Creating more beautiful, architectural and less traditional skate spaces will attract many more people to skateboarding says Chris Taylor, CEO of specialist design studio Freestyle.

SKATEPARK design has barely changed since the 1980s and certainly hasn’t kept pace with the riding styles of the users, resulting in designs that often feel like facilities or playgrounds and not part of the public realm. At Freestyle, our

architects and urban designers are also skaters, riders and freerunners who use their skills to

make the public realm more active, rather than inserting little sections of activity into the public realm. The result is the difference between a fenced single use space dedicated to one section of the population and a much larger multi-use space designed for the whole community to share. The latter is cheaper, more socially cohesive, less prone to anti social behaviour and brings the users into the centre of public life thereby encouraging crossover. Is this what people want? The most popular

skate destination in Europe is Barcelona where people go for places like MACBA and Paralell, which are skateable public spaces and not traditional skateparks. The traditional 1990s skate park combination of street and bowl has its place, but it’s not the right answer to every project.

social cohesion Community consultation is vital to creating a successful skate space. This will identify the social issues the community faces, from crime and anti social behaviour to lack of intergenerational contact to the problem of geography. In a large scale consultation we conducted

for a skatepark in Aberystwyth last year, the over 65s group requested we build “anything that would show the young people that we don’t hate them”, while the teenage group wanted us to build “anything that makes the old people realise that we aren’t going to mug them”. The children across Aberystwyth explained that there were cultural, affluence and language divides and thus social tension between the three parts of town. It was quickly obvious that whilst a traditional

skatepark would serve skaters and bike riders, it would not solve any of the problems in the community at large. In the end we built a very small traditional skatepark with a much larger multi-use space that is both skateable and rideable as well as being a major walkway from one part of town to another. The scheme also included natural play, lots of seating areas, animal habitats, a wildlife reserve and more than 100 new trees. By making the scheme broader we were able to attract funding in a way that would never have been possible for a skatepark alone. The end result is a social hub, a play area, a walkway, a skatepark and a nice place to sit. We

The scheme also included natural play, lots of seating areas, animal habitats, a wildlife reserve and more than 100 new trees

transformed a space known for anti social behaviour and crime into a piece of active public realm that will increase intergenerational contact and activity and in so doing help to reduce obesity and associated health problems.

barriers to entry We work in schools, youth groups, universities and broader communities as well as with special needs schools and some of the fantastic girl skate groups to encourage greater diversity in the skate world and better understand why some people don’t participate. We always have more to learn, but after many hundreds of sessions I think we understand the key issues. Traditional skateparks have a high barrier to

entry. There are a world of cultural and social assumptions about who will be using them and what those people will be like. These stereotypes are very pervasive and can deter anyone who does not fit the mould from participating. If we want to attract more people we need to look outside of existing users and teenage males. To break the stereotype we need to engage with a much broader and diverse set of users. This means we need to approach the projects differently right from the start. And that means that clients must stop


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