Highlight Sydhavn

Connecting geographically divided communities in Copenhagen
  • Design research
  • Community development
  • User participation


February - April 2016

Working with

  • Sydhavn Regional Regeneration Project
    (Sydhavnen Områdefornyels)
  • Aalborg University Copenhagen

Tools and methods

  • Design games
  • Concept prototyping
  • Social innovation

Report: Highlight Sydhavn

April 2016

This essay, written for professionals interested in the renewal project in Sydhavn, details the steps taken during the design process. It further aims to provoke new actions in the project, introducing and outlining the basis for a concept formed on the basis of what was explored during the lectures.

View report (PDF, 1.8MB)
Design research artefact.

Artefact with illustrations of the local region, used for design research with the community.

I explored a new framework for social innovation by creating a non-traditional research artefacts used for attracting and gathering public opinion.

Under the metaphor of a creating a social 'bridge', this project set out to find ways in which to connect the old neighbourhood on the West side of Sydhavn with the new neighbourhood in the East. Aside from a prominent physical divide in the Sydhavnsgade highway, the challenge was taken as finding ways in which to address cases of societal division between existing communities within Sydhavn.

An ongoing renewal project that aims to 'bridge' the communities in the south of the city through small-medium scale social innovation projects.

The outline for this project was to develop a concept for connecting an old and new neighbourhood in the South of Copenhagen. Following exploration of the area, a design game was used to engage with people from different neighbourhood communities to identify and perceive diversity in the area. This resulted in a concept for supporting 'community-driven showcase events' across both neighbourhoods, open for all residents to explore and experience.

Image of Mozart Plads, Copenhagen.

Mozart Plads (public square) in the old neighbourhood of Sydhavn.

Upon visiting Mozart Plads, the group found out that not all people accept the urban features installed in this shared public space. Several instances were found of what might be regarded as acts of anti-social behaviour – for example, graffiti that has been written across a recreation feature for children. An observer might imagine such acts as evidence of how some locals might seek to express their own identity on the space, having felt excluded from the installation. The group considered the challenges of designing public installations for all citizens.

Illustration of Sydhavnsfest - a regional festival concept.

Sydhavnsfest: a festival to celebrate diversity within Sydhavn.

In order to address the challenge, the project group trialled a new approach towards designing for social and urban change called "Navigational Practice". This approach consisted of three primary stages: “sensitivity”, “staging” and “mobilization”. For each stage, the project group sought to

Sensitivity - the current existence. Listening to what is happening. values, meanings, emotions, relationships and power. Inviting citizens into the design process, without needing to discuss concepts. Staging - introducing an intervention into the normal space. Mobilization - determining who will take ownership and control of a new change. Binding people together in shared vision.

Using the artefact with members of the public.

Using the artefact to attract members of the public.

Using the design artefact with families.

Gathering opinions from both both adults and children.

The purpose of the game was to playfully engage with various members of the local community and ask questions to local residents regarding future social inclusion schemes.

Throughout the staging activity, the group found that citizens were generally positive about the Sydhavn area. This suggested to the project group that since there are people who appreciate and feel proud of a particular area, they might have an interest in showing other people their favorite spots. This would suggest that there are people in Sydhavn who would support the idea of an event for highlighting and showcasing areas of the neighbourhood to others.

Given that Sydhavn was made up of residents from all different backgrounds, it was decided that . The intention was to provide residents with a support platform (and permission) to promote and celebrate their neighbourhood, street, or home, and highlight that which they would like others to experience.

Concept piece depicting a map of Sydhavn with 'beacons of light' used to indicating cross-regional community events.

As part of the project, we were asked to present our concept to the local regeneration community group. Following the session, we were praised as having the most tangible concept. We donated the concept piece to the project, for use as a discussion tool with members of the public.

The concept that encourages established and emerging communities to explore and learn more about their local neighbourhood through the use of community-driven showcase events.

We developed a concept based on the belief that each resident of Sydhavn should be offered the chance to explore the wider area around where they live. In general, people can be hesitant to actively seek out places which have yet to be visited. By choosing to reveal and highlight places which feature welcoming activities, residents might then be more aware of when events are occurring, and so go out and explore the borough by heading towards the lights in the night sky. The intention is that this would grab people’s attention and cause them to feel curious about what is going on in neighbourhoods where they otherwise would not venture, thereby created opportunities for extra social interaction.