Are skateboarders contributors of street based play and even performance art or free spirited and anti-social trouble makers?
Street skateboarders generally view cities as urban playgrounds of unlimited edges, shapes and ramps for their thrills and spills.
Irrespective of skateboarding’s popularity with a broad age group and benefits in activating public spaces and supporting public health, it is often banned in city centres.
Yes, street skaters often break the rules, litter and cause minor damage to public and private infrastructure. But is this behaviour surprising given their exclusion from the design of our city places? A feeling exploited in Nike’s ad campaign “What if we treated all athletes like we treated skateboarders?”.
Skate Sculpture is committed to integrating skateboarding into the public realm and involving the wider community in its unique spectacle. Their goal is support a positive impression of skateboarding and design purpose-built skate infrastructure for prominent places which are appealing and potentially considered public art. This multi-purpose ‘skate sculpture’ not only enables diversity and activity in public places it provides a performance piece for spectators - combining art and life in the City.
If you come across street skateboarding take a seat, watch and ask yourself the question - isn’t this Placemaking?
As a man walking his dog said "we do our thing, you do your thing, we get to watch you, you get to watch us, I’m happy, you’re happy, everybody’s happy" (Share Path Skate Path 2012).
But will purpose-built skate infrastructure satisfy the need for 'organic' skating in our streets and places? It's relevant to consider the 'culture' of skateboarding. According to skateboardhere.com - "skaters are free to skate how they want and do the tricks they want. There are no other players to influence what you do. This independent, no rules, free thinking mentality attracts... the kind of people who like to do their own thing."
This feeling is epitomised in Lincoln Square, Melbourne recently featured in Australian press - "Melbourne council destroys Australia's best skate spot for 'little bogans'". Skateboarder Tom explained to Hack how the accidental design appeal of Lincoln, and other street spots, is hard to replicate in a skate park. "You have to work it out for yourself, the obstacles aren't built for you to do this specific trick on. It's more creative basically."
In 2005 a memorial to the Victorian victims of the Bali bombings was opened in the Square, which quickly grabbed the attention of local skaters. Responding to the complaints of "half a dozen residents", the council banned skating in 2009 but struggled to physically enforce the ban. Now it is spending $450,000 to rip the smooth concrete and ledges that entice skaters and renovate the Square into something 'unskateable'.
Not everyone agrees. Rachael lost friends in the Bali bombings and told Hack she doesn't see what the skaters are doing as disrespectful. "I know that my friends would prefer to see people having fun and enjoying a space that was created in their name".
What's your view on street skating? Does everyone need to co-exist? Or does conflict help create 'real' places.
We generate discussion in our training courses on Placemaking and urban design. While there are common qualities to the places we like, our own views matter. I started this blog to continue this discussion on-line. The Comments section at the bottom of each article provides the opportunity, so don't be bashful. Particularly if you disagree!
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Written: 21 July, 2016
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