Skip

Defensive Architecture
June 19, 2012 10:51 PM   Subscribe

As you walk through today's urban environment, observe public benches, walls, handrails, and any constructed inclines. You may notice various bolted on elements, extraneous steel installations, etc. One analysis deems this "defensive architecture," in a thoughtful piece that touches on thinkers, such as Michel de Certeau, Foucault, and the works of Skidmore, Owings & Merrill.

These installations are specifically designed to prevent skateboarders from riding public structures, and are known as skate-stoppers.

A short documentary "Misunderstood" exploring, in the filmmaker's words, "what it’s like to be a skateboarder for people who aren’t skateboarders."
posted by taro sato (93 comments total) 23 users marked this as a favorite

 
Are these things common outside of the U.S., in places that are less litigious and health care is free?

I've also seen little bolt-on elements that have no purpose other than discouraging homeless people from hanging out or sleeping on a horizontal surface.
posted by LionIndex at 10:56 PM on June 19, 2012


They still have them around, because the skateboards ruin the edges of things. Either chipping them apart or coating them in some sort of blackish filth.
posted by Iax at 11:08 PM on June 19, 2012


If that documentary was supposed to make me feel more sympathetic to skaters it didn't work. I'm all for art but not when it's liable to injure pedestrians or disruptively loud (in places and at times when loud things really aren't nice).

A bunch of skaters showed up at my university recently and were doing tricks off of some shallow stairs. It echoed throughout the entire courtyard and they kept barely missing people using the stairs for their purpose. A professor came out and yelled them off. No sympathy. This is the first time I've heard the name, but I guess I'm all for defensive architecture.
posted by Defenestrator at 11:12 PM on June 19, 2012 [11 favorites]


Someone needs to invent a skateboard that can grind over those things.
If that documentary was supposed to make me feel more sympathetic to skaters it didn't work. I'm all for art but not when it's liable to injure pedestrians or disruptively loud (in places and at times when loud things really aren't nice).
I think you misspelled "get off my lawn"
posted by delmoi at 11:15 PM on June 19, 2012 [7 favorites]


A public space specifically designed to exclude members of the public is no longer a public space. It's a herding pen.
posted by BitterOldPunk at 11:15 PM on June 19, 2012 [5 favorites]


I've also seen little bolt-on elements that have no purpose other than discouraging homeless people from hanging out or sleeping on a horizontal surface.

I call 'em bum-botherers.
posted by fleacircus at 11:20 PM on June 19, 2012


SKATEBOARDING IS NOT A CRIME.

Unless it is and in that case FUCK THE POLICE.
posted by clarknova at 11:25 PM on June 19, 2012 [5 favorites]


I hate to think what may have happened if there weren't defensive architecture designed into the Porter Square T-stop escalator. I can almost see myself, as a teenager, splattered against the wall opposite where the escalator lets out.
posted by not_on_display at 11:26 PM on June 19, 2012 [11 favorites]


It's not clear that all or even most of the example images given is of defensive architecture in *public* spaces. Anyway, public space doesn't ideally mean an anything-goes space.
posted by Bwithh at 11:27 PM on June 19, 2012 [3 favorites]


As an artist who makes site-specific work and filmmaker who makes films about place, I have often wondered what impact skateboarding during my teens has had on the way I think.

One thing that is often missing from discussions about skateboarding are the treks skateboarders make across cities. A lot of the time skaters may jump in the car and go to one spot for a couple of hours. But I remember these huge Saturday skate excursions, where we'd get together in our little pack of 14 year-olds and journey across suburbia for miles, stringing together trips to a dozen or more spots. We could be gone from 10 am till after dark and cover huge distances. There are a few other urban activities that might possibly allow pedestrians to experience a great stretch of the city like this (biking, walking), but skateboarding is a really fun excuse to do so. These trips were pure joy. Now my memory of them is one big glowing romanticized mix of laugher with friends, sunshine, discovery, accomplishments. It has to be one of the best uses of "The City" you could ever have.

Michel de Certeau is really interested in how we interpret the city and I think touches on journeys like these in his work.

An interesting thing about skateboarding: I haven't picked up a skateboard in about 5 years, but I still notice spots. I still think about what tricks you could do on stairway or curb I'm walking past, and imagine them without trying. It's built into the way I think - it's on reflex, it's unconscious. I don't know what that means, it's really fucking cool.
posted by victory_laser at 11:28 PM on June 19, 2012 [23 favorites]


delmoi: "I think you misspelled "get off my lawn""

Sounds about right to me. You can take 'em on your lawn if you really want but don't complain when they accidentally go through your dining room window.

