Designing spaces for human movement

Skate Park - Bowl

Skatepark designed by champion & architect

I’m fascinated by the way people interact with the spaces they inhabit and visit.  Everything from the way rooms are lit by the sun and by the lights around us; to the very set-ups of Macs and PCs at our desks – think about it: this is where – in our industry anyway – we spend so much time here, the influence of the objects and spaces we inhabit is enormous.

But what is greater still is the consideration and dynamic designs of the spaces people move in. And skate parks are a testament to that.

Former European skateboarding champion and architect Matthias Bauer of MBA/S Associates has designed a skatepark and youth club in Stuttgart, Germany.  The skatepark is conceived as a combination of the three parts defining modern skateboarding: Street-Plaza, Bowl-Area and king size Vert-Ramp.

Think about the ebb and flow of skater, the desire to push through space.  To challenge and defy the forces of gravity and friction.  And to make that experience second to none.

When we were putting on concerts and events – it was about transforming spaces.  A creative process I still enjoy today: music, lighting, performers and audience. But this is about creation.

Our very physical context – our momentary cosmos – is often over looked. So next time you’re in the office, in a park, moving through a gallery, house or purpose design space – take note of the way we interact with the very space around us.

This is the first category I’ve added to the blog in 12 months, and I want to go back looking at the way we interact and experience events, spaces and live process.

Jye Smith is currently Senior Vice President, Head of Strategy & Operations, Asia Pacific at Weber Shandwick. Ranked in B&Ts 30 Under 30, Jye a regular keynote speaker and workshop facilitator who specialises in digital and social media strategist.

There are 6 comments for this article
  1. Ben Phillips at 10:19 am

    Food for thought this stuff, especially when we get into adaptive use of public space and responses to it.

    2 opposing examples that relate to skating

    1. London’s South Bank was a concrete undercroft that came to be one of the centerpieces of English skateboarding. After some back and forth, instead of banning the pursuit, the authorities installed blocks and ledges to facilitate the activity.

    2. Cook Phillip / St Mary’s in Sydney is a large concrete space that had no formal function. Skateboarders started to use this space, skating the stairs, bringing ledges, rails and launches. Like South Bank, the space wasn’t originally intended for skating, but that’s what it’s primary purpose came to be. As part of a ‘revitalisation/gentrification’ process, the whole area was paved with cobblestones. This makes Cook Phillip unskateable and returns the area to wasted dead space.

    Which approach is better? South Bank or Cook Phillip?

  2. Jye Author at 10:36 am

    That’s another question entirely: purpose built spaces and eventually what the communities who populate use them for.

    I love London’s approach – not being afraid of change and letting things grow organically. I feel Cook Phillip have simply stemmed any community that might have built around them – there’s even commercial opportunity missed.

    So yes, South Bank is miles ahead. Open to change and building things – Cook Phillip have alienated themselves from any such development.

    I can see the park from my window and know what I’d rather see.

  3. Oscar at 2:31 pm

    Skate culture adds so much personality to a space, I’m thinking the empty Hyde Park ANZAC pool of reflection and the aforementioned St Mary’s Cathedral in Sydney, where a spectacle was made of an inner-city space. But as Ben said, they’ve wasted an opportunity by preventing rather than encouraging the skatability of these areas. I’ve never understood the “get off my lawn” attitude most city planners seem to take against skaters. The damage and disruption is minimal, yet they insist on crap like those nasty little nubs to prevent grinds on curbs.

    I recently returned from Japan, where I couldn’t find anything to dissuade street skaters. They might even be subtly encouraging skaters; they had long bike lock rails a half foot off the ground that screamed “grind me”. But then most of Japan’s city planning seemed to be designed to empower rather than prevent.

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