Towards skaTeboard Urbanism? StorieS from Barcelona & copenhagen
Written by Julien moliera-revelard Supervised by martin Zerland & henrik reeh Second reader â&#x20AC;˘ Martin Rosenfeld Submitted 1st of September 2018 erasmus mundus master course in Urban Studies [4cities]
In these times of Neo-Liberal urbanism, it is hard to distinguish profit-oriented projects
from the genuinely democratic ones. Disruptive urban practices are slowly seeing themselves being institutionalised through new urban regimes â&#x20AC;&#x201C; see for example squatting, freeganism or skateboarding- for better or worst remains to be seen. Skateboarding has now investigated our urban realms for several decades and regardless of how it has been repressed or celebrated, cities council are more and more concentrating on the phenomenon by fostering hybrid spaces for skateboarding. From landskate parks to skate dots, new modus operandi are hatching worldwide reexamining skateboarding in a way that makes the concept of skate park obsolete. Skateboarding will be an olympic sport in 2020 and with that comes an unprecedented influx of funding, will it genuinely reinforce the community or solely sentence the institutionalisation of lifestyle sports? This overarching question touches upon the complexity of investing public funding in risk-prone spaces, especially when skateboarding has predominantly been depicted as a spontaneous, subversive, wild activity -not to be designed for. Nowadays, urban politics are including skateboard to the urban fabric as part of a wider step towards the multifunctional city and skateboard urbanism could be a key player in provoking narratives aiming at making cities a better place to live. Contemporary practices will be investigated in Barcelona and Copenhagen to depict an up-to-date analysis of what skateboard urbanism means for cities as well as for skateboarding.
Table oF conTenTs
why this? why now?
chapTer 1: Framing skaTeboarding
‘Une joUrnée sAns vAgUe’
From the sewerAge to the pArking lot
‘we don’t know whAt we’re doing reAlly’
chapTer 2: spaces oF skaTeboarding
From ‘UrbAn trAnscendentAlism’ to skAtepArk bUilding
A visUAl overview oF terrAins
A look At ‘skAtArchitects’ in eUrope
the skAtepArk dilemmA
chapTer 3: Towards skaTeboard Urbanism?
the not-so-new sympAthetic inclUsion oF risk
AccomodAting stUnt And mothers
chapTer 4: case sTUdies bcn & cph
CITIeS For PeoPLe
A SCANDINAvIAN ATTITuDe
SkATerS Are IN ChArge
AjDACeNT LAND uSeS
ProxImITy To CITy
ADjACeNT LAND uSeS
ProxImITy To CITy
chapTer 5: meaning oF iT all
Thanks to: maya for the mind, Pierre for the spirit, grandma for the food, & Portico quartet for the music. & interviewees: Fabian Narin from Pivotech, gustav Svanborg edén from Skate malmö, oscar Blasco from SCoB, Søren Nordal enevoldsen from SNe Architects, william Frederiksen from CPh Indoor Skatepark, Samuel Stambul from Constructo.
‘found spot’ any urban or rural corner with interesting settings for skateboarding that was not designed/ thought/build/planned/conceived explicitly with skateboarding in mind. spaces for/or skateboarding: encompassing term covering all spaces where skateboarding unfold, both claimed spaces and dedicated areas. skateboard urbanism: The idea that planning can be infused by skateboarding and vice versa. skateparks: All kinds of spaces that have been purposely built for skateboarding and that are generally fenced as well as restrained to the practice of ‘action sports’. scooter: The mushrooming vehicle which consists of a deck with two wheels attached to a handlebar, it is also referred to as ‘kick scooter’ because it is human-powered.
The reason for this thesis comes from a long-lasting triangular relationship between skate- boarding, myself and the urban landscape. Indeed, growing up in a small town in the outskirt of geneva did not, at first, trigger any special interest or curiosity towards cities. however, as my commitment to skateboard grew, a need to venture to new terrains came along, and that could only be fulfilled in one realm: the city. Skateboarding is an intrinsically urban activity in the sense that it heavily depends on concrete. how to define the urban if not as a continuous slab of concrete spread amidst neighbourhoods, places, districts, living environments and lives . Skateboarding constitutes a singular tool capable of adapting to any paved surface. As the world is rapidly being covered in asphalt, the kingdom of skateboarding continues to expand. I can not thank skateboarding enough for what it has brought to me and I think everyone who’s ever been involved knows the irrational pleasure of endless afternoons roaming through different ‘species of space’1 -only and solely- looking for fun. we begin to see skateboarding being increasingly referred to as a ‘soft mobility’ mode -along with bicycles, scooters and rollerblades. while these modes are capital in ensuring urban liveability, there is a significant conceptual difference between commuting by skateboard (sometimes electric) and playing in dedicated or non-dedicated spaces. Thus, this thesis will on no account discuss what belongs to (tran)sport. That is to say, everything from longboard, penny board, wave board to free board all fall into the category of vehicles. moreover, the athletic vision under which skateboard should be regarded as a sport with training, performances, scores, coaches, and so forth will be ignored as much as possible. The following text treats skateboarding in its most singular form - a concave board made of 7 plies of maplewood screwed with iron trucks holding 4 urethane wheels, put together it creates a toy made to play with the city - a ‘devil’s toy’2.
Georges Perec wrote a book originally entitled “Espèces d’espaces” in French.
2 Claude Jutra released the first skateboard movie in 1966, depicting a burgeoning phenomenon in the streets of Montreal. The original movie is called ‘Rouli-Roulant’ in French and ‘The Devil’s Toy’ is the adapted English title. Today, Arte and the National Film Board of Canada just realeased an updated version consisting of 14 short movies of 6 minutes talking about skateboarding in different parts of the world. One theme: “universal story of rebellion, intolerance and the refusal of conformity.”.
why This? why now? “Skateboarders hate the idea of being “in fashion” simply because being out of it is so much more satisfying.” (Luke Leitch, 2014)
There is something fascinating about how the perception towards skateboarding has evolved. It started with a sense of admiration in California’s idiosyncratic state of mind defined by surf, adventure, and other liberal morals for those early skateboarders who fly over Los Angeles looking for empty pools to skate in. Since then, skateboarding has spread across the 5 continents while continually reinventing itself by acclimating (ou acculturating) to new terrains. Despite the fact that we could have celebrated the practice’s 50th anniversary just a while back, skateboarding keeps being referred to as a subculture, not only by academics (Beal, 1995; young, 2004; Synder, 2011) but also in mainstream media. Skateboarding is embedded in multiple social/historical realities consequently generating manifold meanings for both participants and laypersons. The other day, I was told “but wait, skateboarding, that’s over right? All I see now are kids on scooters”. From an outside point of view, it might seem that way but what is seen in the everyday life is just the tip of iceberg. Skateboarding has shaped and defined our urban life as well as our culture in every nook and cranny. while it is hard to find consensus around an approximate number of aficionados worldwide due to the complex task of quantifying practitioners that are part of no federations whatsoever, estimations can provide a sense of breadth. Donnelly (2008) estimated 11 millions participants in the uS alone, in europe they are thought to be 4 millions (marché du Skate, 2011) and 20 millions of them would exist on the globe (France Info, 2017). In other words, nearly 3% of the population in the uS against 0.5% of europe cherish the wooden board, showing a strong hold of the skateboard culture in the uS. In 2007, the Ny Times was already pricing the skateboard industry worth of 5 billion uS dollars in 2007 (higgins, 2007). Skateboarding has also bred enormous clothing accessories companies, creating a fashion outreaching to non-skaters, influencing music genres such as punk and hip-hop, produced quantity of media material, among other things. The fact that Adidas and Nike also jumped into the market is symptomatic of a general infatuation (gomez, 2012). In the large scheme of things, I want to argue that skateboarding can not continue to be observed as a (sub)culture -but rather as an activity being incorporated in culture with the ethos of a subculture. recent events have shown how skateboarding is subject to mainstreaming, commodification, professionalisation and Neo-Liberalism forces (Lombard, 2016). Concomitantly, spaces for skateboarding are increasingly being honoured, refurbished, recognised, fostered and above all built -to the point where we can essentially talk about a cult of place. Below is a rambling series of events that altogether shed light on the reasons of why this and why now?
in 2013, montreal’s most famous found
spot was preserved. Big-o is a curvy tunnel looking-like structure that once belonged to the olympic Stadium. In 2011, due to foreseen construction works on the stadium, the beloved pipe was meant to be destroyed. Thanks to montreal’s skateboarder -Barry walsh and marc Tison, the block of concrete was uprooted and displaced twenty meters further. The president of montreal’s olympic Figure 1: Picture of the uprooting operations in Montreal. (Source: VidaSkate)
ground understood the craze around the forlorn terrain and supported the preservation procedure. (young, 2013)
in 2014, rom skatepark built in the late-seventies in east London has been granted the grade II status by the British Department of Culture, media and Sport for being a Cultural heritage of “national importance and of special interest” (Telegraph, 2014). in 2014, skateboarders of London saved uk’s iconic space for skateboarding (Borden, 2014). The case of Southbank is a significant example of how skaters are gaining ground for its approval and recognition. under the Southbank Centre stands one of the most well-known british spot for skateboarding. what started as a “found spot” 50 years ago became a mecca for all amateurs, enhanced by the exemplary cohabitation between skaters, passers-by and the institution above. In 2013, the Southbank Centre planned a redevelopment directly threatening the beloved skate but offered to finance an alternative space -100 meters down the road- with a “pastiche” skate park. Nonetheless, skaters gathered and founded Long Live Southbank – a non-profit organisation which aims at protecting the “treasured space” in its existing aspect for the sake of cultural and social importance. At the end of 2 years of legal struggle, the skaters won the battle and signed a deal that ensures the preservation of the space as it is. The movement also benefited from the mayor’s approbation -Boris johnson who spoke against the destruction by claiming the undercroft was “a part of the cultural fabric of London”. These days, current mayor Sadiq khan- has awarded a 700.000 £ fund for the refurbishment and enlargement of the Southbank venue on the undercroft (ukFunraising, 2018). in august 2016, the International olympic Committee has announced the addition of five new sports for the 2020 Tokyo olympic games, among which can be found baseball, surfing, climbing, karate and skateboarding. while this announcement has thrown a monkey wrench in the skateboarding world, the inherent intentions of the olympic committee were made clear: « historic step in bringing the games to young people »(ICo, 2016). even though the decided version of the competition is still blurry, one thing is sure, skateboarding can no longer hide behind its motto « half a sport half an art form ». Skateboarding is to be presented on a worldwide scale as an olympic sport and this is how all non-enthusiasts are going to see it. No matter how heated is the
debate within skateboarders, the access to the olympic extends the question to actors outside of skateboarding which may include urban planners, regulation makers, parents, kids, woman which is of utter significance for its future. Thus, the question lies more into how the mainstreaming of skateboarding will contribute to its evolution rather than the philosophical question of its legitimacy. most importantly, skateboarding is not taken as seriously as expected even among the potential athletes. Indeed, a certain number of professionals are already regretting the drug test induced by the olympic as an exclusionary measure. This defiant- if not disdainful attitude towards the olympics is symptomatic of the non-competitive ethos of skateboarding, an informal sport where practitioners want to remain outside of the circuit. whilst the olympics are certainly a blatant instance of a change occurring in the skateboarding world, other events are also pointing out the other direction.
Figure 2: Examples of Pro-skaters opinions portrayed in Trasher Magazine, 2016.
since 2013, volunteers-based organisations such as SkatePal, Skateistan, Skateqilya, Skate Aid, make Life Skate Life, Concrete jungle Foundation, Free Skate movement among others are fostering skateboarding in disadvantaged parts of the world. Their motto lies in building skate parks free of charge for communities. They aspire to empower young generations through skateboarding in numerous countries e.g. Nepal, Iraq, Afghanistan, Palestine, jordania, myanmar, Angola, etc. in early June 2018, the unimaginable happened in London. Skaters with a feet in academia put together an event at The Barlett School of Architecture -uCL where people gathered to talk about skateboarding, touching upon the main themes of contemporary skateboarding culture. “we don’t know what we’re doing really” was the motto behind a 3-day event where a consequent crowd clustered around skateboarding, yes skateboarding. The event is called Pushing Boarders and topics such as gender, race, sexism were discussed by a series of finely selected panel. overall, a very much needed event and not without significance.
chapTer one Framing skaTeboarding
‘Une joUrnée sans vagUe’
it is certainly vain and purposeless to precisely trace back the birth of skateboarding but let’s recall it as the mutation of the surf board from the waves to the concrete which happened in California during the 60s. Zarka (2009) traces back signs of skateboarding as far back as 1935. The legend has it that it emerged from a combination of roller skate and scooters3. youngsters would torn roller skates into two pieces to screw the wheels into a piece of wood and add up a handlebar made of crate to construct their own scooter. once the crate removed for practical reasons, skateboarding was born. In the 1950s, frustrated Californian surfers considered skateboarding as an alternative for the days when there were no waves; insuring them an activity. Skateboarding was thus nicknamed ‘sidewalk surfing’4 and it did not take long before “skaters recombined body, board and terrain, simultaneously copying one activity (surfing) while initiating a second ‘skateboarding’ ” (Borden, 2001, p.33). Since the raisons d’être of skateboarding are inextricably linked with its older brother surfing; the first terrains in which surfers practiced skateboarding strongly resembled the waves of the ocean. That is to say any curved concrete surface doubled its purpose to also become a terrain, if not a playground. Los Angeles is
Figure 3: First skateboards in the 50s. (source: Ban This, Powell-Peralta, 1989).
known for being filled with private pools and drainage ditches, which were rapidly taken over by early skaters who found their dreamland and started a long-lasting adventure between skateboarding and cities.
4 In 1964, The Beach Boys were singing ‘Sidewalk Surfin’ : “Don’t be afraid to try the newest sport around, It’s catching on in every city and town”.
