Taking Liberties with skatepark?
SKATE D8, a co-ordinated campaign to find space for a skatepark in Dublin 8, has clapped eyes on a barely used section of St Patrick’s Park as the most suitable location for what could be a fantastic new amenity for young people in the Liberties area.
However, it will only happen if Dublin City Council officials change their mind about what a public park is (or can be), and see the possibilities inherent in young architects Douglas Carson and Rosaleen Crushell’s design.
A council spokesman said its parks department had told Skate D8 it does not consider St Patrick’s Park to be a good location for a skateboard arena because it “would have a negative impact on the heritage and setting of St Patrick’s Cathedral and park”.
The park “is visited each year by thousands of tourists” and the council is seeking to improve visitor facilities there. “It would not be appropriate to impose structures or activities which could be viewed as negatively impacting on the built heritage [of the area].”
In response, the architects quote the great Jane Jacobs, author of The Death and Life of Great American Cities, who observed that city parks “are not abstractions, or automatic repositories of virtue or uplift . . . they mean nothing divorced from their practical tangible uses”.
Skate D8 was formed by Sandy Hazel in 2006 to promote the benefits of a skatepark in Dublin 8 that would provide a “meaningful place” to play for young people in the area. Active members include skaters, graffiti artists, parents, schoolchildren and young adults.
The campaign has received support from local groups including the Haroldville Reuben Residents’ Association, the Whitefriar Aungier Community Council and the South Area Youth Service, as well as a petition signed by more than 1,000 schoolchildren in the area.
With support from the Arts Council, Carson and Crushell Architects looked at how an urban space could be both an amenity and cultural site for the community with particular focus on “established street cultures currently under-provided for in the city centre”.
They say the artistic concept of this imaginative project is to “represent, through a collaborative design process, an ideal urban space, focusing on the specific needs of the users of a skatepark while reflecting the aesthetic desires of the remaining citizens”.
The architects point out that there are four skateparks in the Dublin City area, of which only one is located in the inner city. This works out at one per 125,000 in population, compared with one per 75,000 in Vancouver, where all eight skateparks are in the inner city.
Their illustrated report stresses the need to work in collaboration with the community to create successful spaces, and quotes Jacobs again: “Cities have the capability of providing something for everybody, only because, and only when, they are created by everybody.”
The architects point out that unlike sports facilities such as basketball courts or football pitches, skateparks are non-standard in design terms. “This provides the artist with an opportunity to provide unique challenges to its users as well as creating an innovative and expressive urban space.”