Urban Parks as Skateparks - Part 2

This follow up to my post, ' Urban Parks as Skateparks ’ looks at the other side of the skatepark proposal, that is, what is being evacu...

This follow up to my post, 'Urban Parks as Skateparks’ looks at the other side of the skatepark proposal, that is, what is being evacuated or displaced in the excitement of looking for a new site location?

I use the term excitement loosely as it depends on who is raising the site location.

Just as Henri Lefebvre recognised how spaces reinforced power, so too does the allocation of space imply power and control. Sometimes the sheer relief of finding a space to build a skatepark in a brownfield site or next to a football pitch can overlook the monocultural effect it has on other areas of the city (the void left over). When spaces become strictly designated, that is, a blue space for activity x, a red space for activity y, one should be aware of;

1. the convenience that provides to reduce the notion of space purely as a commodity

2. the way such rigid designation shuts down our capacity to freely interpret spaces

Lefebvre's announcement that space was not neutral is an important observation. It has consequences for those in power because spatial neutrality allows for manipulation. How else can the Southbank Centre consider moving the Undercroft down the road if they didn’t believe the space was neutral, modular and therefore easily ‘swapped’? In order to consider that idea, you have to detach any cultural value to space - neutralise it. Decompartmentalise the activity as one thing, the space as another thing; empty. It’s an artificial incision which severs our attachment and associations to our environment.

(photo by Stephanie Sadler)

We disdain sports in areas we deem it inappropriate so we relocate them away because it's perceived to be a nuisance (even though millions will watch televised sports at home). We like sports, but on our terms. Exporting physical activities somewhere 'over there' is the default trick. Yet, once the nuisance activity is exported to a designated (and controlled) space is its position secured? What’s to stop attempts to charge for the practice such as Hyde Park’s efforts with softball players?

"There will be no “away” towards which we can throw anything. A flat ontology in which there are no ideological twists and bends to carry away our physical and philosophical waste into some illusory beyond." - Timothy Morton, Zero Landscapes in the Time of Hyperobjects

Now, I don’t believe parks will be reduced to cultural rubbish bins, collecting unwanted emergent physical activities we don’t know what to do with. But our haste to develop new sites can miss an appreciation of what existed before, and what existed before may be quite complex as to be unnoticeable. If you ask a skater what their ideal surface is, more often it will be smooth, concrete (or spanky marble if they’re ambitious). Yet Justin Herman Plaza, Embarcadero - responsible for pioneering a lot of early 90’s tricks - is paved with brick, the acoustic clatter board of surfaces! Is the haste for the new site a reduction to an optimisation? A selection of what existed? In this outtake, Jovontae Turner is constantly repeating the same line, off the steps and on to the ledges. But more subtle in the street furniture is this little trick;

He hits a backside 180, every time, over a paving join. You cannot expect to transpose all adaptions, they’re tailor made. I have a quote from Derrida, that all "translations are abuse" (which I need to source because I’m beginning to think I imagined it)1 and I think in that quote is the crux of this blog post, an acceptance (like the Timothy Morton quote) of what’s in front of us and of what would be left behind in the process of evacuation. It’s a blunt question and it needs to be asked.

But I won’t leave on that sober note. What are we doing, if anything, to encourage existing cultural-spatial relationships?

1 Detective work has been engaged, the quote is, 'a "good" translation must always abuse'
2007 Derrida's Psyche: Inventions of the Other, The Retrait of Metaphor, pg 67. Thanks Christophe for reminding me! 

You Might Also Like