From The sewerage To The parking loT “Two hundred years of American technology has unwittingly created a massive cement playground of unlimited potential. But it was the minds of 11 year olds that could see that potential.” Craig Stecyk, 1975
during a certain period, ‘sidewalk surfing’ focused essentially on terrains that were wavelooking simulacrums of a raging sea. outreaching efforts were curtailed by technical limitations of the object itself. After a few decades of stagnation, simultaneous advancement in both technology in construction/materials and innovation on behalf of practitioners have allowed skateboarding to unleash itself from a horizontal approach of space. Skateboards were traditionally flat, a closer parent to the surfboard, however the shape evolved into having concave ends which opened up the way for a major turnover in: the ‘ollie’. eponymously named after the nickname of its first performer, ‘ollie’ describes the manoeuvre that enables the skater to leap into the air as if the board was stuck to its feet. First performed in 1978, the coming of the ‘ollie’ marked a revolutionary shift in skateboarding and enabled the skaters to see the city as a continuous realm where obstacles were no longer limitations but rather revealed potentials in a vast playground “including the otherwise mundane features of the urban environment such as benches, stairways, stairway handrails, planters, loading docks, and ledges” (Carr, 2010, p.992). Interestingly enough, it is when skateboard left the Californian pool that the mania started to reach out to a global audience. As explained by Dupont (2014, p.4): “The transition from the modern era to new-school skateboarding reconstructed the activity in three distinct ways: the introduction of street skating, the shunning of competitive contests in favour of collaboratively creating videos, and by attempting to localise and denationalise the economics of skateboarding.” The never-seen-before appropriation of public urban space proposed by certain skateboarders of the time contributed to drastically spread the activity worldwide. given that skateboard was not confined to landscapes with curved structures, it allowed for an emancipation in the practice which encouraged values such as spontaneity and freedom towards the built environment. In contrast to regulated sport, skateboarding was accessible to everyone, at any time, and pretty much in any asphalted location -making it a seemingly socially democratic enterprise (Atencion et al, 2009). From that point onwards, skateboarding went into endless directions, creating several sub-trends within street skateboarding itself but all aligned around a spirit of bewilderment towards urban prerogatives. As Borden (2001, p.186) puts it: “The new skateboarding sites are not private houses or suburban roads, hidden from public view, but university, campuses, urban squares, public institutions, national theatres, commercial of office plazas, as well as the more quotidian spaces of back streets, main roads, alleys, sidewalks, malls and
car parks.” The shift towards the urban fostered two attitudes among skateboarders, initiating a polarisation within the skateboard world. one one hand were those whose attitudes were epitomised by the motto “Skate&Destroy” -praising a rather punk attitude proud of damaging public urban furnitures portrayed by the influential Trasher magazine. on the other hand were those who swore allegiance to a “ Skate&Create” slogan (Transworld magazine) -which was more representative of a portion of skateboarders consciously claiming the creative benefits of shredding the urban common (Lombard, 2010). A duality still pertaining today with some skateboarders sticking to its skateboard core values while others will be going for gold in the olympics. All in all, skateboarding changed the rules of the ‘urban game’ by happening in the realm of the everyday and challenging “the dominant use of cities, which remain controlled by civic and corporate interests whose primary purpose is to run the place as a machine for consumption. Pesky skaters are at very least an unruly nuisance getting in the way of valued customers, or, worse still, are enjoying the cityscape for free, a specific symptom of a general teenaphobia.” (jeffries, 2015). unwittingly perhaps, skateboarders have been at the avant-garde of the indignation against the commodification of space. Literature is abundant when it comes to demonstrating signs of the privatisation of the common and the exclusionary aspect of city centres (sources). Paradoxically, the Planning movement in the uS which allowed companies to shape part of town to their image -through skyscrapers and plazas at their feet, paved perfect spaces for skateboarding to unfold. using the spaces created by modernist planning which resulted in poor-life conditions in cities comes with its lot of irony - an irony often claimed as kazi-Tani (2014) explains: “L’ironie revendiquée de la culture skate naît de la conscience que son existence même est contenue dans la manifestation spatiale de ségrégations sociales, économiques, voire ethniques aux Etats-Unis. La condition ironique du skate se manifeste dans sa conscience d’être un rejeton du réaménagement spatial moderniste disciplinaire et post- discipinaire, dans sa conscience de ne devoir son existence qu’à l’explosion de formes et d’aménagements qui ont privilégié la zonage de la circulation et de la consommation aux dépends de l’habitabilité […]”5 ocean howells explains how he could be considered a desirable member of society being a middle-class white-male going to work in downtown San Fransisco during working hours in the 80s, however, going back to the very same location later on with a skateboard, perceptions of him changed for the worst. (PushingBoarders Conference, 2018). Skateboarding has proven itself several times to be a transcendent use of space -suggesting human narratives where commercial space has replaced the notion of public space (Zarka, 2001, p. 37). Looking at today’s situation, it appears as though that skateboarding has made its way to approval, not without obstacles though. It has taken
5 “The claimed irony of skate culture comes from the consciousness of owing its existence to US’ spatial manifestation of social and economical segregations -even ethnic. Its ironic condition lies in the self-reflection of being the offspring of disciplinary and non-disciplinary modernist planning, as well as in full consciousness of resulting from a boom of shapes and planning which gave priority to traffic zoning and consumerism at the expense of liveability” (author’s translation).
Figure 4: Jed Anderson being chased away by a security guard in NY. Photo courtesy of Jonathan Mehring
quite some time for skateboarding to gain positive connotation and no longer be prejudiced as a nuisance which is paving the path to it being perceived as an asset. This ‘urban transcendentalism’ may have amazed a part of society, it has likewise repelled others. Being intrinsically urban, street skateboarding happens everywhere whether it is tolerated or ignored, which means that it also happens where it can disturb an established peacefulness in certain neighbourhoods, squares, or streets. Skateboarders have therefore been confronted with hostile behaviours coming from other city dwellers, frequently associated with a wider stigmatisation towards punks, teenagers as a whole, or even petty delinquency. Zarka (2011, p.17) is saying that “Le skateboard partage son terrain de jeu avec ceux qui ne jouent pas, c’est là véritablement sa première grande caractéristique. Il nest pas sans incidence sur notre quotidien, et cette perméabilité lui est souvent reprochée.”6. Looking at this conflict in the face cities becoming commodity, it can be argued that skaters disturb the unfolding consumerism by proposing a temporary use of space with pleasure-seeking as a leitmotiv (howells, 2001). with the tendency of city centres to fulfil commercial interest, skateboarding stands in the middle of the shared space of the everyday denying capitalist values. Alongside the popularisation of skateboarding, numerous plazas or urban furnitures were
6 “Skateboarding share its playground with those who do not play, here is primarily its major characteristic. It is not without affecting our daily routine and this permeability is often turned against skateboarding” (author’s translation).
methodically blocked access with so-called ‘hostile architecture’ -the art of keeping people away (De Fine Licht, 2017; howells, 2001). Defensive architecture, in its most violent form, manifests itself through ‘anti-homeless spikes’ set up to discourage sleeping on certain surfaces. most big cities are now filled with a variety of stratagems, ever more sadly ingenious with time. In the case of skateboarding, the measures take the form of ‘skate-stoppers’ -often metal clips installed on appealing curbs or marble benches to ostracise skateboarders from public space. De Fine Licht (2017, p.36) argues that defensive architecture is not bad per say since the other side of the coin implies allowing skaters “(almost) wherever they want in public spaces and would oblige decisionmakers to fulfil that right.”. In a way, skateboarding does not constitute an absolute right and can on no account take precedence over others’ right to the city. even if true, it poses the question of who the built environment belongs to and reflects upon controversial fights over space, where the city council is not always the referee. Sometimes ‘urban pathology’ (howells, 2001; Pitcher, 1997), sometimes urban spectacle, skateboarders have created a practice inextricably linked with the urban lifeworld -sometimes repressed sometimes celebrated. This intrusion in the public sphere is what makes difficult to class skateboarding in the sport category, the abundance and accessibility of terrains differs from more standardised sports -e.g. tennis or football- where a minimum of institutionalism is required. Similar to most urban activities questioning the establishment, street skateboarders have been thoroughly studied by academics –often with a certain awe, as an important figure of the unintended use of space.
an Urban whim “Quand les parents montrent le sable, l’enfant regarde le béton. (…) Vivre le béton comme un loisir est une gageure.” (Zarka, 2001, p.39)
The following part discusses skateboarding occurring in the streets i.e. street skateboarding, de facto ignoring the practice in dedicated spaces. From the outside, street skateboarding has triggered reactions far beyond the episodic bliss of stepping on a board. To the point where there is practically a mystical aura surrounding the figure of the skateboarder. Put in relation with michel de Certeau, guy Debord or henri Lefebvre, skateboarding seems to preoccupy a reflective attitude towards the urban landscape. It is been said that,“The urban practice of skateboarding implicitly yet continuously critiques contemporary cities” (Borden, 2001, p.173) and by doing so, “while rejecting the current condition of the city skateboarding begins to re-conceptualise the city. “(Benett, 2011)7. Several scholars have put efforts into bridging urban-life concepts with the disruptive ethos of skateboarding (Borden, 2001; kazi-Tani, 2014; Zarka; 2007; o’Connor, 2017). These various endeavours generate a theorised story of skateboarding -relatively far-fetched for the lambda skateboarder. one ascertainment that comes out frequently is the ability of skateboarding to “bewitch” the urban landscape with ludic intentions (Caroux, 1978). By playing with the urban realm, the act of skating can be seen as a vector, through its movements, of new spatial perceptions and new urban behaviours (During, 2009). At the same time, with the development of vast urban projects, skateboarders propose to use the anonymity of the poured concrete to their advantage by adapting to modernism rather than letting it alienate them (Caroux, 1978). In a way, skateboard consists in making sense of neutralised spaces; of the banal monotony induced by the disappearance of symbols and signs; what roland Barthes (1953) calls ‘Degree Zero’8. Following on this, raphael Zarka draws the parallel with other extreme sports highlighting a dichotomy: where skiers or surfers attempt to demystify figures of nature i.e. Big mountains or the ocean far from the everyday life, skateboarders are conquering the Big City. Consequently, the space of the everyday, should be then elevated to the rank of “urban leviathan” (Zarka, 2001, p.33) where the skateboarder embody the only worthy mountaineer. however, Borden (2001) considers the act of skateboarding as less of an escape and more of an “repositioning of the urban” adapting and reconciling the modernist city as ”another kind of space, as a concrete wave” (p.33).
Available from: http://www.archi-ninja.com/skateboarding-and-architecture/
8 The work of Roland Barthes on Zero Degree is often applied to architecture even though the original book “Writting Degree Zero.” referred more to the act of writting. Borden (2001) has used the expression “Zero Degree Architecture” to refer to spaces that have lost creativity, spaces that only induce ‘passivity and ennui’.
Figure 5: Kenny Reed - Kickflip. Hong Kong, China. Photograph courtesy of Jonathan Mehring
how not to draw parallels between skateboarding and the situationist dérive. going to explore a city in search for skateboard spaces equals seemingly with what situationists portrayed as the ‘psychogeography’9. “The situationists, who seem to have had difficulties getting on with «everyday» citizens, preferred to experiment on themselves, analysing the factors affecting their mood, behaviour, and choice of route as they wandered their «drift» (dérive) through the city.” (Sadler, 1998, p.20). Skateboarders interpret and experience the city in a peculiar manner. There is indeed the routine of going to established places (plaques tournantes). however, from time to time, skaters do go on a quest for new favourable terrains -roaming the city blinded by the appetite for shapes. In this sense, the similarities with the situationist are blatant. even though they do not go as far into claiming the subversive aspect of their practice, there is also an inherent critic of the functionalist city and its alienating power (Debord, 1957).
9 The term psychogeography was invented by the marxist Guy Debord in 1955, it refers to a playful and inventive manner of exploring an urban environment, looking for emotions and awareness rather than traffic and routinely-defined paths.
Iain Borden (2001) has dedicated almost a whole book at applying the work and thinking of henri Lefebvre to the history of skateboarding. By doing so, he highlights some parallels between skateboarding and the conceptualisation of the future city. “ we might follow Lefebvre’s interest in the festival, the café, the funfair and street, (Lefebvre, 1962) seeing skateboarding as a “people’s event” that escapes industrialisation. But what is the skateboarding event, and to where does it escape? (…) If everyday life is to be built again, drawing on the opportunities and purposeful attitudes as yet constrained within the new town, what are the new desires, and how are they to be expressed? ” (ibid, p.205). Notwithstanding elasped time between the two texts, this ascertainment poses the greater question of common narratives for cities. Furthermore, Borden adds another quote from Lefebvre to dig under the dilemma of planning cities for people: “ The thing is that men have two different ways of creating and producing, and as yet these have not intersected: spontaneous vitality and abstraction. on the one hand, in pleasure and play; on the other, in seriousness, patience and painful consciousness, in toil. “(Lefebvre, 1962, p.92). If urbanism is a simultaneous expression of ideology and practice (Lefebvre, 68), skateboarders situate themselves at the forefront of urbanism, giving meaning to the built environment beforehand, hence outperforming so-called ‘urbanists’.
Figure 6: Drawings illusrating the concept of ‘Plaques Tournantes’ by Guy Debord & Asger John (1957)
Attributing so many properties to skateboarding is not innocent and by extension gives skateboarding responsibilities regarding living environments in general. many times, it has fed the debate on ‘the right to the city’ by challenging the notion of private/public property in urban contexts, As Carr (2010, p.991) puts it: “The dialectical process by which the practices of urban youth and property logics have co-evolved is vividly illustrated by the ways the “lawless” culture of urban skateboarding has developed around, responded to, and even transformed the shifting property-based landscapes of the city. “ . Looking at skateboarding through the lens of scholars such as michel De Certeau with his strategy/ tactics terms is blatant with one ascertainment: skateboard is an inherently tactical activity adapting to everyday’s environment by tinkering the urban space. “Charlie Chaplin multiplies the possibilities of his cane: he does other things with the same thing and he goes beyond the limits that the determinants of the object set on its utilisation. In the same way, the walker transforms each spatial signifier into something else.” (De Certeau, 1998, p.98). The same analogy could have been drawn with skateboarders. Caroux (1978, p.34) was also suggesting that “Le skate se présente comme une véritable volonté de transiger avec la ville, d’en faire un monde immédiatement habitable et où l’on puisse trouver un plaisir quotidien.”10. reenforcing a ‘Certeauian’ vision of the city. These remarks are once again associated with a certain duty if not a responsibility to enhance the quality of urban life. Skateboarding is reflective of an emotional engagement with place (o’Connor,2017) unlike other sports requiring more institutionalised infrastructures such as specific fields or teammates. In contrast, the terrains of skateboarding are abundant, constantly accessible and permutable. wilsey (2014,113) elaborates on this, claiming that, “skateboarding is bringing emotion to emotionless terrain – unloved parking lots, vacant corporate downtowns long after the office workers are home’. Thus, stressing the peculiarity with which skateboarders inhabit spaces that are overlooked by others. By ‘territorializing’ their discoveries and subsequent performances they actively construct a ‘real’ sense of place (massey, 1993) albeit the happiness is shared only by a portion of aficionados11. By breaking down the city into shapes and curves, skateboard attaches another meaning to space, going as far as changing names of certain urban furnitures as an act of appropriation12. Boosted by a prolific media coverage through videos, magazines, and now Instagram, skateboarders have created a geography of their own.
10 “Skateboard introduces itself as a genuine will to transcend the urban landscape, making it a immediate living environment where we can take pleasure on a daily basis” (author’s translation) 11 Re-interpreatation of Christopher McCandless’ last words “ Happiness only real when shared” portrayed in the movie Into the Wild. 12 This phenomenon is mostly true in non-english speaking countries. Since the vocabulary designating spaces originated in the US, the English term pertained in other languages. Thus, where a normal French person would see a “ main courante” the French skateboarder will notice a “ handrail”.
Paul o’Connor (2017) suggests that skateboard geography is something to be taken seriously. he makes a parallel between skaters visiting key locations and principles of a secular pilgrimage. Skateboard is something highly spatial, giving importance to iconic sites the same way rugby fans would rush to eden Park in Auckland. Street skateboarding has frozen certain localities into a historical space/time psyche, thus leading to various urban testimonies made possible by the triad of space, people and media coverage (o’Connor, 2017). with social media, skateboarding culture is spreading at a digital pace, creating something unprecedented: skaters active on social media accumulates an enormous number of geographical images, producing mental maps of cities through the unique lens of skateboard. A common data base where adherents can recognise a location by glimpsing a picture of a set of stairs, even if they have never set foot there. “It is worthy of reflection, how possible is it for a tennis fan to visit a court and play with the williams sisters, or roger Federer? Skateboarding places are open and democratic, to other skateboarders.” (o’Connor, 2017, p.9). however, this culture of place is at risk. Skateboarding has drastically changed during the last decades and witnessed a dwindling of street habits in favour of dedicated spaces. A potential loss confounding the skateboard community as expressed by o’Connor (2017, p.14) “with skateboarding’s inclusion in the 2020 olympics we must consider how the increased popularity of the sport will correspond with this sacred past. will skateboarders sustain the importance of urban place? one answer is in skateboard media, if magazines, social media and video continue to dominantly represent skateboarding in the streets, urban space will continue to be significant.”.
