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Celebrate Skateboarding!

I recently walked past a parking lot that should’ve been empty but instead was full of kids having set up makeshift skateboard ramps. There must have been about 10 kids there. But the most interesting part is that there is a small area to skate just a block away from the parking lot and a brand new state-of-the-art skate park just a 5 minute drive away. And yet here are more kids out in parking lots. The demand for areas where kids can skate is continuously amazing me.

This brought back to my mind the old never-ending discussion topic of skaters amongst landscape professionals. Do you deter them, instlaling all sorts of different metal shapes into your seat walls or do you let ’em ride? I definitely fall into the latter group to the point where I don’t just want to let them ride, I want to encourage them to ride!

As designers we always trying to come up with ways to activate a space, throwing in all kinds of multi-functional things that can be used by all ages, in several different ways and all different times of day and year. Things like skate parks and dog areas are fabulous ways of getting more eyes on the space and more round the clock social activity to encourage safety. And why not make areas where people can sit and/or skate?

In a ongoing discussion in the forum on the topic of skateboard deterrents, I posted some images of a favorite little plaza of mine in the German town of Neu Ulm. This is a very small plaza with a lot going on and is bordered by two busy streets, retail and a library. This space is the joy of the town. And what do they have on their seat walls? Skate rails! See the photos below of the plaza and the seat wall.

These multi-functional spaces allow skaters to ride as they please but also gives people plenty of places to sit. In some areas, there are wooden benches on top of the wall to note where there are places only for sitting, but for the most part it’s all about sharing. And by putting the rail on there, it helps to protect the edges of the seatwall. Everyone is happy.

So actually encouraging skaters to skate walls is great but my all time favorite is the idea of skateable art. Artist Perri Lynch has already created some pieces that show just how fabulous this concept is. I personally think a lot of skate parks already look like art, so it’s certainly an easy concept to grasp.

For example, here are some images from Lynch’s website that show off the successful Lake City Civic Core project in Seattle, Washington. The project has been deemed the most skateable public art. And it looks darn cool too.

So let’s not deter skating, let’s embrace it and encourage it. Because hey, it’s cool to watch, a great way to further activate a space and any way we can continue to encourage kids to get out in the fresh air to do something physical is a good thing.

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