Skate park designs respond to trending skate styles – but without exception all are born of the urban and have connections to their spaces and places of inception. With the push toward street skating in recent years, the Victoria Park Skate Plaza wears the influence of an urban plaza, with numerous elements true to the form of traditional street skate elements.
‘Skateboarding is not a crime’ was the ’90s’ manifesto for youth searching in vain for somewhere to grind a step edge or jump a gap without risk of being ‘moved along’ or pinged by the cops for public property damage. In time, the elusive ‘somewhere’ became the skate park but surprisingly – given the popularity of skateboarding, scooters and BMX throughout the 2000s – Auckland’s inner city had few sanctioned skating places.
There was one, though, at Victoria Park but in 2010 this was removed to allow the Victoria Park Highway Tunnel to scythe through the park. The good news was that, at the urging of the local skating community, Auckland Council organised a temporary timber skate park. Better still, a new park was planned and, in a rare example of young people being given a voice in design decisions, a group of local skaters became part of the Technical Advisory Group that played a valuable consultation role on the project.
At Victoria Park Skate Plaza today, under the gaze of two carved pou – one by Ngāti Whātua acknowledges the history of the stream that ran through the site; the other a carving by legendary New Zealand skater Lee Ralph, of a figure with arms tightly entwined around a skateboard – you’ll find upper and lower sections with an entrance space in between. It looks like a high-quality urban environment – and that is a key to its success, as high-quality urban spaces are great places to skate. Another key to success if that the ‘flow park’ setting; that is, the elements you might find on a typical street – elevation changes, ledges, seats and steps – are mixed with a ramps, quarter pipes, pump bumps, bowl corners in a way that caters to skaters of varied skill. In this case, popularity is the evidence of its success.
Victoria Park opened in 1905 as a non-picturesque park. It is a flat plane, which meant careful handling was required careful handling to integrate the skate plaza. On the western edge, the street interface is a long roughcast-concrete wall is well matched to the scale and proportion of the opposite streetscape. It’s a device that provides copious seating – and you’ll often find it packed with skaters resting or waiting for a ride home.
In contrast to the urban edge, the park-side boundary steps down through planted levels as a softer interface more appropriate to the park’s green edge. On the northern boundary, you’ll find one of the stars of the show – a seemingly utilitarian emergency-egress box fitted with a massive wall ride… for the brave or foolish, this has been the scene of many spectacular rides – and fails.
Travis Wooller, Alan England,
Evan Williams, Tim Fitzpatrick, Kent Lundberg
Technical Advisory Group –
Chey Ataria, Haimona Ngata, Justin Watene;
Bowl Design – James Blas;
Artworks – Lee Ralph, Ngāti Whātua o Oraki
2013 NZILA, Distinction Award Rural/Park/Recreational