‘we don’T know whaT we’re doing really’ “Most people use the city as a way to go from A to B. We use the city to play.” (Leo Valls, interview in KingPin Magazine, 2018.)
discussions around skateboarding are too often imbued with the question of categorising it. From the inside, skateboarders refuse to label it as a sport and would rather refer to it as an “art form” or “a creative practice. however, most study seem to narrow it down to a “ lifestyle sport”. The ex-windsurfer whelinda Beaton has written a book on all sports that do not embrace traditional ‘sports’ values, activities favouring vertigo instead of competition and glory. From the outside, skateboarding has fallen into numerous confusing designations ranging from “action/extreme sports”, “urban sports” to “wild activities” (Aouest & griffet, 2000) or “risk-oriented sports”, “unorganized sports”, “sportive subculture” (Donnelly,1985) and even “free sports”. As blurry as this might be, the difficulty in labelling something a priori as simple as a piece of wood with 4 wheels is significant of the elusive aspect of skateboarding. This difficulty is even greater when it comes to categorising it as a form of transport. recently, the city of madrid has shown a vast misunderstanding of skateboarding by proposing a law aiming at “reduce sidewalk traffic”. To do so, the text proposed to ban skateboard from the streets under the guise that it was causing congestion on sidewalk. whereas scooters and bikes would be relocated to street lanes, skateboarders would not be allowed to be there either. This regulation was accompanied by an attempt to limit skateboarding to skateparks as it is “where it belongs” -given the fact that “it is a sport” (Dobija-Nootens, 2018). It is hard to label skateboarding as a sport for one reason: where other sports adapt to the city (a tennis court fits where there is space) skateboard occurs by bending the city to its need. on a certain level, skateboard is considered to be a lot more, as suggested by Lombard (2016, p.11): “Academic discussion reveals various and often contradictory understandings of skateboarding: it is a multi–million-dollar industry, recreational activity, sport, children’s pursuit, fad, underground movement, criminal activity, form of transport, aesthetic practice, and much more.” It could be summed up more simply. In a larger sense, skateboarding is just a late manifestation of what was conceptualised in 1949 by johan huizinga, a contemporary version of the homo Ludens. “There is a third function, however, applicable to both human and animal life, and just as important as reasoning and making namely, playing.” (huizinga, 1949). In addition to this, the homo Ludens who skates can also be attributed the title homo urbanus (Paquot, 1990). Thinking that “L’urbain absorbe, en quelque sorte, physiquement et psychiquement l’humanité.”13 (Damon, 2008) skateboarding appears as an adaptation of playing to an artificial environment. Then, if “culture
“The urban somehow absorbs humankind, physically and psychically” (author’s translation)
arises in the form of play, that it is played from the very beginning. (…) It is through this playing that society expresses its interpretation of life and the world.” (huizinga, 1949, p.46) skateboarding is a contemporary manifestation of urban culture. Following on this, raphael Zarka used the nomenclature of roger Caillois to inscribe skateboarding in a larger conception of play. By studying the four main categories established by Caillois -i.e. Agôn, mimicry, Ilinx & Alea, he adapts the pattern to classify skateboarding into a “controlled vertigo”. Alike to the stuntman realising prowess with a car, or the tightrope walker walking in between two buildings who manage to step in our everyday, skaters magnify the secured everyday space -unwittingly creating a spectacle (Zarka, 2011). what matters is not the spectacle but the new relation between body and space it suggests, the fact that skaters provide a creative and inclusive approach to public space -free of charge. The mismatch in naming skateboarding also generates a mismatch in the way it is being territorialised. Skateparks contain an inherent contradiction since it intends to ‘park’ an activity in a space replicating its natural environment within it. The same goes for the proliferation of ‘artificial waves’ recreating ocean conditions in a secured pond on demand. Nevertheless, the issue faced by administrations when trying to fit skateboarding into a box would not be so complex if urban councils were satisfied with the label “play”. Nowadays, the ever-growing importance of ‘urban sports’ hatches both conflicting complementary relationships between the city and play opportunities. A problem exacerbated by the will of urban regimes to encompass all urban phenomenons under specific regulations. For instance, the City of Paris already defined skateboarding as a ‘dangerous activity’ in 197814. To avoid trouble, they set a municipal-by-law delimitating special locations where skateboarding is to happen. Nowadays, even if the general attitude towards skateboard tends to be more of tolerance, consensus has not been reached to propose an up-to-date regulation.
Figure 7: Extract from Roger Caillois book:’s ‘Des Jeux et des Hommes’ (1964).
Throughout the years, the presence of skateboarders in public space has been somewhat of a variable constant. given the non-existence of a reliable federation, its popularity is hardly measurable -streets observations and magazines remain the main source of informations. Brooke (1999) states that skateboard has gone through four “successive waves” of popularity spreading from the 1960s to the 2000s. each of the waves were successively fading away because of several factors among which “bans by cities and/or monitoring by police based on health
and safety concerns” (Donnelly, 2008).
however, the fourth wave is still alive thanks to the promotion of “ a rebellious attitude” simultaneously promoted by anonymous practitioners and specialised magazines during the 1990s. Soon to be an olympic sport, discussions on the popularity of skateboarding are not so relevant anymore, or at least not as an activity under risk of extinction. The fifth wave seems to be one of acceptance and incorporation, one of skate park building, one where skateboarding needs to find consensus - all in all, one of skepticism. Skateboarding has always been represented in big events and it is probably not one more shiny competition that will contribute to the death of street skateboarding. Apparently, the olympics are also likely to create a more inclusive practice for future generation of skaters -including women. According to Borden (2016), the olympics is a winning move: “Skateboarding might just help to rescue
Figure 8: Pictures from semi-permanent skateboard attributes in Paris. Up: Place de la République; Down: Place de la Bastille. Source: author’s caption
the olympics from its over reliance on “established” sports, international rivalries and high-level performance measuring. Skateboarding suggests that other attitudes toward competition can exist, in which personal achievement is undoubtedly celebrated, but always within a more pervasive culture of idiosyncratic innovation, shared engagement and general lifestyle.” In addition to this, the skepticism caused by the olympics is further relieved by the perspective of fundings opportunity rather than the honour of being labelled as an organised sport. In fact, a lot of funding for recreation facilities is based around the olympics (Thomas Barker, 2018)15 and even the coach of the french olympic skateboarding team considers the impact on the skate culture “outweighed by the benefits of being able to get more funding for skateparks”. (mathias Thomer, Free Skateboard magazine, 2018).
15 Thomas Barker is the executive director of the International Association of Skateboard Companies. https://www.independent.co.uk/news/long_reads/skateboarding-new-york-skateparks-brooklyn-olympics-urban-development-a8297511.html
chapTer Two spaces oF skaTeboarding
From ‘Urban TranscendenTalism’ To skaTe park bUilding “The best skatepark a city could give to its skaters would be a piece of land with nothing on it.” (Nels Gravstad, Trasher Magazine, 1992)
building skateparks is nothing new, what is new is how it’s being done. Among the questions raised above lies the difficulty of addressing skate parks. It is crucial to mention that skate parks is as old as skateboarding itself and the types of infrastructure are as diverse as the generations of skaters. however, one trend persists in the history of skateparks: they are often mimic shapes previously encountered in ‘found land’. In a way, skateparks represent a mise en abîme of urban landscapes since skateboarding is “constituted by and constitutive of the specific environments where it is performed, with territorial and legal shifts marking major transformations in popular practices.” (Carr, 2010, p.991). After the boom of the 60s in the uS, several companies started pouring concrete to create wavelike infrastructure, a simulacrum of what was skated back in the days. By the end of 1977, 15 to 20 skate parks were already effective in the uS (Borden, 2001, p.59). Such spaces were built by companies imbued with commercial interests and thus charged entrance fees. The building mania expanded quickly from California throughout the uS and soon after to the rest of the world. Bearing in mind that skateparks from that period proposed variations of the same natural object: pools; curviness and sloppiness were the guiding principles. It may be hard to believe from a contemporary standpoint but even La Villette in Paris was home to a vast skateboarding track. In 1978, the first issue of Skate France International magazine was dedicating an article to the ‘year of skate parks’16: “Depuis un an, l’Europe entière s’est mise au skate. L’Angleterre et l’Allemagne, les premières, ont obtenu les moyens de construire des skate-parks. Tous les fans français attendaient des pistes pour pratiquer leur sport favori. C’est Saint-Jean-de-Luz qui a donné le feu vert. Le premier circuit a été mis en chantier en mai 1977, et ouvert au public le 14 juillet de la même année. Son créateur, Jean-François Heuty a enregistré
Figure 9: Plans for La Villette skatepark, Michel Londinsky, architecte,1977.
16 Claude Queyrel, a French historian specialised in skateboard created a website as a “french-speaking skate press anthology”. The sites serves as a platform to list old skate magazines archives. Available from: http://www.endlesslines.free. fr/
9 000 entrées en 6 mois, à raison de 10 francs la demi-journée. […] Les jeunes espagnols n’ont qu’à franchir la frontière pour enfiler leurs gants et se coiffer du casque, car dans tout skate-park les protections sont obligatoires ! Pensez, le plus jeune pratiquant a deux ans et demi, et le plus âgé soixante-quinze ans…”17 The quality of the constructed spaces contributed to the progression of skaters, enabling new tricks to appear. The success was immediate but did not last very long. By the beginning of the 80s, investors looked back on their spendings and struggled to make end meets. As if that was not enough, the number of injuries flourished and skate parks owners were faced with liability and insurance troubles - given that parents of injured children would often press charges (Zarka, 2009; weyland, 2002). As a result, skate parks were destroyed in favour of more profitable activities and by the year 1982 “nearly all purpose-built concrete skate parks were either begun or amended” (Borden, 2001, p.73). until the nineteens-nineties, skateboarding was loosing massively in popularity to the public and thus started the era of competition on “half-pipes” .i.e structure with the shape of a ‘u’ where skaters perform tricks on each edge in a pendulum manner. During this period, concomitant with the apparition of street skateboarding, certain skaters gathered and built their own skate park on wastelands. The most blatant example is the ‘Burnside Project’ under a bridge in Portland. Before becoming a worldwide icon, its pioneers were successively ignored and threatened by the city authority. Soon after, these last validated the project as a “ experiment in community policing, a space without private ownership” (Borden, p.77). howells (2018)18 argues that the city council’s approval was more influenced by a perspective of maintaining property values. In certain instances, skateparks can provide a community space where a vacant lot would fail at doing so, encouraging deviant behaviours. All things considered, this case shows how skateboarding has the power to appropriate space with the approval of urban institutions -albeit under certain conditions. (see Borden, 2001, chapter 4: Constructed Space) The period between the 90s and the early 2000s has left nothing but a gloomy heritage of skate parks in europe, most of it is either in decay or has been refurbished. Faced with an burgeoning number of street skateboarders, municipalities attempted to contain the practice by proposing dedicated areas -often outside of city centres as a pushing-out measure. The poor-quality of the design of these areas was often dissuasive and quite paradoxically, in turn, they contributed to strengthen street skateboarding. As aforementioned, cities have simultaneously enabled street skateboard to burst into life while
17 Since one year, the whole of Europe has embraced skateboarding. The UK and Germany were the first to obtain building permits. The construction works of the first track started in may 1977 and opened to the public the 14th of July the same year. Its creator, Jean-François Heuty accounted for 9000 entries in 6 months, 10 French francs was the price for half a day […] Young spaniards just have to cross the border to put on their gloves and helmets since protections are compulsory! Imagine, the youngest participant has two and a half year old, and the oldest seventy five…” (author’s translation) 18 Interview given for the The Free Skateboard Magazine. Available from: http://www.freeskatemag.com/2018/08/15/skateboarding-academia-public-space-a-conversation-with-ocean-howell/
being the receptacle for dedicated skate areas. Nothwistanding the bitterness of a vain fight spread over a period of 20 years, there are signs that cities are now considering skateboarding an acceptable societal thing. This makeover has been accompanied with a change in mindset of the general public -probably also due to a shift in skateboarders projection of themselves. There is also an ever-growing recognition of skateboarding’s value as a beneficial activity for social cohesion, but also as a lever for urban renewal (Borden,2009) - reaching further out than the physical imprint skateboarding leaves in cities. Contrary to the 70s, skate parks are accessible anytime and free of charge. -expect indoor ones. wearing protections went from mandatory to advised; and although specific rules apply, wounded skateboarders can no longer sue the city for personal injury liability (howell, 2008). The motto ‘use at your own risk’ has transformed skateparks into risk-prone public spaces to the point where ‘micropolis ‘skatepark located in helsinki and designed by jaane Saario received a “european Prize for urban Public Space” in 2008 -skateparks provide grounds for social activities aside from skateboarding. Still most of the time labelled “skate park”, these places reach top position on cities’ agenda - they can even constitute a manoeuvre to put a city on the map. For instance, the city of haderslev located in the jutland region in Denmark inaugurated a luxuriant arena for ‘unorganised sports’ -the main attribute being an indoor/outdoor skate park. The fact that this city of 60 000 inhabitants invested 34 million Dkk in a facility for skateboard proves that city councils perceive benefits in ‘lifestyle sports’. In the same vein, the city of Luxembourg has also made a step forward by investing 2 millions euros in a corpulent skate park in a central location along the Pétrusse valley. During the last decade or so, the way cities administration (over)look at spaces of skateboarding has substantially changed. In certain cases, it could almost be argued that skateboarding has joined the urban mainstream (Borden, 2015) by having its own safe place in key urban locations. All things considered, the quality in terms of design is a key factor in the frequentation rate of these spaces. The number of municipally-supported skate parks has flourished in a majority of european countries. on most occasions, the architects happened to be also skateboarding. A success attributed to the serendipity of having skateboarders now in position of handling design softwares as well as the cement mixer and the trowel. A shift not too banal in the face of contemporary urban practices - meaning that skateboarders have the ability to nurture urban commons -first-hand.
a visUal overview oF Terrains 30
Pool riding, 1970s (Source: Picture from Craig Fineman.)
Dominio Skatepark, Brazil, Inaugurated in 1988. (Source: unknown)
Escondido water reservoir, San Diego, 1976. (Source: Picture from Brad Logan)
Bowl du Prado, Marseille, inaugurated in 1991 (Source: Picture fromTeddy Morellec)
Carlsbad, California, the first skatepark. 1976-2005 (Source: Unknown)
Street Skateboarding, Hotel de Ville, Lyon. (Source: ÂŠ Fred Mortagne)
La Villette snake run, Paris, 1978. (Source: Archive from Endless Lines)
DC Shoes first Skate Plaza, Ohio, Inaugurated in 2005 (Source: Archive from DC SHoes)
La Rotonde, Strasbourg, 2007. (Source: unknown)
Israel’s Plads, Copenhagen, 2014 (Source: © COBE)
ALM ‘DIY’, Vienna, 2015 (Source: Boardmag.com)
‘Skate Dot’ in Philadelphia, 2013. (Source: Spohn Ranch)
Les Ursulines, Bruxelles, 2006 (Source: Image courtesy of Filip Dujardin)
Rosa Park, Asira Al-Shamaliya, Palestine, 2015 (Source: SkatePal)
Stapelbäddsparken, Malmö, 2014. (Source: SkateMalmö.com)
Skate Agora, Olympic SkatePark, Barcelona, 2017. (Source: Lateral Thinking)
a look aT ‘skaTarchiTecTs’ in eUrope “Skateboarding is no longer something people fear. The skate punk of the late 1980s is now a suburban dad.” (Ihaza, 2018)
since the 2000s, the skateboard mania is accompanied by a coming of age of its advocates, meaning that skaters have permeated all the layers of society. The fact that some of them hold a degree in architecture or landscape architecture has led to the creation of design offices capable of fostering the design and construction of newfangled spaces for skateboarding. Throughout europe, there is now an estimated number of 10 offices working exclusively, semi-exclusively or sporadically on spaces for skateboarding of all sorts. Some offices remain ‘classic’ architects responding to various public tenders including skatepark-specific ones (mBA, L’escaut, etc.) while others tend to be put in a box and stick to skateboard-related architecture (hall04, jaane Saario, etc.) while it is true that skate parks did not wait for skateboarders to build them, the quality and quantity of the resulting spaces has drastically evolved. There has been a shift in paradigm with skateboarders entering the practice of landscape architecture. For instance, France is seeing an unprecedented momentum of skate parks being built all of which are conducted by two offices – Constructo based in marseille and hall04 in Cap Breton. Constructo designed and built more than a hundred skate parks during the last 20 years, though some of them are located in metropolitan areas like Paris, Lyon or geneva, most of the projects can be found in more provincial cities or municipalities. Further north, a Swedish company called Pivotech is also leaving its mark on the Scandinavian soil with around 40 projects delivered over the last 10 years. The undeniable infatuation for building spaces for skateboarding is the result of a combination of events; on one side decision makers have shown a tenderisation towards skateboarding and on the other side, architecture groups with the knowledge to design appropriate infrastructure have appeared. each office is thus faced with the inherent constraints of their local context and subsequent regulations, mitigated political will, varying budgets. The synopsis of projects differs from one locality to another, encapsulating each time a different definition of skateboard urbanism. It is also important to differentiate the spaces from their creators, as confessed by Constructo (2018), the emergence of a space for skateboarding is often the result of long-term struggle from a group of local skateboarders
Figure 10: Integrated skateboarding attributes in Paris, Leon Cladel Street. (Source: Constructo)
Figure 11: Visualisation of architectural offices working with skateboarding in Europe (Source: authorâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s work)
Jaane Saario Betongpark
Pivotech SNE Glifberg+Lykke
Yamato Living Ramps
SCOB Daniel Yabar
location: marseille, France
date of creation: estimate 2011
date of creation: 2000
status: Skatarchitect focusing
status: Skatarchitects office focusing
number of projects: 20
number of projects: 100+
location: Barcelona, Spain
location: Cap-Breton, France
date of creation: 2005
date of creation: 2006
status: Architect office not focused on
status: Skatarchitect office focusing on
number of projects: 6
number of projects: +20
mbA/matthias bauer Associates
location: Stuttgart, germany
location: Copenhagen, Denmark
date of creation: 1997
date of creation: 2006
status: Architect office not focused on
status: skater/architect focusing mostly on
number of projects: 3
number of projects: 20+
location: Bruxelles, Belgium
location: malmö, Sweden
date of creation: 1989
date of creation: 2008
status: Architect office not focused on
status: skatarchitects focusing on skateparks
number of projects: 35
number of projects: 2 yamato living ramps
location: hannover, germany
location: oslo, Norway
date of creation: 2012
date of creation: undefined
status: skater/architect/builders focusing on
status: skaters/architects/builders focusing on
number of projects: 40
number of projects: 20
location: Copenhagen, Denmark
location: helsinki, Finland
date of creation: 2009
date of creation: 2006
status: ex-proskater+architect focusing on
status: ex-proskater/landscape architect
focusing on skateparks
number of projects: 18
number of projects: 20+
pressuring municipalities until it comes to life. In certain cases, the municipality has a clear idea of what it should look like, and in other instances, future users play a strong role in the design process through participatory planning. As ‘skatarchitect’ Søren Nordal enevoldsen puts it: “you sort of get what you get” meaning that architects have limited room to manoeuvre when they win a public tender.
