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Built to Skate - Melding street skating with skate park design and architecture

Nov. 25, 2008

We wrote an article about architects building skate-able terrain into the outer plazas of commercial buildings. The original idea came to us after seeing Rob Dyrdek's Ohio skate plaza. His plaza could easily been the exterior of any commercial building. From design to security, most buildings are designed to repel skateboarders. Along the rich timeline of skateboarding's history, there must be a few skaters who went on to become architects, city planners and other such jobs that involve the design of public space.

Street skating evolved from skaters craving of new territory. There is a finite amount of diversity to ramps (sure, someone will always evolve the "Search for Animal Chin" ramp idea) before one craves something new an different. Ripping down a city block presents skaters with all sorts of new obstacles. Some resemble tried and true skate obstacles like benches and ledges, others present completely different terrain requiring completely different skills to ride.

What about skate parks? These sprawling concrete expanses have a single purpose- skateboarding (and the elbow-to-the-head demise of rollerbladers). so, skaters evolved from wooden ramps to the intricate lines of well-designed skate parks, but they still wanted more. Skateboarding is about freedom, among other things, and nothing gives the sense of freedom like an open expanse of terrain on which to roll, flip and grind. The unexpected becomes the norm.

Skateboarding at the Oslo Opera House

Oslo Opera House a skateboarders paradise

The Oslo Opera House in Norway

Thumbing through the December 2008 issue of Wired magazine, I find a 2-page spread on just this topic with a large photo of the Oslo Opera House. Opera, you say? Yep. Did you catch Thrasher's "Slaughter at the Opera"? Thrasher and Globe put together the world's best skateboarders at the Sydney Opera House on March 1st, 2008 to survive a 7-stair to 11-stair back to back handrail. So, skaters are no strangers to opera, right?

You instantly see a few skate-able lines in the pic above, right? And can you imagine how many security guards it would take to keep skaters out? The design was based on two glaciers colliding - um, yeah... whatever. But to achieve the textures and transitions, the architects called upon skateboarders since they are the ones with real experience in transition and flow.

Architect Zaha Hadid

Architect, Zaha Hadid... skateboarder?

Would you believe the woman to the right is an architect who wants her buildings to attract skateboarders? Architect Zaha Hadid wanted her design for the Phaeno Science Center to be an all-inclusive venue for pedestrians and skateboarders. Isn't it about time skaters were regarded as experts in something other than vandalism? It's pretty cool to discover somebody besides the guys at Grindline that understand the dynamics of flow the way we do.

The exterior of the Phaeno Science Center displays a multitude of skate terrain as does the London Aquatic Centre (pictured below).

London Aquatic Centre

Phaeno Science Center in Germany

London Aquatic Centre

The London Aquatic Centre in England

Skateboarder Magazine cover - March 2006

Skateboarding Architects

Just when you thought a career in skateboard designing entailed building skateparks, you see there is a wide open field for those who want to pursue a mainstream career - that pays well - that will also benefit skateboarding. the cover shot on the March 2006 issue of Skateboarder Magazine shows a "half pipe" that won't likely host any skate comps, but will certainly attract skaters. It's design must have been born on a drafting table or in AutoCAD.

Form and flow are integral concepts in architecture. The way a building interfaces with it's surroundings is an essential part of good design. Think of all the large buildings in any city. They all have some sort of main entry. Some have stairs, while others have lavish parks and plazas leading up to the entrance. all of these facets are designed and put into the planing of the building.

In an effort not to sound preachy, a career in skateboarding, doesn't mean you have to be paid to ride. There are plenty of career opportunities that may only occur to those smart enough to assert themselves and discover these careers.

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