologies of the open meadow and the dense forest on a historic site. 


© Iwaan Baan

© Iwaan Baan

© Iwaan Baan

© Iwaan Baan

Superkilen, however, remains TOPOTEK 1’s most acclaimed project to date. A collaboration with BIG and Superflex, the project involved the design of half a mile of urban space within one of Copenhagen’s most culturally diverse, yet challenged neighborhoods. Responding to the area’s reputation for violence, the urban park is divided into three sectors that are littered with cultural artifacts and objects from around the world, thereby celebrating the ethnic identities of the neighborhood through the re-contextualization of familiar objects.

Translating and trans-locating cultural objects were the focal points of Superkilen’s success as a unifying public space, as founding partner Martin Rein-Cano explains in an interview with ArchDaily:

If people move from place to place and change, what happens to objects? What happens to the real life that they left behind? When you immigrate, you take your bags and may e have two objects with you, but you don’t have the objects of everyday, you don’t have this kind of normalcy that surrounds you if you stay in a place.


© Iwaan Baan

© Iwaan Baan

© Torben Eskerod

© Torben Eskerod

In addition to fostering a sense of familiarity and cultural acceptance within the community, the three collaborating firms also responded to the area’s social difficulties through notions of expression, as opposed to those of repression.

This is a shift in how to cultivate conflicts, not avoid conflicts or repress conflicts, but how to cultivate them to make them more acceptable and giving them a chance in a dynamic to change the situation of a neighbourhood, continues Rein-Cano.

Check out the whole interview with Martin Rein-Cano in the video above. A full list of TOPOTEK 1’s completed and ongoing work can be found here.

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