Figure 12: Skatepark in Santa Lucia Vitoria (Source: image courtesy of Daniel Yabar)
At the same time, Constructo admits that most of their projects are part of a wider sport facility where spaces for skateboarding stands along a complex with football fields, playgrounds or gymnasiums. This is partly due to a ‘French fascination’ for zoning, with a certain timidity to cross borders between land uses. Nevertheless, Constructo led one project which redefined what a skate park
Figure 13: Map of France’s skateparks in 1978 (Source: Archive from Skate France International, issue n6, 1978)
could be and it was thanks to the willingness of local politicians to move forward. In the second arrondissement of Paris, a group of neighbouring skateboarders came up with
a proposal to transform a dead-end street into a space for skateboarding. Paris being highly dense in the centre, the intention was to have a facility closer to their homes. The leftist mayor at the time approved of the project and launched a public tender, involving commerces and neighbours adjacent to Léon Cladel; the street in question (see Figure 10). As stated in the Pushing Boarders conference of 2018, skateboarding is now an organised community capable of behaving as such. The emergence of skate park designers enables skateboarding to blend into the urban fabric. most of them work practically only on skate parks but every once in a while, projects arise where the notion of skate park is being challenged. with such powers comes the underlying question of democracy in city making. who are theses spaces for? what narrative do they carry? what type of sub-practice within skateboarding are they encouraging? olympics? multi-functional spaces?
Figure 14: Map of skateparks built by Hall04 and Constructo in France - as of 2017. (Source: Hall04 and Constructo’s website + author’s visualization)
The skaTepark dilemma “However, the emergence of skateplazas as designated areas for skateboarding signifies the legal exclusion of skateboarders from urban spaces.” (Vivoni, 2009, p.146)
skateparks proliferation is to be looked at critically. If skateboarding is (or used to be) political and tweaks the urban fabric then, how to address skateboarding facilities without seeing it as a catalyser of an undesirable activity (or and undesirable population) -having in mind that public spaces are the physical embodiment of democracy. An interesting element common to modern skate parks, as opposed to the skate parks found in the 70s, is their attribute of being public - spaces designed for a specific use available for all on an auto-regulated basis. A publicness in conflict with wider issues around public space as mentioned by Freeman & riordan (2002): “whilst the term ‘public’ implies openness to all, there are in fact numerous rules both implicit and explicit that govern who uses open space and how.” Furthermore, it is commonly argued that children are the black sheep of planning (jeffries, messer & Swords, 2013), a consequence of changing perception imbued with ‘media-inspired moral panic’ classifying youth in itself as a nuisance (wyn & white, 1997). Literature on the relation between teenagers and city centres is abundant and terms such as ‘nuisance’, ’social incivility’ (wooley & johns, 2001), ‘threats to public order’ (Németh, 2006) or ‘anti-social behaviour’ (Carter, martin & wood, 2014) are often used to describe teenagers hanging around in cities.with this issue in mind, spaces for skateboarding can easily become the result of a “containment” measure (howell,2008). Contained in the sense that skateboarding as a deleterious practice needs to happen in delimited areas, far away from the comfort zones of other users. Nowadays in western countries, there is hardly any mid-sized city or town without a dedicated space for ‘action sports’. For example, in New-Zealand a rare proportion of urban areas (i.e. above 5000 inhabitants) is exempt of such facilities. Furthermore, the quality of the provided spaces is remarkable. It obviously comes down to the budget allocated for sports, but New-Zealand also adopted a rare posture on the topic by including skateboarders in the process (wylie, 2000).
Figure 15: Drawing on the crisis of street skateboarding (Source: DeCinzo, Metro News)
with such effort in providing proper skate parks, the municipalities locked down on forbidding skateboards where it was not intended for (wyn & white, 1997). more recently, similar endeavours are being undertaken in certain cities such as Barcelona, madrid or Philadelphia where the municipality concomitantly caters for skate parks while passing prohibition laws against street skateboarding. The discourse behind skateparks undoubtedly rises the question of segregation, albeit there are avenues for reflection which “develop a response that, whilst acknowledging the rights of skaters, also acknowledges the legitimate rights of other members of the public to use open space.” (Freeman & riordan, 2002, p.304). Notwithstanding the ability of such spaces to foster a skateboard scene or a community, conditions on which a skate park is being delivered are often ambiguous and charged with a double-edged sword. ocean howell argues that the flourishing number of skateparks in the united-States is to be looked at cautiously since “many cities have provided these facilities on certain neoliberal conditions.”(2008, p.475) . The article approaches the ‘skatepark revolution’ questioning the genuine motivations behind the ever-growing demand for such terrains. he claims that skate parks assume desired personal qualities of young citizens, since providing playground for them is unarguably a way to keep them playing away from the street. By doing so, these terrains inherently advocate certain ‘desirable’ social values – namely “responsibility, self-sufficiency, and entrepreneurialism.” (ibid, p.476). Bearing in mind that, a lot of skateparks now serves as wasteland due to poor design. ‘Skatarchitects’ convey that a fair portion of the skateparks they delivered are part of a wider sport complex -sharing the ground with football pitches and gymnasium. In addition to this, much of the projects are also the result of consecutive demands from youngsters to the municipality. Two sizeable details that strengthens the analysis of howell: “Skateparks are a selective investment in the reskilling of young people to navigate this new civic environment.” (ibid, p.480). whilst skate parks may indeed arise alongside a neo-liberal reshaping of societies, which normalise behaviours, they have also been depicted as precious sites of inclusiveness (o’Connor, 2015). very much needed literature on the relationship between gender and skateboarding is confirming the positive impact of safe/dedicated spaces for practice since they gather a broader range of aficionados (vivoni, 2009). Indeed, the masculine hegemony suggested by skateboarding was long taken for granted - and several authors are putting their fingers on this matter -underlining that “skateboarding’s liberalism and permissiveness is paradoxically compromised by an inherent sexism and heteromasculine focus within the subculture.” (Abulhawa, 2008, p.57) The exclusionary aspect is due to an elevation of values such as risk-taking, recklessness or again rash prowesses as the conditions to obtain respect in the community. on the other hand, skate parks can act as positive and empowering platforms (Atencio, Beal & wilson, 2009) for female skateboarders to thrive - more easily than in a street context where the conditions are more homogenous e.g. dominance of whitemale daredevils. In this sense, skate parks have their role in providing a circumvention to masculine hegemony. All things considered, with the olympics, skateparks are expected to reach top position in cities agenda -perhaps launching a new form of competitiveness between cities with extreme sports as a
totem. Certain cities are already announcing the creation of olympic skate parks e.g. montpellier19, with the expressed will of fostering athletes - a philosophy far from what skateboarding seems to have advocated so far. It might also announce a shift where skateparks go from ‘active public space’ to ‘sites of training’. The question lies in analysing how cities will react to the change of status skateboarding got offered. will it be a shift towards flagship infrastructures fostering competitiveness and performance, thus annihilating the sense of conviviality once associated with skateparks?
chapTer Three Towards skaTeboard Urbanism
The noT-so-new sympaTheTic inclUsion oF risk
“La fluidité, c’est mon mot favori. Pour lui donner un sens, il faut foutre en l’air cette architecture qui contribue à l’enfermement et au repli sur soi.” Claude Parent
skateboard urbanism may appear as something new at first glance. In fact, if it is a type of planning focused on the experience of the user via a skateboard or not, it has been out there for a long time. Skateboarding is just one way of playing in urban environments; one way of overcoming the pending risk of playfully engaging with the built environment. There is a growing body of literature questioning risk-averse public spaces with the idea that risk-management has gone too far and made our cities sanitised. “we rightly expect certain basic safeguards to be in place, but...the over-regulation of risk and the resulting glut of rules and guidelines make us less willing to take responsibility for risk, undermine trust and dilute our sense of adventure.”20 Cunningham and jones (1999) were already noting that, “The playscape, for many children of the mid-twentieth century, was the whole city and surrounds, rather than specific parts of the environment set aside especially for children.”(p.12). while, in the general sense, seeing youngsters playing outdoors has seemingly diminished, it is also because “playing” is more and more taken care of by the establishment thus offering restrained/safer opportunities and delegitimising spontaneous frolicking. In a prescient article called “Le Skate Sauvage”, jaques Caroux (1972) was also noting that “the success of skateboarding underlines, while it tries to remedy, the difficulties of doing sports in our cities, especially the big ones”21. (p.34, authors’ translation). This is accompanied by a prolific belief in the idea “that a modern lifestyle, particularly in the modern city, does not, and cannot, afford such opportunities for children.”
Figure 16: One of Aldo Van Eyck’s Playground in Amsterdam (Source: Amsterdam City Archive)
Better regulation task force (2006) Risk, responsibility, regulation: whose risk is it anyway?
21 “A l’évidence, le succès du skate souligne, en même temps qu’il essaie d’y remédier, les diffcultés de pratiquer le sport dans nos villes, surtout les grandes” (Caroux, 1978)
(Cunningham & jones, 1999). even if true,
it would be misleading not to mention Aldo van eyck’s endeavours in postwar Amsterdam where a functionalist approach was about to restraint playing to recreational areas. To prevent this from happening, he pledged to provide spaces which ‘facilitate human activity and promote social interaction’ (Demerijn, 2013). much like van eyck’s playground, spaces of skateboarding put forward similar motives, a voluntary omission of the city’s craze in favour of place and occasion.(van eyck, 1959) “whatever space and time mean, place and occasion mean more. For space in the image of man is place and time in the image of man is occasion. Today space and what it should coincide with Figure 17: Drawing from Claude Parent (Source: La fonction oblique, Parent)
in order to become “space” –man at home with himself- are lost. Both search for the same place but cannot find it. Provide that place.”22
In the past decade or two, it seems as though city councils have increasingly been driven by the motto “live, work and play”. within that frame of thinking, playing is becoming a desirable argument to support the inclusive city of tomorrow as well as a counterpoint to many public health issues. Nowadays, we witness a decreasing tendency for children to play outside; which can be explained by two combining factors: the reluctance of parents/society to put their offspring in “danger” as well as an over-reliance on places to play aka.playgrounds designed according to safety standards rather than bodies/space experiences.The rise of technology is surely not innocent even though Pokemon go has proven itself to be an interesting meeting point for video games and reallife - however not long lasting. Perhaps, skateboard urbanism is just part of a wider movement of celebrating risk in urban design, encouraging more hazardous activities to happen in the public realm in the name of fostering a physically active society. however, how -as a society, are we delegating our playing desires to urban councils when we used to play freely. Part of it can be explained by the deterioration of the image of playing that occurred in the 50s, a shift triggered by a masculinity crisis which initiated the rise
From “Place and Occasion”, in Writings, Aldo Van Eyck.
of modern sport (Beal, 1996) -making it the dominant ideology. Beal (1996) relates this shift to labor issues that threatened the image of men since they were subject to a factory system and the appearance of women in the job market. Playing was thus relegated to a childish hobby status, whereas sport became a means of proving one’s “manhood” - establishing de facto a dichotomy between playing -non-constructive- and playing sports - rites of individualism, competitiveness, rules,etc. In 1964, Claude Parent and Paul virilio started an architectural movement which declared the inclined plan as the solution to discontinuity in modern urbanism, denying the sovereignty vertical and horizontal, thus creating a third plan subject to be used, lived and inhabited. even if it would seem far-fetched to consider Claude Parent and Paul virilio the godfather of skateboard urbanism, their theory has influenced numerous architects to deny orthogonally in favour of curvy, wavy, sloppy, flowing architecture –for instance Zaha hadid’s realisation are often glimpsed by skaters as the ultimate curve, whether it was intentional in the design or not. Legend has it that ex-skaters even smuggled skate-friendly features in Zaha hadid’s Phaeno Science Centre in wolfsburg, an endeavour rapidly nipped in the bud by the installation of “anti-skateboard gravel fastidiously covering every inch of the ground level and forecourt.” (Domusweb, 2005). oscar Niemeyer is also well-known for having incidentally designed skateboard utopias, most notably when he was drawing the Brasilian capital but also in front of the headquarters of the communist Party in Paris. Last but not least, the Landhausplatz in Innsbruck, designed by LAAC Architects, is explicitly displaying an appealing topography opened for various mélange of urban activities including skateboarding. Nonetheless, flagship architectural projects frequently relies on skate-stoppers to withstand skateboarders’ invasion. The aura of Starchitects gives them the luxury to bypass certain urban norms and thus enable projects with unusual forms and shapes to be implemented. Architects used to be discontent seeing their object destroyed until they realised that a lifeless nice-looking plaza is of no interest, whereas skateboarding provides a meaning - albeit damaging. hence, if organic architecture is that appealing to skaters, it proves that cities could be the receptacle of an ‘unlimited playground’ -yet colliding with dampening norms. which asks the bigger question of where to draw the line between intentionally-designed and unwittingly-occurred risky public spaces? Figure 18: Headquarters of the communist party in Paris (Source: Oscar Niemeyer website)
A contemporary matter after all. If the city of today is to propose spaces reflecting current society in its wholesome, skateboard urbanism is just a side dish in a bigger campaign towards making cities a better place to live where the “the greatest challenge lies in bringing together the worlds of sport and space, as part of the multifunctional city.” (valle & kompier, 2013, p.10). however, such an enterprise
is often faced with policies regarding risk management. The way in which risk is being asserted suggest that urban planners operate in a world of uncertainty (CABe, 2007). media, architecture, norms, societal changes altogether continuously affects our appreciation of risk. whether something that has been regarded as a risk hitherto (such as skateboarding in public squares) will keep on being considered as one, can not be predicted as fashions and social norms evolve. A report made by CABe (2007) on the â&#x20AC;&#x2DC;risk societyâ&#x20AC;&#x2122; shows that in the uk there is still a strong portion of society who believes in skateboarding as a lever for anti-social behaviours. The positive take away is that skateboarding is seen as detrimental through its spaces of practice but it is not perceived as a risky activity for children to undertake.
