What can city design learn from the approach of skateboarders? By making a skate-able city, do we also make a much more live-able city for everyone?
Skateboarders have a unique exploratory perspective when it comes to cityscapes: the surfaces, ledges and rails provided to funnel people through space become challenges and obstacles. Often, neglected pockets of urban space are adopted by this community and assigned new value as a competitive playground.
Urban design is welcoming all forms of active travel, with old rail systems being transformed into public walkways such as The High Line in New York, and whole separate traffic systems for cyclists dominating innovative city redevelopments.
With skateboarding’s debut at Tokyo 2020 as an official Olympic sport, it heralds a new era for the sport, already experiencing a rise in diversity of participants and a change of social attitude towards an activity once demonised. What can city design learn from the approach of skaters? By making a skate-able city, do we also make a much more live-able city for everyone?
Dr. Dani Abulhawa is an artist-academic whose work often engages with skateboarding practice and other forms of playful movement, exploring gender politics and public space . Dani works as a senior lecturer in Performance at Sheffield Hallam University, she is an ambassador for the skateboarding charity, SkatePal, and a founder-member of ‘Re-verb Skateboarding’ and ‘Accumulations’. Dani is currently writing a book about ‘girl’ skateboarders and gender politics.
Prof. Iain Borden is Professor of Architecture & Urban Culture, and Vice-Dean Education, at The Bartlett, University College London. A historian and urban theorist, his most recent books include Skateboarding and the City: a Complete History (Bloomsbury, 2019), Forty Ways to Think About Architecture (Wiley, 2014) and Drive: Journeys through Film, Cities and Landscapes (Reaktion, 2012. Iain frequently advises on skateboarding culture and skateparks, as well as being an active skateboarder for 40 years.
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