published in sb 4/2016
New public squares for the city of the future
Barcelona has opened three new skate parks designed by SCOB, a landscape architects’ studio: the Mar Bella Sports Park in Poble Nou, Aurea Cuadrado Sports Park in Les Corts and Nou Barris Sports Park in Nou Barris.
In most cities, skate parks are still being built on the outskirts to avoid potential conflict between skaters and other users of public spaces. They are hardly ever integrated into their environment, resembling isolated collections of strange artefacts. Their distance from the city and the difference in form compared to traditional public spaces keep skate park users and city residents apart and impede any interaction between skate parks and the urban landscape that surrounds them.
The Landskate Parks have changed this dynamic and become a new and contemporary alternative public space. They are not a sports area, street, square or park – they are meant to be all of these things simultaneously. These new meeting points unite both skaters and pedestrians, encouraging their interaction and helping to prevent potential conflicts before they ever arise. These users are not just youngsters or adults rekindling or continuing their passion for skating, but also children starting out and their parents accompanying them, as well as, increasingly, tourists from all over the world who come to Barcelona and are amazed by the immense street style possibilities the city has to offer.
It is important for skaters and passers-by to find their own space in order to feel comfortable. The skating elements have to be technically suitable and well adapted to all disciplines and levels, but the facilities also have to be perceived by all as part of the city through which they are walking. In the Landskate Parks, all elements are interconnected and generate more complex systems that establish direct continuity with their environment. These new public spaces are not isolated objects in the landscape, but an integral part of the area in which they are placed. They take on the textures and colours around them, connecting with existing routes and joining with the surrounding greenery.
Since opening, Barcelona’s three Landskate Parks have become meeting places as well as points of reference for all generations and disciplines. They have been respectful of the areas in which they have been built and have quickly generated several new and rewarding social and urban dynamics.
Mar Bella Urban Sports Park (Poble Nou)
Mar Bella Urban Sports Park has been designed as a multipurpose skating area. It creates an artificial topography, a set of dunes and paths that follow the existing ground conditions of Poble Nou Park. The project is adapted to the terrain and makes use of its slope, facilitating a long skating run from the city towards the seafront. At the top, closer to the road, is a street area with benches, walls and handrails that operates as an entrance, along with a large bench that serves as a meeting place and viewpoint from which to start the descent. The next element, the snake run, is formed by a topography that facilitates skating over a longer distance with surfing-like movements. At the bottom, where the park just skirts the dunes, are two intertwined pools of different geometries and levels of difficulty. Benches and terraces on both sides enhance the spot’s value as a meeting point and rest area, not only for users, but also for people walking through Poble Nou park or going to and from the beach.
Aureà Cuadrado Urban Sports Park (Les Corts)
Aureà Cuadrado Urban Sports Park is set out entirely as a skate square. The initial spec requested the replication of a few famous skating spots from the city of Barcelona: the MACBA walls, the platforms at the Parallel metro station, the curved tables at the Plaça dels Països Catalans and the slanting surfaces at the Arc de Triomf. The project works within the limited scope of intervention, making use of changes in levels and slopes to place the skating elements, which are linked together by a common sequence and language. In order to establish strong continuity with the surrounding landscape, the park’s interior routes remain untouched, the existing vegetation is integrated into the concept and the materials used for the project are the same materials previously used in the area: concrete and weathering steel.
Nou Barris Urban Sports Park
The new Urban Sports Park in Nou Barris is located above a covered section of the Ronda de Dalt, one of the biggest traffic infrastructures in Barcelona. It is a renovated old skate run of which only a part was in use. A long process of public consultation and local cooperation has been crucial to creating a skate run that adapts to users’ needs. The skate park has three consecutive bowls, the legendary hellcurvin (the bowl made famous worldwide by the great skater Tony Hawk’s computer game), a street bowl with multiple skating elements and a snake. All of the elements are linked with each other and their surroundings, establishing continuity with the public space in which they are placed and enabling interaction between users and bystanders. Due to the location’s substantial restraints, the architects did not work with the vegetation in this project but with the colour of the concrete, searching for a chromatic continuity with the soil at nearby Collcerola Park. SCOB tried to make the area look more inviting, reducing the impact of the existing terrace and playing with the artificial topography to create an area with amazing forms.