Whereas skaters in tourist-friendly capital cities have appropriated existing urban spaces as platforms to showcase their moves, fears about crime, degradation, and liability often provoke undue friction between urban youth & their host communities. Skateparks are public areas that vacillate between officially sanctioned accessibility and guerrilla-style modern movements to reclaim the commons.
In the same year as the UK designated the Rom in Hornchurch as Europe’s first skatepark to get listed status, many parks face extinction as local authorities fail to establish community ownership of the land they occupy.
Enthusiasts often take matters into their own hands, building unauthorized structures on disused lots with crowd-funded DIY projects. Others have convinced local governments to erect skate parks as effective crime deterrents, providing an outlet for youth while protecting public property in other parts of the city. Today, skate parks also operate in virtual spaces, as photographers document riders and tricks and share content online, showcasing disadvantaged local communities.
Whereas skating is part of a thriving subculture, the sport favours independence and nonconformity with rules restricting access to public spaces. Those with little first-hand experience of skate parks may view skaters wearily, succumbing to media stereotypes linking skate parks with alienated, potentially criminal, behaviour. To combat existing stigmas, my interactive artwork highlights the physical and artistic skills of young skaters, while tying them into a larger conversation about public space and the appropriation and use of urban surfaces in cultural expression .
Through collaborative design strategies, I aim to improve the condition and visibility of skate parks within urban environments. Rather than simply improving the maintenance of existing parks, I hope to promote the collaborative construction methods and site usage practices valued by the skating community as a model for socially-engaged user-initiated public works.