accomodaTing sTUnT and moThers “Make a skateable landscape, rather than a landscape for skateboarding.” Jaane Saario
criticising skateparks among the skateboarding community is common practice. That is why contemporary projects of spaces for skateboarding tend to adopt more evocative names to embody a new paradigm. Among them are often used “skate architecture”, “hybrid space” or “skateboard urbanism” -all trying to epitomise a common aspiration - yet not clearly defined. given the various ways through which skateboard can affect the urban landscape, skateboard urbanism appears to be an accurate term -encompassing several instances of a ‘faire la ville’ with skateboarding in mind. Skateboard urbanism as a line of conduct is a recent -if not latent- concept floating in the air even though there is a wide array of projects that can be considered its offspring. In fact, the expression has been explicitly used only a couple of time in specialist literature (Lombard, 2016; owens, 2014) making it difficult to build upon and to define what it actually implies since the definitions can vary from one location to another. This can be due to a lack of academia exposure or more simply attributed to a mismatch between what is being built and how it is being reflected upon. however, one article carefully treating the pending phenomenon on NextCity website where the author, Cassie owens, discusses Philadelphia as an exemplary ground for skateboard urbanism practices. The city has been implementing “skate dots” – which is the implementation of a skateboard attribute (i.e. a permanent module) within a wider public park. In order words, a suggested space for skateboarding which is not a skatepark. within the article can be found what seems to be the most compelling definition yet of skateboard urbanism, as owens (2014) puts it: “we may be nearing the day where skateboard urbanism is a thing. This urbanism would be interesting and tasked with a lot: public spaces and skateways that can accommodate a sport for both forward movement and stunts, while not scaring away mothers out for walks with their children.” This definition may be limiting but it provides some key framework through ‘accommodating’ ‘stunt’ and ‘mothers’. This ascertainment suggests two things; first one being that skaters and mothers are both attracted to the same place and for different reasons; second one is that neither skaters nor mothers overlook the other as a disturbing actor. All in all, the suggested space is a hybrid, openfor-all square providing interesting shapes and textures for everyone to enjoy equally - to sum up- a multi-functional public space. Beside, if we take skateboard urbanism as a simple way to define urban planning that insightfully provoke skateboarding opportunities within the urban fabric, certain cities are already fertile grounds – quite notably in Copenhagen and malmö as explained by Thoem (2016):
“The design strategies employed in Copenhagen and malmö illustrate a really simple concept, multifunctionality. ‘why not kill two flies with one slap’ as they say in Sweden. Cities like Copenhagen and malmö have recognised skateboarders as just another community that belong in everyday streetscapes.” Along with these breakthrough also comes a manifold recognition for spaces of skateboarding. From bestowing heritage status to beloved spaces -e.g. London SouthBank- to authorise skating in a sculptural modernist public space -e.g. jarmersPlads- skateboarders have gained endorsement as well as acceptance along the way. In this sense, skateboard urbanism is not only ‘building’ for skateboarding, it also implies taking skateboarding’s capacity to appropriate space into consideration. All things considered, this recognition of the culture of space is also a harbinger of the dawn of skateboard urbanism. The complexity of defining skateboard urbanism is the logical consequence of the blurriness surrounding what skateboarding is in the first place -as discussed in chapter one. Still, there is a need to talk about skateboard urbanism insofar as there are: 1. Architectural bodies capable of designing skate-appealing public spaces; ‘skatarchitect’. 2. Citiy councils which have come to realise the legitimacy of fostering places for skateboarding. 3. Sporadic signs of new urban planning narratives. The reflexivity of these three self-feeding factors ask the question of what promoting spaces of skateboarding could look like -taking for granted that it abandons the skatepark paradigm. what makes this phenomenon particularly significant is the inherent question of the meaning of public space it touches upon. Not only does it imply a reassessment of the formal aspect of public space but it also poses a greater question to skateboarding as a claimed subversive practice. Skateboard urbanism can thus take multiple forms, whether it is about planning or not as Borden (2015, p.33) explains it: “Through all these ventures, skateboarding is no longer something to be proscribed or repelled. Instead, in the new city skateboarding is increasingly central to debates about the value of public spaces, while simultaneously adding artistic, cultural, educational and commercial value to our urban lives. It is even helping to address some of our most difficult social challenges, and providing hugely disadvantaged children and youths with new hopes, skills and futures. Far from the narrow-minded view of skateboarding as purely countercultural and somehow separate to society, in the new skate city, skateboarding is being celebrated as something diverse, positive and very welcome.” urbanism has been relying on an over-arching land use plan –deciding carefully the location of activities in relation to one another. Thus, skateboard urbanism can be seen as a way to unpack this mindset and to challenge silo thinking when it comes to planning. Also, introducing “fun” as a key criteria for the public realm can provoke further thoughts on existing narratives. All things considered, the skateboard urbanism quagmire needs clarification. There are only few interventions which have already seen the light and the rationale it carries is not yet clear. In this enterprise,
attention to the process should be of crucial importance -since authenticity of the skateboarding world as well as a potential shift in addressing pubic space could be at stake. Thus, this thesis will attempt to answer the following research question: in which ways and for which future is skateboard urbanism suggesting narratives around the built environment?
The goal of this research is to understand what seems to be a ‘phenomenon’, in other words reveal the whys and wherefores of skateboard urbanism. Through this exercise, a particular attention is paid to the most concrete manifestation of the topic of study -spaces for skateboard. Therefore, this work seeks to categorise various types of spaces to fathom their genesis, reasons of being, parameters, and hopefully, their meaning if there is such a thing to be found. one could argue that skateboarding is to be “experienced” rather than theorised upon. According to Donnelly (2008), sports’ sociologists have only managed to develop a “partial understanding of skateboarding” because of a detrimental over-emphasis on the resistance values of skateboard, among other things. To avoid this pitfall, skateboard-led academia -recent when possible- has been utilised to give one interpretation of the changing reality of skateboarding at a given time. In addition to this, the thesis aims at outlining events that may appear disconnected at first sight with the intention to reflect on the various aspects of skateboard urbanism and link these events to one another. As a matter of fact, the produced spaces can be looked through multiple perspectives: urban studies, urban design, public spaces sociology, landscape architecture, urban welfare, and even risk management. A transdisciplinary approach imposed itself as adequate if not compulsory for this matter. The intention being to analyse various types of spaces of skateboarding while relating them to the broader theme of the built environment. To do so, a comparative analysis of two case studies with a fertile ground for skateboarding - Barcelona and Copenhagen - was undertaken. Barcelona is known for being a skateboarding destination whereas Copenhagen seems to more of a ‘skate-friendly’ city. even though the Øresund region is more of a fantasy than a daily reality because of a political imbalance between national and regional’s interests (Falkheimer, 2005), frequent references to malmö will be drawn when discussing Copenhagen since the two cities share strong similarities. In addition, the data presented focuses as much as possible on the two selected case studies although additional input was gathered from other countries -namely France and Sweden. hence, frequent on-site observations were led in the case of Copenhagen during a period of 4 months spread from September to December 2017, while unfortunately, visits to Barcelona were more sporadic -one week in january and one week in june 2018 respectively. whilst the data used in this research is primarily qualitative, photographs and mappings are also used to add a spatial dimension to the sites of research. To be mentioned, a regretful event occurred while working on pictures with an analog camera which left the case study of Barcelona without photographic testimonies. Nonetheless, the work presented here consists of repeated in-situ observations, expert
interviews, and a discourse analysis of specialised literature, magazines, and articles which touch upon the topic. To avoid subjectivities, the choice was made not to interact with any users of the analysed spaces -albeit I did have brief exchanges but no prolonged discussion. Being a skaterboarder myself, I decided not to focus on the experience of the users but rather on the process by which spaces such as those found in Barcelona and Copenhagen come to exist. Although I purposely adopted a passive attitude to conduct an empirical study of the spaces, I intentionally toke part in skateboarding to immerse myself. I used the spaces as a normal practitioner -detached from my research purposes, to get a hands-on grasp on the quality of the infrastructure and decide on their relevance. This first-hand familiarisation with study sites has provided me with good insights to deconstruct related discourses. once the sites selected, the actual research consists in confronting my understanding of the spaces with point of views of actors in charge and related media coverage. A spatial analysis was also formulated to disclose any relevant informations. general results were compiled in a table inspired by Freeman & riordan (2002). Dealing with such an embryonic phenomenon limited de facto the available pond of interviewees. The sampling was organised in order to select solely experts in the field of building spaces of skateboarding and/or promoting spaces of skateboarding. These conditions were capital requirements for judging their relevance in context of this research. The candidates that emerged from this are all architects, urban planners, urban activists and urban advisors - most of them being (ex)skateboarders.
chapTer FoUr case sTUdies bcn & cph
“It’s not just about having great skateparks, both indoors and outdoors. Ever heard of a skateboard high school? In Malmö it’s a reality.” (The Local, 2016)
it is no secret, Copenhagen is known for its liveliness and its delicate urban design allowing urban life to happen. walking down the streets of Copenhagen gives the impression of a promised land where everyone is invited -except the cars. This pedestrianisation has proven itself to be a win-win process- slowly but surely. As jan gehl (1971) states in his world-famous book Life Between Buildings: ”In Copenhagen, for example, the transformation began in 1962. Since then, more and more pedestrian streets have been created. City life has, year by year, grown in scope, in creativity, and in ingenuity”(p.50). Inviting life to happen can only be the task of public space; making it the foundation stone of liveliness, means in creating desirable conditions to accustom outdoor, recreational and social activities (gehl,1971). It is probably not too arrogant to claim that the capital of Denmark has fairly well succeeded in making its city a happy place to live in (montgomery, 2015), to the point where
URBAN LIFE IS PEOPLE
the city’s brochure somehow praises a certain sense of ‘urban life’ which is “good for everybody” (Copenhagen metropolis, 2015).
Public life is having a good time
cities for people
MORE AND MORE URBAN LIFE
Part of this success story has also resulted in accepting skateboarding between buildings long before it was fashionable to do so. For the simple reason that the “government wants its kids to be outside playing rather than sitting on a computer at home” (Søren Nordal enevoldsen, personal communication, 2017). This hypothesis is
For the last 40 years, researchers from The Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts School of Architecture have been documenting Copenhagen’s urban life. During the last decade, urban life has grown at the weekend and at night throughout the whole year. This has occurred not only in the centre of the city, but also in the inner suburbs.
Urban life is not only café life and tourists. Urban life is what happens when people walk around and hang out in public space. Urban life happens on the squares, on streets and in parks, on playgrounds or on a cycle trip through the city.
Urban life is:
Compared to twenty years ago, there are 40% fewer old people and 40% more young people. Almost 20% of the city’s population has a nonDanish ethnic background. At the same time, the population of Copenhagen has increased by almost 40,000.
EXPERIENCE, EXPRESSION, MOVEMENT
Public life is playing
AS WELL AS PEOPLE MEETING
Public life the year round
Public life is recreation
confirmed through the first pages of the report called ‘visions and goals for urban life in Copenhagen 2015’, in which the city cultivates its devotion to jan gehl and his “Cities for People”23. quite remarkably, on the third page can be found a picture of
Figure 19: ‘Urban Life is People’ (Source: A Metropolis for People, Copenhagen city, 2015)
23 In 2010, Jan Gehl wrote his most famous book: Cities For People. Now translated in 25 languages, the book is used all across the globe by city makers for inspiration.
a youngster jumping over a public set of stair on a skateboard, followed by the inscription “Public life is playing”. This is proof that Copenhagen is one step ahead compared to other cities on that matter. Consequently, the city places a heavy emphasis on providing play opportunities for its citizen. In 2012, the technical and environmental administration listed all playgrounds in the greater Copenhagen and among 130 of them were recorded24. overall, it seems that the city is putting things in motion regarding ludic spaces as explained by william Frederiksen in an interview to Free Skateboard magazine (2016): “At the same time we had a generation shift in all of the local politicians so there were a lot of new young people coming in who just wanted to activate the city; use the spaces creatively and create active spots in the city for kids to use. This is why architects always photoshop some […] skateboarder in the 3D plans when they propose them.” The infatuation for playgrounds of all types is also characteristic of an all-encompassing approach that erases specificities of singular practices. ‘Skatarchitect’ Søren Nordal enevoldsen explains how the state has also fell into hasty affiliations, labelling skateboard, scooter, parkour or rollerblade under one overarching category called “unorganized sports” when such practices started to invade the city in the nineties. By doing so, danish decision-makers misunderstood the hierarchy or the longevity of the previously mentioned activities. For instance, when parkour25 became a fad, the city invested massively in dedicated spaces for parkour without measuring long-term popularity; leading to an overload of spaces for parkour compared to the number of practitioners. This tendency to cater for active spaces is enhanced by the existence of philanthropic funds such as realdania whose motto is to enhance the “quality of life by supporting and focusing on how the built environment influences our everyday lives, our relationships, our health and our whole existence.” (realdania website, 2018). Such funds are ready to invest substantial amount of money in selected urban projects; for instance, they financed half of the price of Superkillen with a subsidy of 6.7 million euros26. a scandinavian attitude Copenhagen is often referred to as a place where open-mindedness rules. This is reflected in the way the -young left-leaning- city council deals with citizens’ initiatives, as long as they show off an engaging and active attitude (Clasper, 2016). In the case of skateboarding, it has provided tremendous opportunities for the skateboard community to thrive. As explained above, spaces for skateboarding are often the result of a community making their way to decision-makers and persuading them of their good intention. For instance, Copenhagen and malmö are home to a certain number of DIy skateparks. DIy -i.e.’do-it-yourself’ designates spaces self-built on vacant lots, they are considered to be the purest form of skateboarding by a certain portion. In fact, one of
25 Parkour is an activity which consists in jumping/climbing/roaming the urban landscape without the assistance of any equipment. 26
malmö most influential skater released a movie in 2005 portraying the DIy culture of skateboarding in a mystical way (The Strongest of the Strange, Pontus Alv). on the other side of the Øresund, skaters started to dig a bowl on a wasteland in the Northern fringes of ostrebrø, and while most cities administrations would have sent bulldozers, the køpenhavn Commune let it happen in the name of a ‘liberal approach to urban development’ (Clasper, 2016). The so-called ‘hullet’27 still exists and even though the city asked for the spot to be fenced, it still exemplifies a unique ethos of laisser faire when it benefits the overall welfare of urban citizens. Another point illustrating this tendency is the story behind jarmer plads right next Ørstedsparken. The plaza was designed in 1997 by holscher Nordberg at the feet of two office buildings. It did not take long for skaters to notice the appealing characteristics of the plaza - the marble slab and the perfectly-sized benches offered ideal conditions for skateboard to unfold. “They used to clean the ledges every week” conveys danish-skater Anton juul28, before they met the offended architect and told him “Nobody’s using the plaza besides us, so you should be happy”. Since then, the found spot welcomes skaters anytime and the architects proudly mentions the presence of skaters on their website29. As aforementioned, the case of malmö will be often discussed to endorse Copenhagen’s state of mind and reflect on a bigger picture of the Scandinavian attitude. Nonetheless, the two cites display two distinct scenarios and no particular common existence as stated by Søren Nordal enevoldsen (2018): “I don’t think there is any specific coordinated ‘skate-relationship’ between the two cities at all. As far as I know it’s just two cities that do a lot for skateboarding and happen to be really close to each other. I guess it’s just the Scandinavian political landscape that allows these things to emerge gradually.”
skate-friendliness It seems that obtaining the ‘skate-friendliness’ status is accompanied with a new job title. Both malmö and Copenhagen have what-can-be-called a ‘skate-coordinator’ on their payroll. gustav Svanborg edén, (malmö) and william Frederiksen (Copenhagen) respectively work hand in hand with the city council to promote skateboarding in a most authentic way. For gustav it consists in being “a skater with municipal experience and a councilman with skateboarding experience. I work essentially as a translator, strategist and event-planner.” And while for william it is about “securing the best possible environment for the skateboard culture.”
‘Hullet’ means the Hole in english.
