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Covert Architect - Blending a passion for skatebaord culture into a job

Kids are always told to stay in school and get good grades so they will one day have a good job and be able to support themselves and family. Sounds like good advice... and it is. The only problem is - THAT ISN'T ENOUGH!

Don't worry too much... whenever you think you've done enough there will always be some jerk who will tell you otherwise. Ignore him (or her)!

Do you think the folks who've fallen on bad times are simply self-made failures who didn't study hard enough in school? Is corporate downsizing related to your high school GPA? Can career advancement be linked to your collegiate blood-alcohol level? Would you have been a VP if you chosen Business instead of Political Science as a Major?


I've met very few people who have taken their scholastic experience and put it to use on the job. Just because you're an English Major doesn't mean you're destined to be an english teacher, journalist or editor. Regardless of your educational background, your future is yours and yours alone... to do with as you please. So think about the things you love to do and see if a career can't somehow be formulated around your passion. Just because you love to skate doesn't mean the only hope is to become sponsored and be a pro skater. It worked for Tony Hawk, but look at all the other things he's done from filming to video games to charitable causes.

Design a Career

Go get a sheet of paper. I don't care if you're fifteen or fifty - Go get a sheet of paper. Draw a line down the center to make two columns. On the left side, write down things you're good at or skills you have. On the right side, write down things you like to do (even stupid things that seem trivial). Here's a sample list to get you thinking...

If you're like me, you can probably come up with more fun things than skills. Everyone always thinks they have to be absolutely perfect at something before considering it a skill. Maybe you should move some of your FUN items over to the skills column, eh?

Now look at your list and see how many of your SKILLS relate to things that you think are FUN. Somewhere in that mix may be the perfect career for you. For example, in my sample list above, drawing, sketching along with designing and building ramps seems to indicate something in the architectural or construction realms. Communication and leadership combined with creating sk8 zines and finding cool new products could be a marketing or advertising career path.

Video games are slowly being acknowledged as a tool for teaching us perseverance, logic and problem solving skills. Being a social person is always a benefit to any professional career. The simple ability to communicate with others is vital in all aspects of business. Don't sell you quirks short. Everything that makes you unique (and things that may seem mundane) can easily translate into a highly specialized business niche.

Making a Decision

You can always change your mind, so start investigating a new career path. I originally wanted to write this article about a specific career (which I'm slowly getting to) but so many other things popped up that I didn't want to limit the scope of the article. I had architecture in mind, but the point is, you can easily combine something FUN into the SKILL that winds up becoming your job.

I was recently watching a DVD of the Zoo York team stumbling through an episode of their Skate Maps reality show. They arrived in Germany and went to the Munich ledges to skate. They were all stoked on how skate-able the outdoor plaza was. It seemed to have been designed for skaters. Well, it actually was (sort of). The architect who designed the outdoor plaza was a skater. Naturally, he designed it with sk8 lines in mind.

Take a look at Rob Dyrdek's film, Groundbreaking, about the design and implementation of a skate plaza in his home town. He scoured (and measured) all of his favorite sk8 obstacles from ledges and banks, to benches and handrails for the purpose of incorporating them into the DC SKate Plaza in Kettering, OH. If you look at the plaza or any of it's individual elements, you'll notice that a bench is a bench just as a rail is a rail. Someone walking his dog through the skate plaza, might not even know they're in a skate plaza. Similarly, a skater might not fathom why someone is sitting on one of the prime benches for grinding. It's all about perspective. One person sees a skate obstacle, another sees a nice place to sit for a few minutes.

With that difference in perspective lies the coolest factor I can think of in being an architect: being a Covert Architect.

The Covert Architect

I wouldn't recommend designing a building with a half pipe on the roof or a residence with a swimming pool at the base of a snake-run. But think of how many elements of skateboarding could be designed into a commercial or residential project.

Think about your won house. If you were to redesign it... what would you change? Start off with paving the driveway and maybe changing the grade (slope) of the pavement. Perhaps you'd like to make that extra parking space a little wider and slope it a little more so you could put a quarter pipe there with a better run-in. What if the driveway was lined by a curb rather than brick-work? Maybe you could add a decorative ledge that acted as both a planter and grindable zone.

If you live in the north - snow country - you could design a roof-line that lends itself to a backyard snow pipe. Use one slope as part of the pipe and the slope of the yard as the other. Think outside the box and make your own secret skate zone. As an architect, you'd have the complete ability to do just that!

Ever been inside the Guggenheim Museum in New York City? A long spiral walkway goes from floor to floor in an even descent (or accent, if you're going up). Eminently skate-able and way nicer than the average parking garage ramps. I wouldn't recommend such drastic measures in a commercial design, but most commercial buildings have some sort of plaza outside. That plaza will likely be the best place to hide numerous skate lines. Build it with multiple exits and no dead-ends, so skaters can quickly evade security. All facets of the plaza's design can cater to skaters from materials and layout to specific widths and heights. With grindable planters ledges and perfectly spaced benches you can "hide" some nice transitional features as well. Create smooth links from obstacle to obstacle. Consider where you place handrails - make sure it is easy to ollie out to a proper surface.

Make your design impervious to skate-stops. Out-think the narrow minded fools who try to take the streets away from skaters. Place the best skate lines in obstructed areas to give local skaters a fair amount of time before security engages. Use your design skills to lure skaters in and deliver an amazing skate experience.

They'll thank you later!

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