The recipient of the 5th Rosa Barba European Landscape Award, announced recently in Barcelona during the 5th European Biennale of Landscape Architecture, is the Nicolai Kulturcenter in Kolding, Denmark, designed by Kristine Jensen.
The project, we read, involved transforming what was little more than an alleyway — or a “lousy backyard,” as the landscape architect describes it in the most recent dispatch of Terragrams — into a multipurpose cultural space that is “more attractive and inviting than its predecessor.”
The program “consists of various elements that are connected to areas designated for outdoor activities: the entrance; a garden where children can play and relax on the grass; a terrace for patrons of the cinema cafés; a large circular stage used for outdoor cinema in summer and for theater performances and concerts; a shopping area; a small garden next to the music hall; and a multifunctional square. A Cor-Ten steel wall and a Cor-Ten steel stage/platform have been built along the two terraces situated on the west side.”
Apart from the stage, perhaps the site's other signature element is the graphic pattern, rendered on the ground out of white thermoplastic. It gives the space an element of play and fun, which is a nice contrast to the industrial nature of the Cor-Ten steel, the grimy asphalt and the dour facade of the buildings. Moreover, it helps to partition the various outdoor rooms without adding to the clutter. There is compartmentalized density but also an openness and a flexibility, order but also disorder.
In her presentation of the project at the biennale, Jensen quoted Marc-Antoine Laugier:
Anyone who knows how to design a park properly will have no difficulty designing a plan by which a city will be built - in terms of its location or area. Squares, intersections and streets are needed. Regularity as well as strangeness are needed, correspondences and antitheses, accidents that vary the picture, great order to the details, but confusion, clashing and tumult in the whole.
“This quotation,” explained Jensen, “not only reflects the necessity of contradiction and counteraction in any kind of planning, whether the character is evergreen or never green, to me it also reveals a simple program on how to work within an urban context.
“Parks, as well as cities, are built, dismantled and rebuilt over time - revealing structures and spaces that reflects the ongoing times in the urban fabric that dissolve into a different sort of text or narrative patterns that engender superficial depths. In this, at both daylight and neon light, the world unfolds itself in a super spatial surface as complex, immeasurably vast, wonderful and sometimes almost incomprehensible.”