28 Vice has produced a series of documentaries focusing on the history of skateboarding in different parts of the world. Anton Juul appears in : Skate World: Denmark. Available form: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mnHHU4aZEXY&t=209s 29
54 In the case of malmö, it is organised around an organism called ‘Skatemalmö’30 which catalyses the skate scene by fostering events and activities either in skateparks or street spots. The website also serves as an inventory of skateboarding spaces, given the increasing number of outsiders coming to malmö for its recognised spots, making it a skate-tourism destination. on the other side of the strait, william Frederiksen started off as the manager of Copenhagen’s indoor skatepark and slowly became a ‘skate-ambassador’ for the city. This role puts him in a position where he can cater for skaters when the city is to (re)design its public spaces. having in mind treatments skaters often get, this scheme is unique in the sense that skateboarding has reached not only acceptance but also encouragement. skateboarding feasts Skateboarding is also being celebrated through municipality-sponsored events. The CPh open (a yearly skateboard feast) is one blatant example of Copenhagen being a skatefriendly city. Since 2011, Copenhagen has been the host of an event gathering skaters from all around the world for three days of skating throughout the city’s urban asset. unlike typical skateboarding contests where competitors are to show off tricks on a singular terrain, CPh open resembles more a gigantic ambulant festivity with music and streetdrinking. This open-minded approach attracts professional skaters from all over the world for a unique event taking over the whole city -including private spaces like the threshold of SeB bank which generously lends to the skateboarders the interesting landscape architecture in front of their headquarters. over the course of three days, the flock of skaters cross the city on bikes to shred a myriad of spots from skateparks to DIy spots, which can be perceived as an urban testimony to a certain extent. In the same vein, malmö’s skateboard scene got quickly organised with the creation of an indoor skatepark in 1998 named Figure 20: Promotion poster for the CPH Open 2015 (Source: Theboarder.com)
“Bryggeriet”31, through which the community obtained the ‘sport status’ from the minister of sports in Sweden. Let alone the genuine desire of becoming a sport, it was rather a cunning strategy to gather fundings (Coping mechanism, 2014). gradually, more and more projects saw the light e.g. a skateboarding high school adjacent to Bryggeriet or Skatemalmö, channeling energy into a solid community consciousness. Skatemalmö often organises local events to activate its public space among other things. All endeavours ended up putting malmö in the limelight of skateboarding big event such as vans Park Series. In 2016, malmö was chosen to host the final of the sponsored-event and consequently got donated a world-class skate park: kroksbäck. The vans Park Series is a sequence of 6 competing events in different worldwide sites resulting in a final phase, moving around every year, it contributes to spatially fix skateboarding in given location. ever since, malmö is often in the firing line for big events, making it the ‘european Capital of Skateboarding’. however, to highlight malmö’s peculiarity, when dealing with vans they set two conditions: the skatepark should be handcrafted by the local team of skatepark builders and the event must showcase both genders equally (mersom, 2016). The skatepark is now permanently accessible and contributes to foster a talented future generation while regenerating a part of town. hosting events is by all means a way to ensure a continuity in the city’s attractiveness, simultaneously creating a solid community, actively taking part in urban development. By doing so, malmö has excelled in positioning itself as a skate-city and perhaps when gustav Svanborg edén, said “See you next year in malmö” at the end of Pushing Boarders Conference, it meant more than we think. skaters are in charge what makes these two cities so groundbreaking in their approach to skateboarding is the actual implication of skateboarders; to the point where they almost stand as entrepreneurs of their own cause. Logically enough, it could be attributed to a claimed liberalism in urban affairs, often encountered in Scandinavian cities where “even though people are changing public space for their own purposes, they do it with love and positive energy because they want to create something.” (Simon Strange in Clasper (2016)) There is one way of approaching it where insights of ocean howells (2008) arguing that “the [u.S.] skatepark is a neoliberal playground, one that aims to reward a personally responsible conscience, which is rendered necessary by the complex independence of today’s modern life.” could fit into the picture. however, seeing Copenhagen and malmö’s case scenario as the expression of broader driving forces turning skateboarders into desired Neo-liberal citizens seems a little too far-fetched. Instead, it makes more sense to highlight the organisational capacity of Scandinavian skaters and the unique urban governance parameters allowing to happen. william Frederiksen sums this up in saying:
31 With time, Bryggeriet became also the first skateboard high-school in the World. Students follow a normal curriculum with skateboarding hours spread throughout the week. It also provides specific courses in Film-Making or Graphic Design to teach skateboarding-related hands-on skills.
Figure 21: Grøndalen Bowl during inauguration day (Source: Photo courtesy of SNE Architects)
“I guess we (people presenting it to politicians) take it super seriously. when I see other people lobbying elsewhere they compromise themselves. […] People forget that politicians are just normal, underpaid people. Local politicians are mostly in it for the love, they’re in it for the people and they are real people themselves.” (Derrien, 2016). To illustrate this point, the world-class skatepark at FælledParken -advocated and built by local skateboarders, was at first faced with a common issue in skateparks: the invasion of youngsters on scooters who compromise the fluidity of uses. In order to keep the skatepark for skateboarders, they managed to obtain a ban on scooter, meaning anyone riding a scooter would be fined by the police straightaway. outraged mothers of scooter kids complained and managed to get built a scooterexclusive park down the street in another part of FælledParken called Løbehjulspark. spaces Now Copenhagen is filled with functional spaces of skateboarding of all kinds, ranging from integrated-skate attributes (Israel Plads, Nansengade, ravnsborggade, mjølnerparken); claimed space (red Square at Superkillen); landscape-integrated skate parks (enghave Plads, Island Brygge); Do-It-yourself (‘hullet’, DIy Triangle); acknowledged street spots (jarmer Plads, The city’s Dune), landscape-integrated bowl (grøndalen Bowl) and so on and so forth.
For all of these reasons, Copenhagen represents a living laboratory of skateboard urbanism, there is hardly a year that goes by without spaces for skateboarding that are built. recently, the red Square of Superkillen is being refurbished due to slippery issues. SNe Architects has been commissioned to equip a skate-friendly surface with different modules, giving praise to the previous appropriation of space. Also, the district of Frederiksberg just inaugurated a newfangled bowl (i.e.grøndalen) which also acts as a rainwater drainage system in case of heavy rains32, signs that skatepark design can also be engaged in sustainable development33. The same goes for malmö with a strong network of skateparks, spots and ‘DIy’ -most of them being the work of Bryggeriet builders. There is not much street skateboarding left since all found spots turned into claimed spaces; the council contributes in maintaining the furniture in case of wear. This phenomenon is interesting in the sense that skateboarders can tweak the setting of a place -using it and making it their own. recognising skateboard as a producer of space is a prerequisite in a world where skateboard urbanism is a thing and malmö has well integrated the multi-layered dimensions behind public spaces. As Fabian Narin from Pivotech indicates (2017, personal communication): “The designs are not always made with skateboarders in mind, but that is part of the charm, isn’t it?”. Designing public spaces including skateboarders is one way of acting but it is also a matter of letting the unintentional happen, and cater for it regardless of the desirability of the activities.
SNE Architects designed a similar space in Roskilde.
Figure 22: Map of Copenhagenâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s spaces for skateboarding (Source: Google Earth + authorâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s visualization)
FaelledParken (Source:Robert Loeber)
Mjølnerparken (Superkillen) (Source: unknown)
DIY Triangle (Source: author)
enghave Plads (Source: skatepark.dk)
Israel Plads (Source: COBE)
nansengade (Source: unknown)
Fælledparken neighborhood: Østerbro date of creation: 2009 street Hip (Source: The Just Me website)
designers: Nordarch, previous SNe Architects distance to center copenhagen: 2.5kms diy Triangle neighborhood: holmen date of creation: 2015 designers: yamato Living ramps distance to center copenhagen: 3.5kms
Island brygge (Source: author)
neighborhood: Indre By
date of creation: 2014
date of creation: 2012
designers: CoBe, Sweco Architects
designers: Bjarke Ingels group, Topotek
distance to center copenhagen: 0.8kms
distance to center copenhagen: 3.5kms
street hip, ravnsborggade
date of creation: 2006
date of creation: 2013
designers: morten wassini
designers: Not specified
distance to center copenhagen: 1.5kms
distance to center copenhagen: 2kms
island brygge skate park
neighborhood: Island Brygge
neighborhood: Indre By
date of creation: Not specified
date of creation: 2008
designers: SNe Architects
designers: 1:1 Landskab
distance to center copenhagen: 1kms
distance to center copenhagen: 0,9kms
The fact that skateboarding has been celebrated rather than repelled has substantially affected the way spaces for skateboarding come to life. Indeed, since it is not considered a nuisance per say, the city did not attempt to ‘contain’ skateboarding in skateparks. Instead without any prohibition, spaces of skateboarding stretch over the entire city and generate dialectics where the city, itself, also ends up promoting skateboarding in its own terms. adjacent land uses A common trait in recent projects involving skate-related architecture is the proximity to schools. Indeed, Israel Plads, Nansengade spot, ‘Street hip’ at ravnsborggade are either an integral part or an extension of schoolyards. Bearing in mind that in Denmark, important efforts are targeted at activating schoolyards (Andersen et al, 2015) which thus imply original intervention towards the design and render them into public spaces outside of schooling hours. According to Søren Nordal enevoldsen, the underlying explanation behind such spaces is the combination of having on one side, decision-makers willing to generate active spaces and on the other, the existence of funds such as realdania ready to subsidise hybrid/innovative/inventive/thought-provoking spaces. For instance, the Nansensgade spot was never designed with skateboarders in mind (william Frederiksen, personal communication, 2018) it just turned out to be a usable space. Israel Plads’ oval attribute was also a gesture primarily directed at ‘scooters’ kid’, enhanced by the presence of two schools on each side the square. According to Søren Nordal enevoldsen and william Frederiksen, the space is mainly used by kids because of several dissuasive design details. As a consequence, ’The Dish’, appeals more to beginners and has a low rate of frequentation. Alongside schools, skateboarding attributes are also located in juxtaposition with other terrains. In the case of ravnsborggade, mjølnerparken at Superkillen, and Island brygge skateboarding and basketball have been melted together in favour of a hybrid/shared space. The vast skatepark at FælledParken stands within a larger green park. Skateboarding had its corner since 1988 and in the 2000s, on the occasion of the 100th year anniversary of the common park, a substantial fund from A.P. møller Foundation opened up the way for an important upgrade. Søren Nordal enevoldsen was in charge of the design, not without troubles since he was in the limelight of the whole Danish skateboarding community. The city understood what was at stake and the budget ended up being the biggest in europe for a skatepark at that time. Interestingly enough, the concrete is still plain and unspoilt of graffiti, a sign that the city delivered the facility with certain conditions. graffiti makers got tired of seeing their piece being erased and stopped, leaving the grey concrete in its purest form.
All in all, apart from FælledParken, spaces for skateboarding in Copenhagen are generally integrated in a wider public space, most often in a recreational area. This tendency highlights the capacity of skateboarding to adapt and suggest possible hybrid space scenarios. proximity to city Spaces of skateboarding occupy relatively central locations in Copenhagen, probably a consequence of mushrooming urban design projects. All selected sites are not further away than 4kms from the city centre, considering rådhuspladsen as the epicentre of Copenhagen. of course, there are also sites that are situated in peripheral areas (e.g. Community Centre herstedlund in Albertslund34) which are significant of a general trend -a trend portraying ‘unorganized sports’ as a totem of ‘active public spaces’. Nonetheless, the studied sites are all contained in a small geographic area, reachable within a few minutes by bike or on a skateboard. The provision of a dense range of spaces for skateboarding generates good conditions for the skateboard community, offering several opportunities in each neighbourhood. During observations, most skateboarders were observed at several locations throughout the city, signs of a well-functioning network of spaces. Frequentations The data on the frequentation rate comes from repeated observations and thus, can not be presented in quantitative terms at a given time/location. Conclusions are drawn from a general appreciation spread over several months of weekly visits. Figure 22: Table of skatepark’s details in Copenhagen (Source: author’s work) site
adjacent land uses
proximity to center
Ledges mini Bowl
Busy ‘Scooters’ kids
Public Square Schools Park Basketball court cafés Schools
quarter Pipe marble bench
Basketball court Linear park
multi-feature found spot
Basketball court public square
Triangular shapes Inclined plans
School Basketball court
generally speaking, skateboarders in Copenhagen display a strong sense of community. Solitary skateboarders were encountered on rare occasions. rather, the users of the diverse spaces often come in group and tend to have as much social interactions as skateboarding practice. Fælledparken and Superkillen can be considered hotspots; since most of the times, groups of skateboarders can be observed during day and night times. other sites were relatively frequented such as enghave Plads and Island Brygge, while most of the others sites of study revealed sporadic use. In addition, groups of skateboarders were oftentimes composed of danish-speaking and english-speaking aficionados. In general, few women were observed on all sites. however, the few seen skateboarding seemed to favour FælledParken, which reinforces the presupposed added value of skateparks for female skateboarding. only a few of practitioners ‘unorganized sports’ were seen on the chosen sites, confirming the preponderancy of the skateboard community in Copenhagen. discourses All things considered, skateboarders in Copenhagen have a strong voice in city planning processes. however, the ethos of skateboarding seem to fit perfectly in the city’s political discourse, making them a valuable asset. The skate-advisor -william Frederiksen- is often solicited to incorporate skateboarding in public space designs where he attempts to reflect as best as possible the core values of skateboarding. At times, certain projects are incomplete and thus overlooked by skateboarders (e.g. Israel Plads) but still reflects on an interesting narrative for the built environment, with or without the consent of skateboarders.
// barcelona “A principios de la década de 2000 la ciudad de Barcelona empezó a ser reconocida por skaters de todo el mundo como un lugar de peregrinaje lleno de espacios y mobiliario magníficos para la práctica del monopatín.” (Camino, 2013)
Barcelona has been a praised skateboarding mecca for the past 30 years, its gaudy urban design made it the most famous destination for street skateboard in the world. every corner of the city is charged with skateboard history; signs of shredding/sliding/grinding are almost a stamp of authenticity for Barcelona’s urban furniture. If there is skateboard geography to be experienced, it is definitely in Barcelona, any aficionado would confess knowing the city even if she/he has never been there. This can be partly explained by a heavy media production around Barcelona’s public spaces; every square meter of Barcelona has been documented either through videos or magazine photographs. Alike a self-fulfilling prophecy, the video game called “Tony hawk Pro Skater 2” featured sites of Barcelona in 2000 -a major contribution in shaping a common psyche around the Catalonian capital -at the street level away from typical tourist clichés. This utter worship is due to a variety of factors that altogether permitted such a status. sea, skateboard & sun First of all, the city benefited from a vast urban beautification project preceding the olympic games of 1992 named “Barcelona Ponte guapa” in Spanish and “Barcelona posa’t guapa” in Catalan -translatable by ” Barcelona, get Pretty!”. The program was launched in 1985 by the leftist Ajuntament de Barcelona with the clear objectives of reconciling its citizens with the city through multiple projects of refurbishment, remodelling, greenification and environmental remediation among other urban measures (Sunyer, 2016). 40 years of Francoist Spain had left behind a dull and grey built environment, which did not attract any tourists back in the days. The leitmotivs were to trigger a “sentido común”35 (Sunyer, 2016) by putting up new creative public spaces, swimming pools, public libraries, imbued with an ethos of freedom equality and conviviality. under the scope of this vast project, the city of Barcelona gave itself a facelift with appealing urban spaces, enhanced by the mediterranean lifestyle of living outdoors. Architects of the times were also quite daring, which resulted in “a proliferation of ‘hardscape (plazas duras)’;
Translatable by ‘a common sense’
Figure 23: ‘Barcelona posa’t guapa’ (Source: elperiodico.com)
unvegetated spaces where predominates an
aesthetic avant-gardiste over functionality”
(author’s translation from Spanish, Camino, 2013, p.13). All in all, at the end of the 90s, Barcelona had transformed itself -without knowing- into a skateboarding utopia (Camino, 2013); a future city of pilgrimage. Secondly, the seemingly southern climate and the philosophy of skateboarding are a perfect match. At one point, skateboarders from the uS were tired of facing bans and prohibitions and they started looking for new terrains thus,
Figure 24: Famous ‘ found spot’ in Besos (Source: kgillogly)
“the city of Barcelona appeared as an oasis, full of spaces to venture, free of restrictions, with a pleasant mediterranean climate and a currency benefiting all Northern countries”37 (translated from Spanish, Camino, 2013, p.14) The Spanish lifestyle seemed ideal and before mass touristification, skateboarding did not appear so much as a nuisance at first sight. Tolerated street-drinking and all-year-long sun kept attracting more and more skaters into the street of Barcelona. A right combination since Barceloners were already heavily relying on public space for physical activity. (45% in 2010 admitted doing sports outdoor against 19% in 1990). with time arose a certain reluctance within local citizens; noise and damages started to be brought up and skaters lost slowly in popularity (Camino, 2013) Towards prohibition with a playground the size of a city, it’s as if skateboarding was happening independently from an active local scene, let alone the implication of the city. Consequently, the quest or struggle for spaces of skateboarding was nearly inexistent and thus, quite impressively, the local skateboard community in Barcelona is not as big as one could imagine. Apart from the city centre which was filled with street spots, the rest of town did not feature any particular architecture and several skate parks were built in the 90s in peripheral neighbourhoods “in an attempt to lure skaters away from central public spaces.» (Corrigan, 2016). Among them was built ‘La guineueta’ in 1992 in the Nou Barris district - one of Barcelona most diverse neighbourhood. Such a mad infatuation could not last forever. In the course of the 2000s, penalties and prohibitions were on the rise. It remained a floating threat for long -the police would effectively kick people out but not giving tickets. however, these days, more and more stories are coming out revealing a strengthened regulation where fines and material confiscation is more and more common. In fact,
36 Originally in the text “Entre otras cosas, proliferaron las llamadas “plazas duras”, espacios sin vegetación donde predominaba la estética vanguardista por en- cima de la función.” 37 Originally in the text “la ciudad de Barcelona apareció como un oasis, lleno de espacios por descubrir, libre de restricciones y con un clima mediterráneo favorable y una moneda que beneficiaba a los países del norte.”
