I know many people find skating to be an annoyance, and rightfully so do I a lot of the time, but I wish people could see how vibrant and adventurous the world becomes through the lens of skateboarding. A bench hundreds of people sit on every day, without thinking twice about, can be a utopia of endless possibility for a skater. It takes the mundane or ordinary and turns it into an expression of individuality and creativity. There are plazas and designs all over the country, designed by landscape architects, that have become very, very famous destinations in the skating world, and the architect will never know the impact their design had on the sport. As a designer myself, I can remember being a kid and picking up a magazine and seeing all these wild places, plazas in Spain, some massive concrete dam in the desert, the streets of Mexico City. The list goes on and on. I didn’t know it at the time but these influences have played a big part in me figuring out the kind of designer I want to be.
There is so much good that can come from taking aspects of skate culture and applying it to design. One of my favorite things about skateboarding is how it can bring people together in our somewhat anti-social isolating world. When you go to the skate park or out in the city you notice perfect strangers interacting. Kids, teens, old men like me, you name it, people are out, engaged, and simply having fun together. Skateboarding creates such a strong sense of community. I often think about how to bring that out in a community and not just in a skate park that feels quarantined and fenced in.
That being said, I completely understand the aggravation skateboarding can create in terms of trespassing, damage to property, and so on, but whether people like it or not people will always be out in the streets skating. So, how can we as designers work to manage and integrate these things? There are subtle ways to encourage and discourage skating. For example, instead of knobbing off every bench and ledge in sight, or hiring a full time security guard, maybe think about the surfacing. A skateboard can only go where its wheels can go. A typical skateboard wheel for jumping around is pretty small, and if pavers had cracks large enough, it would be impossible to roll over. But, larger wheels for wheelchairs, strollers, etc. wouldn’t even notice the change. On the proactive side, how can we facilitate areas in public spaces for skating? Skaters don’t always need or want a $500,000 skate park, which are built to replicate the “real world” in the first place. They want to be out in the community skating on a actual bench, some stairs they saw on the way home from school, or a funky concrete bank. Therefore, in some cases, instead of having a security guard constantly running around chasing skaters out, there are designated “spots”, where they can go and integrate with their communities, while still respecting other things going on. What I’m trying to get at is by observing and being able to make these small and subtle changes, it could create big solutions for both sides of the coin and help to remove a lot of the stigma surrounding skateboarding.