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US CitySlicker Abby: Skateboard Landscape in Seattle

CitySlicker Abby tells us about Skateboarders and the Marginal Way Park in Seattle. Have a look at this great and rebuilt location and keep track on Abby's reporting.

I’m not a skater, so there is no way I can really write about skateboard culture with true understanding. However, as a designer I can objectively look at the landscape interventions that have been created by skateboarders in the city of Seattle. It is clear that the skate community is a tight group, dedicated to doing what they love, and they have shown this by their efforts to make places for skating in the city.

Skateboarders are adapting unlikely and leftover urban spaces in Seattle and turning them into active, amazing places. Although there are increasingly more official city parks with skating bowls, this stems from a deeper trend of boarders working as a community to build parks with donated materials and labor. They have been building their own landscape in Seattle. My favorite example of this is Marginal Way skatepark, a work in progress by a local non-profit, the Marginal Way Skatepark Organization. Marginal Way is located under a freeway ramp on the south side of downtown (SODO), in a space previously used as a garbage dump / transient campground. The effort involved in negotiating with the city and local businesses, as well as gathering support and dedication, is monumental. It is an effort that obviously requires real love. Hanging out there was a memorable experience, because it is still a kind of no-man’s-land, but the park makes it a perfect balance of industrial landscape and utilitarian space. The skatepark is still in progress, so if any Seattle-ites out there are inspired to contribute, the next work party is June 24th.

Skateparks are fitting re-allocations of leftover, unused urban spaces. Marginal Way skatepark makes perfect use of a previously empty and forbidding urban space, and there are many similar opportunities in the city that could be similarly adapted. A well-used space is better and safer for everyone, and skateboarding culture seems to me to have a natural affinity for embracing the edgy and apparently inaccessible.

According to the owner of the downtown skate shop / record shop Black Market, the Seattle skate scene draws skaters from the length of the west coast. A large part of the attraction is the community, as well as the sites for skating. To me this is a representation of the west coast state of mind, fluxing from north to south and going with the flow. Skateboarders achieve a kind of mobile community through their shared passion that isn’t limited to one location, and encourages exchange between people and places.

Skateboarders love their boards like I love my bike and the freedom and pleasure it gives me to get around on it everyday. If skateboarding is anything like biking, it must be a thrill… even more so because of the crazy levels of skill that can be attained. In my brief survey meeting skateboarders and visiting their hangouts I have encountered everyone from high school kids to web designers to dads teaching their kids, all out there because they love to do what they love.

written by abbyterese

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