Plaza de Angel is a key spot in Barcelona’s skateboard common psyche. Situated in front of the mACBA (Barcelona’s museum of Contemporary Art), the spot is constantly filled with skateboarders both locals and internationals since it is a must-go-to. even though the museum has accepted the presence of skateboarders a long time ago (massariello, 2015), the attitude of prosecutors is ambiguous - sometimes turning a blind eye sometimes reprimanding firmly. on the 12th of june around 10pm, three police officers were handing out 15euros fines to anyone seen drinking or skateboarding in front of mACBA. when asked, the police said it was a new measure to avoid disturbance at night even though the rules also apply to daytime -but ”daytime is different, we are more merciful”. In the meantime, the city adopted a new line of conduct and decided to contain the phenomenon in its own terms by reiterating skate parks building -with more sensibility this time. decisive events without explicit details, the Ajuntament de Barcelona seems to have followed the ongoing trend and perceives skateboarding as an asset. In 2013, the city announced that it will host the notorious x-games -a yearly competitive showcase of a broad range of extreme sports. This drew massive attention to Barcelona as a freestyle-friendly and thus a ‘cool’ place to be. To accommodate the big event, the city of Barcelona got equipped with a flagship skatepark -Skate Agora- meant to last for permanent use and potential future events. The facility is located on the northern part of the city in Badalona, the park is now restricted to opening hours and offer summer camps for what is expected to be future olympic athletes. Also, the construction and design of the skate park was handed out to an American company - California Skateparks. of course, the idea of the olympics fits perfectly the raisons d’être of such spaces, as its advocate Lateral Thinking frames it on their website: “Now, finally, two decades and five olympiads later, skateboarding can boast of being a new olympic sport and Barcelona of the opening of Skate Agora BDN, the country’s first skate plaza approved for international competitions, and a training school for future riders.” Additionally, the city of Barcelona has been chosen to host the world roller games in 2019, another big event contributing in the commercialisation of extreme sports with the expressed argument of “qualifying for the olympics”38. Such decisions are surely not made in vain and the city of Barcelona has a vested interest in welcoming such events on its territory. As a matter of fact, the x-games of 2013 generated a general economical impact of 54millions euros, resulting in an increase of 1,3% of the gross Domestic Product of Catalunya for the year 2013 alone (AegIS meDIA SPoNSorShIP, 2013). with that in mind, we understand better the sheer interest of hosting such events -contributing to increase cities’ inter-competitiveness, and creating a new status to fight upon: ‘skateboard’ capital. The quest for events and recognition as a ‘freestyle’ city echoes strongly with the world of Florida on the creative class, especially when practitioners of urban sports are increasingly being perceived as creative individuals and at times, ‘gentrifiers’ (howell, 2008).
Figure 25: La Mer Bella during construction works (Source: streetboardspain.com)
pouring concrete All things considered, the city of Barcelona is having an ambivalent stance towards skateboarding, between harsh regulations and lucrative skateparks, it is hard to determine what is the genuine stand. In the meanwhile, far from the olympic madness, the city has just invested in five ‘landskate parks’ - a series of well-designed spaces spread all around the city designed by the same architectural office -SCoB. either new facilities or refurbishment of dilapidated structures, the five projects are taking the definition of skateparks forward by attempting to create an ‘alternative public space’ (Agoras urbanas) blending pedestrians and skateboarders into a contemporary space. As SCoB (2018) puts it, “They are not a game or a sports area; they are not a street, a square or a park either; they are of all that at the same time.” each skate park has been designed with a unique gesture and particular attention at “being a nonsegregated space (no lanes, no fences, no painted lines, no rules, no priorities) which works much better than most of public spaces designed with these criteria.” (SCoB, personal communication, 2018). Additionally, architects have put great efforts in integrating the spaces within their immediate surroundings making sure they enhance the “ skateparks in the past which were turning their back to their surroundings, forgetting their relation with the city”. The five ‘landscape parks’ are located in various different neighbourhoods of the city but generally in rather non-central districts. In the meantime, in 2015 the legendary square called PArAL-LeL situated in the jardin Les Tres xemeneies had to be renovated and the city proposed to build a ‘skatepark’ instead, which was perceived as a catastrophe for the skateboard community39. In other respects, the reputation of the found spot has reached so far in the collective imagination that a skatepark in Navarcles40 contains exact replicas of the existing platforms. After a public consultation and against all odds, the new design took into consideration skaters and proposed a nearly identical square respecting
the precedent layout while enhancing the
quality of urban furnitures. PArAL-LeL is still a space for skateboard, still a public space with skate-induced features. while these skateparks may be seen as a strategic gesture to carefully legitimate bans on street skateboarding, there are also complex stories of civic involvement suggesting a case-by-case scenario. Figure 26: Guineueta SkatepPark before refurbishement (Source: unknown)
Indeed, as explained in the documentary ‘Landskating’, the skatepark in guineueta is the result of a long-lasting citizen battle led by a conglomerate of skateboarders part of
a youth association (SCoB, 2015). hence, the design of this particular space emerged from a citizen participation process. other landskate parks, such as Les Corts, faced a much easier process given the wealthy socio-economic situation of the districts (SCoB, 2015). In a way, the dialectics risen by these projects exemplifies the complexity of urban governance; “often there is no consensus or political will to face or accelerate some projects. In spite of that, the skate parks are an example of political transversality, since they were initiated in a government of lefts, built by a conservative government and now, probably, will be driven by the new participatory policies of Barcelona in Comú. That means that they are projects that respond to a clear and persistent civic will.” (SCoB, 2018). According to SCoB, their proposal was chosen due to a “firm commitment to integrate these places in the urban landscape […] giving continuity to the democratisation of public space that Barcelona began in the 80s.”. In addition to this, it should be noted that the city council has launched another urban beautification campaign pursuing what ‘Barcelona posa’t guapa’ initiated 30 years ago but this time Barcelona ‘will get wonderful’ with the new motto: ‘Barcelona posa’t estupenda’. The strategic plan aims mostly at refurbishing patrimonial buildings while enhancing the quality of housing in disadvantaged neighbourhoods - a strategy intending to shape a new image of the city (Savall, 2016).Nou Barris and Baró de viver are expressly targeted by the program (Sunyer, 2016), two neighbourhoods where SCoB built landskate parks. strategic thinking A series a rumour is also talking about the potential destruction of Plaça dels Països Catalans (referred to Sants among skateboarders) -another iconic spot of Barcelona which stands on a vast public space adjacent to the train station Barcelona-Sants. The urban furnitures has been completely appropriated by skateboarders, generating panic every time there is maintenance works. The plaza obtained an award related to Art and Design in 1983 and consequently its function can not be altered (elpatín.com, 2015) which is why every added attributes by skaters (e.g. rails or ramps) systematically get removed. The city government has conveyed that their goal is to build a skate
park in each district in order to “give alternatives” to skaters, a subtle manoeuvre accompanied with reenforced police control at ‘found spots’ alike Plaça dels Països Catalans (elpatín.com, 2015). Since then, a seemingly status quo scenario seems to pertain since the spot was still used by skaters in june 2018 -despite signs of degradation. overall, the city of Barcelona carries a narrative -albeit ambivalent- on skateboard urbanism. regarding the ‘landskate’ parks, the architects use the language of a hybrid space, confirmed by subtle gestures to differentiate them from classic skateparks. In spite of that, the sites are still in fringed neighbourhoods built on difficult terrains e.g. above a tunnel, under a bridge or on landfills, which inevitably echoes with ‘bringing life to forgotten/lifeless spaces’.on the other hand, announces by the city council are going against a genuine skateboard urbanism scenario, highlighting a more conflicting reality than the one portrayed by the architects. The case of PArALLeL has shown how the city can be lenient towards street skateboarding in certain circumstances. other than that, seemingly unrelated events suggest that skateboarding is being somehow institutionalised in two channeled ways.Firstly, the city has understood the economical benefits of hosting events such as the x-games. Secondly, the city aims at providing each district with qualitative spaces for skateboarding, under certain conditions though.
Figure 27: Map of Barcelonaâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s spaces for skateboarding (Source: Google Earth + authorâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s visualization)
skate agora (Source: Lateral Thinking)
Baró de viver (Source: inseguridad) skate agora neighborhood: Badalona City date of creation: 2015 designers: California Skateparks (uS) distance to center barcelona: 10.5kms la guineueta
La guineueta (Source: unknown)
neighborhood: Nou Barris date of creation: 2015 designers: SCoB distance to center barcelona: 6.2kms la mer bella neighborhood: Sant martí date of creation: 2015 designers: SCoB
La mer Bella (Source: SCOB)
distance to center barcelona: 3.5kms los Tres Xemeneies Jardin, paral-lel neighborhood: Sant martí date of creation: 2015 designers: unknown distance to center barcelona: 1.4kms les corts
ParaL-LeL (Source: elpatin.com)
neighborhood: Les Corts date of creation: 2015 designers: SCoB distance to center barcelona: 5.2kms baró de viver neighborhood: Baró de viver date of creation: 2015 designers: SCoB distance to center barcelona: 7.5kms
Les Corts (Source: SCOB)
To start with, the selected sites share common traits which facilitates a fruitful juxtaposition. All six sites are spaces of skateboarding which means they were intentionally built and advocated for skateboarders. In addition to this, they all came to life during the last 10 years. In addition, they display a wide array of skateboard features at times in central location and at other times in more outlying parts of the city. Apart from Skate Agora, they all differ seemingly from a skate park from an urban design point of view insofar as notions of share-space and landscape-integration are expressed. adjacent land uses Analysing a space of skateboarding and its neighbouring land uses is often significative of its reasons of being. In fact, skate parks are frequently positioned next to other sports area or playground in rather peripheral parts of the city where It can be argued that there is more available space for such infrastructures. The ‘landskate park’ of La mer Bella stands in between the beach, a leisure park (Poble Nou) and an outdoor sports centre. Not without recalling the world-famous skatepark at venice Beach, the space provides a spectacle for a horde of passers-by given the proximity to the sea. Additionally, the dunes looking-like curves attract a fair number of active participants. There is indeed no formal delimitations between the infrastructure and the park, a gesture heightened by a subtle vegetation plan. Nonetheless, the fact that the space is confined within a park and leaned against the fence of a stadium makes it hard to label it as an ‘urban public space’. La guineueta is the refurbishment of an old skatepark which lies on top of Barcelona’s major road infrastructure: La ronda de Dalt. The upper structure consists of a succession of green spaces, sports terrain (basketball) and carparks where the skate space fits in a block surrounded by roads on all sides. The new design has 3 bowls -including a replica of the ancient structure constructed in 1983- among other features. The site is easily appreciable from its surroundings with a series of benches and no particular segregating elements. Both ‘landskate parks’ in Baró de viver and Les Corts are positioned under a road-bridge in what appears to be neglected space. Les Corts is part of a continuity of green spaces and next to a substantial sport complex. Baró de viver stands under the vast motorway junction of Trinidad, squeezed between the Besós river and various informal uses of space under the bridges e.g. communal gardens. The skate park offers interesting elements and is fairly frequented due to its proximity to the unique metro station of the neighbourhood.
PArAL-LeL, on the contrary is set in a highly urban location benefiting from all interactions possible. Next to a public garden, a mosque, a building of Spain electricity provider, multi-storeys housings and a major boulevard, the spot is well integrated in its environment and attracts continuous waves of skateboarders, graffiti artists and passers-by. The series of bench combined with the geometrical architecture of the ‘public space’ do seem like a space of encounter. Skate Agora is located in the north-west part of the city along a strip of land separating the beachside from the inland avenues. The skate park is adjacent to a catwalk connecting the neighbourhood to the beach crossing over rail-tracks, the catwalk also serves as a promontory on the skatepark. The surroundings are what seems to be a vast industrial zone with various shops. Apart from the fences and opening hours, the skatepark is clearly not integrated in its environment and represents more a destination than a public space. proximity to city A main criteria to understand spaces for skateboard lies in their positioning within the urban fabric and Freeman & riordan (2002) already found out that “achieving a central location has proved to be more difficult in the larger [urban] centres”(p.308). As stated above, skate facilities in Barcelona are most of the time situated within a greater recreational area -and apart from PArAL-LeL in non-central neighbourhood. All skate selected sites are at least 3 kilometres away from Plaza de Catalunya -i.e. a common landmark square in the centre. La mar Bella is 3.5 kilometres away but still connects with a busy area of the city: Poblenou. other skateboard facilities necessitate one hour on average with public transport from the centre to be reached. Being decentralised, the skateboard facilities serve more at the neighbourhood level, catalysing local scenes. In fact, during my observations, Spanish and Catalan were the only languages heard at the ‘landskate parks’ whereas english and german were the dominant languages at PArAL-LeL. The case of La mer Bella confirms this hypothesis since Spanish and Catalan were the main language while few tourists could be noticed. Bearing in mind that Barcelona is a main (skateboarding) tourist destination, it is interesting to see that the relationships between the discussed spots and their relative centrality, affects the type of users. Frequentations Another key finding from these observations is the relatively strong presence of female skaters. The assumption whereby female skaters tend to skate more in dedicated spaces has proven to be true in Barcelona in the given times of observations. Indeed, female skaters accounted for at least 10% of all participants in ‘landskate’ parks, while there were none at PArAL-LeL. This simple statement confirms the inclusiveness provided by dedicated spaces. In each cases, female skaters were seen engaging proactively with the practice, even though they often stay grouped along with other female skaters. Also, all sites were systematically present with users. quite impressively, the number of non-skateboarders -namely scooters, Bmx, rollerblades was relatively low. even if the spaces are also targeted at other ‘action sports’, the high presence of skateboarders confirms the existence of a targeted public. generally speaking ‘scooters kids’ are often seen as a burden in spaces for skateboarding, they did not appear as a source of trouble in Barcelona.
Figure 28: Diagram displaying frequentation pattern in Barcelona selected spaces of skateboarding (Source: author’s work) la mer bella Saturday, 5pm, 9th of june, Sunny
paral-lel Sunday, 4pm, 10th of june, Cloudy
baro de viver monday, 4pm, 11th of june, Sunny
guineueta Sunday, 6pm, 10th of june, Cloudy
les corts Tuesday, 3pm, 12th of june, Sunny
discourse overall, the ideas put forward by SCoB are relatively prevailing in the resulting spaces. what’s interesting is the reflection brought by architectural discourses. SCoB is talking about its realisations as “flexible supports”, “places of interesting coexistence” or “new contemporary alternative to public space”. The design of the spaces’ technicalities is the result of a close collaboration with skateboarders, however, the architect’s contribution can be felt in the details making them wellintegrated public spaces in most cases. As SCoB (2018) conveys,“These are the projects in which more reactions of gratitude and more congratulations on the part of the users we have had. when you work in the public space, you tend to be the target of many complaints and criticisms, but in this case it was not like that.” The ‘landskate’ projects tells an interesting story where architecture and skateboarding can meet mid-way and push forward the definition of skatepark and public space -advocating for a ‘hybdrid’ space. In the same vein, the PArAL-LeL scenario suggests that skateboarding has been approved in the public sphere, although in a delimitated area. Strictly speaking, PArAL-LeL can be considered a pastiche manoeuvre where a found spot turns into an intentionally designed skateboard space. or perhaps it could be the ultimate expression of skateboard urbanism since it shapes environments which recognises skaters as valuable users.
