Should History Be Considered When Redesigning Skateparks?

March 2024

Skateparks  are more than mere environments for wheeled play and sport, they are vibrant cultural hubs in communities engaged with by generations of users and spectators.

Emerging from 1950s California's counterculture, skateboarding quickly went global, appealing to a youth seeking freedom and creativity. Purpose built Skateparks followed that fostered self-expression, connections between users and obtained ingrained lived experience. It is not commonly known that in New Zealand we have the oldest Skatepark in the world at Cannon’s Creek in Porirua built in 1974. So as these urban landscapes shift and evolve, a question arises: Should these historical designs be preserved and whether the history also embedded in these community spaces influence their redevelopment?


Over the past 22 years RICH Landscapes has been involved in redeveloping skateparks around Aotearoa to repair damages or issues in the spaces, to restore them to their best functionality while aligning to changing community dynamics. Through co-design we often uncover historic features and environments that are considered within approach, with elements or spaces potentially retained and enhanced to bring them more in-line with current trends while connecting with lived experience and genius loci.


Occasionally, the removal of existing skateparks may be exacerbated by inferior design, poor construction quality, unfavourable facility locations, or relocations prompted by changes in land use. In these instances, leveraging advancements in surveying and LiDAR technologies provides avenues to extract components of the original design. To the diehard archaeologist this may be considered a no-no though in skateboarding culture this enables the seamless integration of these elements into newly constructed environments, fostering a continuity of connection with the antecedent setting.Through this strategic approach, the incorporation of design elements from prior skatepark installations have served to honour the history of the space while aligning with contemporary standards and requirements, ensuring a progressive and harmonious transition.   One such example is the Wellsford Skatepark Redevelopment where we integrated the original bowl form in Wellsford into the new community space.   In this instance the bowl was in poor condition, so the decision was made to skin over the existing facility, retaining the old shape while implementing a ‘to Vert’ hipped quarterpipe and other elements that added new interest and flow into the setting.    Following in this vein, in 2015 the original 'Go Kart' track setout at Orewa Skatepark in Auckland was reflected through into the final design with a sweeping pathway overlaid directly over the old track.   Another example currently in design is the Waihi Skatepark Redevelopment that looks to transfer the existing shape and size of the bowl deep end through surveying into the new skatepark environment (with minor enhancements), located in another area of the park.


When looking abroad, there are also other examples of the history of the site being brought into the future such as the The Bro Bowl V2.0 development in Tampa in 2015, which was scanned with lidar technology and replicated in the new skatepark a few hundred feet from the original footprint.   They also excavated and relocated the moguls from the original design into the central grass area as an ode to its history and historical registration.   In Stockwell, United Kingdom, they restored their skatepark (built in 1978) in 2022 through repouring,resurfacing, and recolouring. With their intimate connection to the environment,the design team had confidence in what they had designed and built would seamlessly integrate and add to the overall flow of the space.


Overall, we see the history of the site, its space,and features are valuable resources when redeveloping a skatepark as it connects the community to the space with its rich stories from lived experiences, while retaining unique shapes and spaces from a generation of use that may no longer be built in contemporary design.   Though we may preserve things that we see value in that are not progressive and in line with the parks of today, they have a connection to our past that bonds our communities together.

So what are your thoughts, do you place value on the history of our facilities or is it better to be out with the old and in with the new? Shoot us a DM or drop us a comment.

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