Figure 29: Table of skatepark’s details in Barcelona (Source: author’s work) site
adjacent land uses
proximity to center
Busy during opening hours
gas station green Park motorway
La mer Bella
Snake run Bowl
Beach Stadium green Park
gardens housing Commerces
Stadium green Park motorway
Baró de viver
Snake run Street
highway Crossing metro Station
chapTer Five meaning oF iT all
discUssion “Le problème n’est pas d’inventer l’espace, encore moins de le ré-inventer (trop de gens bien intentionnés sont là aujourd’hui pour penser notre environnement…), mais de l’interroger, ou, plus simplement encore, de le lire, car ce que nous appelons quotidienneté n’est pas évidence, mais opacité: une forme de cécité, une manière d’anesthésie.” (Perec, 1974)
besides certain similarities, the two cases presents a rather contrasting portray of skateboard urbanism. one thing is sure though, skateboarders have sunk in the urban Project as a key player -not only shaping living environments but also engaging in wider urban discussions. Differences in scenarios experienced in Copenhagen and in Barcelona seem to originate from profound managerial divergences. however, both cases still provides a compelling ground of analysis for a current state of the art and future scenarios. context First of all, it is worth mentioning that the City of Barcelona became a hotspot for skateboarding somehow against its will whereas the city council of Copenhagen has accompanied the emergence of the skateboard culture -two drastically different scenarios in the face of the perception of skateboarding. on one hand, Barcelona had to deal with a particular type of tourism i.e. skateboarders who come to consume public spaces and objectively damage urban furnitures. It can be argued that Barcelona has been somehow ‘overtaken’ by circumstances. on the other hand, even if Copenhagen is considered to be a skateboard destination, the city is intentionally responsible for the creation of a ‘growing ground’ (william Frederiksen, 2018). most importantly, climate conditions do play a role in this matter. The oceanic climate of Copenhagen acts as natural ‘skate-stopper’ for four months of the year whereas the mediterranean basin accommodates outdoor practices all year long. The presence of indoor skate parks is a blatant revealer of this divergence. Indeed, the CPh indoor skatepark was built 20 years ago in a particularly central location and it gave the skateboarders of Copenhagen a worthwhile platform to engage with the city council. That being said, Barcelona does not have an indoor skatepark. politics matters All interviewees from Copenhagen and malmö have insisted on the importance of the liberal approach of the city administration towards urban development. william Frederiksen sums up the attitude: “The city council regards skateboarding as a valuable asset and a culture that needs to be nourished. The city provide the growing grounds for our culture to thrive.” The local political context is of capital importance in this case since it has enabled skateboarders to become entrepreneurs of their own cause along with incentives to push forward spaces of skateboarding. Furthermore, the inclusion of skateboarders has provided them with the opportunity
to shape their own future and the same goes for malmö. In both cases, they have crept into urban decision-making processes as an organised community, and in return of ‘speaking the language of politicians and pretending seriousness’ (Copingmechanisms, 2018), they made their way through. To explain the variety of spaces in Copenhagen, Søren Nordal enevoldsen conveys that: “They [the city council] want [urban] activities exposed in the urban realm so you sort of see it on your way to school or at school, an architecture that invites people to become active.”. The so-called exception of Copenhagen lies in a great organisational potential of local skateboarders combined with a malleable urban governance system. Looking at the processes through which spaces of skateboarding came to life in the Øresund region, it strongly resembles a bottom-up scenario where small-scale initiatives were translated to large-scale mechanisms of urbanism. on the contrary, the sequence of events which happened in Barcelona echoes more with a topdown story. As stated above, the ‘landskate parks’ which were built in the last 10 years are the result of a well thought out masterplan for providing spaces of skateboarding under certain conditions -namely the gradual exclusion from public space. Furthermore, apart from the guineueta project, projects were not fully citizen-led initiatives in the case of Barcelona. Instead, the raisons d’être of the projects seems to be more imbued with olympics perspectives as suggested by the substantial economical prospect of the upcoming world roller games. on the other hand, Barcelona has been a paramount location for skateboarding culture for the past 20 years; enabling skateboarding to flourish. In a way, the city is providing skateparks to distant neighbourhoods for those who lack play opportunities. At the same time, the attractive urban landscape of Barcelona is still accessible for those ready to face sporadic conflict with authorities. It is important to mention that police interventions happen solely in central locations whereas the whole of Barcelona contains ‘spots of spatial desire’ (the abundance of spots has even been referenced on an exhaustive map41). After all, skateboard urbanism seems to elude the city council of Barcelona because it heavily relies on informal spaces of practice; a geography constructed on the margin of standard conceptions of the city. spaces of skateboarding In terms of resulting spaces, Copenhagen features projects in abundance. The importance of skateadvisor william Frederiksen is not to be denied since he has been actively involved in city council’s affairs as he states: “So I basically used every opportunity I got – every opening, every event where the mayor or any politicians was present to talk about what we’re doing. one thing led to another and then suddenly they’re asking me “how should we design the city?” I then got involved in another section of the council, the “culture and leisure section” in addition to the “parks” section. So I went to them and I said “let’s work together – we know leisure and culture and you know infrastructure and city planning – let’s create something.”
79 Due to this proximity between skateboarders and decision-makers, all kinds of projects have seen the light - their success is a matter of subjective appreciation. The city has simultaneously responded to skateboarders expectations while initiating projects looking at urban planning through rosecoloured glasses. As a result, the city of Copenhagen is filled with skateboard-infused public spaces, some being more anecdotic than others. According to Søren Nordal enevoldsen, the city relies excessively on skateboarding attribute when it comes to urban design, to the point where some genuine intentions turned into “Teletubbies land” due to a lack of consultation with skateboarders. The case of Israel Plads is particularly significant in the sense that there was a strong desire to voluntarily integrate skateboarding attributes in an ‘active plaza’ but some details favoured an appropriation by scooters’ kid instead. All in all, a unique case as Søren Nordal enevoldsen explains it: “Still, if you look at it in an international perspectives, it’s amazing what happens. It is, It is!” In Barcelona, most recent projects still resemble the definition of skateparks -at best dedicated spaces. The involvement of talented architects clearly played a role in challenging the notion of a skatepark through several design operations. Nevertheless, the frequentation rate suggests a rather successful endeavour - ‘landskate’ parks happened to be spaces of inclusiveness, conviviality, knowledge sharing and mutual aid. As SCoB confirms: “The days of the inauguration of the three spaces were hundreds of people eager to start skating. The atmosphere was and continues to be (most of the weekends) a party.” The case of PArAL-LeL also proves that the city has recognised skateboarders as valuable actors in the refurbishment process when it was needed. overall, both cases suggest that the processes bringing up spaces for skateboarding tend to be the result of a path dependency. Spaces for skateboarding in Barcelona are confined in a land-use mindset carefully overseeing projects whereas In Copenhagen, projects come in great numbers led by a city council ‘overly excited’ about such interventions, making it hard for skateboarding to remain authentic.In the long run, looking at building spaces for skateboarding, the political structure in both cities has proven itself more decisive than the will of skateboarders. skateboard urbanism? with regards to skateboard urbanism, both cases have demonstrated compelling signs of the phenomenon. If skateboard urbanism equals in the concomitant existence of first; ‘skatarchitects’; second, a lenient city council and third; story-telling public spaces proactively shaping a city, then yes, skateboard urbanism deserves attention. The perspective of future fundings will likely generate more and more demands for spaces of skateboarding (Ihaza, 2018). Amongst others, Barcelona and Copenhagen, each in their own way, have shown how skateboarding can be planned in the urban fabric without replicating mistakes form the past. key criterion were the implications of skateboarders along with having knowledgeable city representatives, and when needed, reflective attitudes towards the definition of a public space. According to gustav Svanborg edén:
Figure 30: The Bowl du Prado in Marseille during refurbishment in 2017 (Source: jackspots.fr)
“It [skateboard urbanism] exists all over the place. Skateboarding is part of town planning all over the world.”. In this case, skateboarding has allowed individuals to pursue a quest towards the ‘The Function of the oblique’ imbued with precepts of Claude Parent and Paul virilio. It paves the way for a city where it is capital to fight bodies’ indifference vis-à-vis its daily living space (Parent, 1964). Through its evocative power, skateboarding has the ability to activate public spaces and to transform people into performers rather than passers-by. most of all, it proves that if skateboarding has been capable of such things, other groups might as well penetrate urban processes and reevaluate preconceived ideas around public spaces. In the larger sense, Skateboard urbanism could also prevent public health issues as Borden suggests (2009): “And so by us taking the risk of allowing skateboarding to occur, and by skateboarders themselves taking the risk of moving in this way, we can have cities in which these citizens are more healthy, more fit, more open to real urban spaces than are, for example, many television-fixated and computer- obsessed teenagers.”. Skateboard urbanism has also appeared to be a multifaceted concept, allowing skateboarding to leap through planning in diverse ways. In Copenhagen and malmö, skateboarders became planners themselves. In Barcelona, their voices are quieter but the city is thinking with skateboarding in mind. In London, skateboarders have fought the establishment and froze for ever a ‘found spot’. In Paris, modules have been permanently implemented on the highly frequented Place de la république. In Australia, melbourne has put together a Skate Plan aiming at ‘supporting and managing’ skateboarding in the city. All these insights suggest the dawn of cities becoming playing platforms,
for citizens and/or skateboarders. Let’s remember, Copenhagen showed that an exaggerated attention to plan for skateboarding in public space can be a quicksand. on the other side, Barcelona has accepted to include skateboarding in a public square because of already existing enthralment (i.e. PArAL-LeL). These are signs that creating spaces for skateboarding ex nihilo is a rather delicate task. In both cities, spaces that resembled more or less a skatepark were functional and somehow praised since they were well-done refurbishments of early skateparks from the 80s in most cases. Another important aspect of building skateparks is the inherent sense of belonging. In malmö and in Copenhagen, we have witnessed that skateboarders were in most cases not only the designers but also the builders of their spaces. on the contrary, even if the construction work of the ‘Landskate’ parks was led by Sergi Arena, -a Catalan skater/builder, the architects of SCoB are not skateboarders per say. In addition to this, Copenhagen and malmö both showcases a world-class skatepark that can accommodate global events which was built by local skateboarders whereas the olympic skatepark of Barcelona (i.e. Skate Agora) was designed and built by an American company. All in all, the processes in which spaces for skateboarding emerge are of crucial importance. The key lies in not underestimating skateboarding’s culture of place insofar as places for skateboarding generate images of the city, urban community, place-based myths, meaning, identities and interactions (Borer, 2006). long-term risks The quantity of project confirms a contemporary craze for skateboarding but it also calls for a more manichean analysis. As highlighted above, projects where skateboarding blends in the public sphere remains a drop in the ocean. Skateparks are still the norm, whether or not they are the result from a ‘confinment measure’ and with the olympics in the pipeline, the skatepark mania is likely to expand. on one hand, more skateparks means “more stuff to skate. more skaters. more skate-events. more understanding o skateboarding. more social platforms for young people.” (gustav Svanborg edén). on the other hand, skateboarding advocates are all fearing that the dominance of one terrain (i.e. skateparks) will affect the culture and future generation of skaters as noted by Dobija-nootens (2018): “The closer skateboarding comes to resemble a sport, the more outsiders will treat it as one, arguing that like other sports it should only be practiced in its designated zones (i.e. skateparks). Looking at the adjacent land use of skateparks, it is particularly visible that skateparks are usually located within wider sport facilities. meaning that skateboarding is slowly going down the slippery slope of being amalgamated as a sport, at least from a planning perspective. In addition to this, skateparks are also a hotspot for an “ongoing controversy between skateboarders and scooters” (Fabian Narin, interview, 2018). Being public, skateparks also attract numerous unexperienced scooter kids which alter the fluidity of practice by stepping in the way and by being generally unaware of how such spaces function. Although, according to mathias Thomer, “Skateboarding is an olympic sport. roller Blading, Scooters, etc. aren’t. It’ll be easier to explain
that we aren’t the same thing and that the spaces we need have to be skateboard specific, not for multi-use.” (Derrien, 2018). with this in mind, if skateparks have to become ‘skate-exclusive’ like it happened in Copenhagen, the prevailing aspect of being a ‘shared-space’ will loose ground. yet, on another level, skateparks’ designers tend to be scared of fostering a skate-park only generation, hence diminishing the importance of street skateboarding among younger skateboarders as explained by gustav Svanborg edén (interview, 2018): “This does not mean that skateboarding can not benefit from events and parks, but it does mean that it is threatened to be reduced to those formats and spaces. This would mean a great loss to the culture of skateboarding, but more importantly to the experience of new skateboarders.”. But then again, having attractive designated areas curtails de facto the spontaneity of going street skateboarding -especially in Barcelona where skateparks provision comes with more prohibition in non-dedicated areas. Copenhagen seems to be paving the city for skateboarding but at the same time letting it happen anywhere concomitantly. In facing this challenge, the key perhaps lies in promoting a comprehensive definition of skateboarding to municipalities so as to mitigate the need for skateparks. Anyhow, skateboarding is plural and the direction of one portion of practitioners does not necessarily influences the direction of others. That is to say, skateboard may remain twofold, one that will go for gold at the olympics and one that’ll keep shredding benches in front of the the town-hall. A duality well exemplified by what o’Connor (2015) identities as a remarkable paradox: “[…] skateboarding is able to be both a mainstream and a fringe pursuit” (p.31). reaching out Along these lines, purpose-built spaces of skateboarding seem to have broadened the spreading of skateboarding to other groups than white-male users. Indeed, dedicated spaces display a higher number of female skateboarders in general, quite notably in Barcelona. In the absence of sufficient data on female skateboarding in Copenhagen, only shallow conclusions can be drawn but the case of emma Fastesson Lindgren in malmö seems to also confirm the hypothesis (Coping mechanism, 2014). All things considered, the correlation between skateparks and gender inclusion would benefit from more in-depth empirical research though. however, the skateparks of today are increasingly centrally located and therefore more exposed; they serve as a receptacle to portray the diversity of our cities by welcoming and showcasing a wider array of practitioners in terms of age, gender and ethnicity. And once again, brandishing skateboarding in our cities whether it is through creative appropriation of space or in dedicated areas suggests narratives for a playful urban future. moreover, if this urban future caters for women, girls, LgBT, boys, and men at the same time; dismantling barriers along the way, having dedicated spaces is a winning move towards the inclusive city of tomorrow.
First of all, I want to end this thesis by acknowledging the substantial amount of knowledge that has been produced through skateboarding-led academia in recent times. on a personal level, it is particularly stimulating to realise that a teenager’s obsession can participate in shaping a critical outlook on the world. The crossover between skateboard and academia might just be in its early stage, which means there is a lot more to come. And we can only be happy if lessons from skateboarding gradually get translatable into academia. on another level, skateboarding might share some common traits with religion -especially looking at it from the inside. As it evolves through time, it has been disavowed, lionised, marketed, censured and even olympisiced but it seems that skateboarding keeps on rising above it all. Its practitioners put faith in the practice more than anything else, overlooking how it is being amalgamated randomly by outsiders. That being said, the irrationality of its raisons d’être often leads to philosophical debates within the community. This thesis aimed to reflect on the most basic manifestation of skateboarding: ‘spots of spatial desire’ (vivoni, 2009). The research has shown how skateboard urbanism can produce or maintain living environments, emphasising how contexts and spaces of skateboarding are closely intertwined. In one respect, the success of theses spaces too often relies on the skateboarders’ approval, however, the fact that they exist is a perk for our urban realms. In any case, the inner conflicts of skateboarding do not affect the grander narrative provided by skateboard urbanism, which is the perspective of cultivating more engaging public spaces. on this matter, whether it unfolds in skateparks or in the streets, skateboarding encourages a certain romanticised use of public space. A romance well portrayed by Borden (2005, p.33): “we need spaces in which we encounter otherness and sameness, where we are at once confirmed and challenged. And this comes from not being certain, from not knowing everything around us, from a degree of surprise and the unusual as we go about our everyday lives. we need a city that we do not know, that we do not understand, that we have not yet encountered, that is simultaneously, strange, familiar and unknown to us. This is public space which is always a surprise, a unique place, a stimulation. This difference requires the risk of not always knowing what lies around the corner.” After all, reflecting on skateboarding in such serious terms can also be deceiving. most skateboarders experience cities that way solely because ‘it’s fun’, and this is probably why it has reached so far in generating thoughts, discourses, narratives, or aversions. It is fun, that’s it that’s all.
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