BitterOldPunk: "A public space specifically designed to exclude members of the public is no longer a public space. It's a herding pen."

If I own a building and it includes skate-able architecture, is that a public space? Or are you talking about specifically designated public spaces such as parks and whatnot?
posted by Defenestrator at 11:28 PM on June 19, 2012 [1 favorite]


Is it really so terrible for a property owner -- even one who operates a public space -- to try and prevent damage to property and injury/annoyance to users of the space by people who are using it in a damaging, dangerous and noisy way?

Put another way, what if a small group of people really enjoyed carving their names in the bamboo in a public garden (as so often happens, actually), essentially defacing nature with their ego? Not noisy, not dangerous, but damaging to the plants and reducing the quality of the space for everyone else...is putting up a fence and "please don't carve the bamboo" sign turning the public space into a herding pen, or just taking reasonable precautions against inconsiderate users of the space?
posted by davejay at 11:29 PM on June 19, 2012 [12 favorites]


Someone needs to invent a skateboard that can grind over those things.

Someone needs to invent a skateboard that's quiet. Depending on the surface, a skater can push out as many decibels as an automobile. And yeah, damaging public property isn't really cool, either, though we may quibble on what constitutes damage.

Off my lawn, etc etc.
posted by zardoz at 11:31 PM on June 19, 2012


A public space specifically designed to exclude members of the public is no longer a public space. It's a herding pen.

People aren't being excluded here, just activities. And not every public space can accommodate every activity.
posted by Tsuga at 11:32 PM on June 19, 2012 [6 favorites]


A public space specifically designed to exclude members of the public is no longer a public space. It's a herding pen.

Cute slogan, but every public space specifically excludes some uses and encourages others. That concrete pad excludes gardening, and this gazebo excludes kite flying.

Certainly skateboarders aren't a class of users like wheelchair users who we owe a level of accommodation to, given their inherent conditions. They are hobbyists, and welcome to it. But their hobby is noisy and destructive, and I have a hard time figuring out why a tiny minority of hobbyists should get to ruin every horizontal angle they skate past, just because they are bored.

I'm on my phone so I can't easily link, but sonascope had a great comment on this the last time around. Sort of what it's like to be a property manager for people who aren't property managers.
posted by Homeboy Trouble at 11:33 PM on June 19, 2012 [6 favorites]


SKATEBOARDING IS NOT A CRIME.

Hitting people while riding your skateboard, however, is, and if some of these things make the dimmer members of the skateboarding community - like the asshat who seemed offended that I was using the same public plaza he was, when I was on foot and he was on his board - stop fucking around and start paying attention (like bicyclists claim they do) to pedestrians and cars, then maybe it needs to be done.

Unless it is and in that case FUCK THE POLICE.

And if your brethren slam into me while saying 'fuck the police', I'm going to entertain the idea of colonic renovation with their skateboard.
posted by mephron at 11:33 PM on June 19, 2012 [1 favorite]


My wife and I live near the Olympic Village from the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver. The public space they created is very nice and very well used now--lots of joggers, cyclists, walkers, etc. But no skateboarders, because every edge they might grind has a pretty tasteful little corner-nubbin of at some point along it.

Nearer my place is a skate park under the viaduct, and it's also very well used. And every time I walk past I see skaters tumbling, decks shooting off, and just general mayhem that they're happily handling in their skate zone. The edges of built up objects have angle iron on them to provide a long straight corner for grinding, and add some durability.

I'm not seeing an issue with these two spaces being separated like this, according to activity. "Open to the public" doesn't mean "open to the public to do anything they want".
posted by fatbird at 11:36 PM on June 19, 2012 [20 favorites]


I am sympathetic to building owners and municipalities who wish to prevent their amenities from being misused. I get that skateboarding isn't appropriate everywhere.

But designing public park benches in such a way as to prevent people without any other place to go from sleeping on them?

That's just fucking evil.
posted by BitterOldPunk at 11:40 PM on June 19, 2012 [27 favorites]


Not all skaters skate in crowded places where they might hurt bystanders. The ones that do are assholes.
posted by victory_laser at 11:40 PM on June 19, 2012 [1 favorite]


Luckily for our local skaterats my neighbors have an insanely unsafe driveway that basically consists of a long asphalt ramp leading from the street to their garage. No sides and quite a decent drop at the high end across a paved alley and then my driveway. Every 6-10 year old kid in the neighborhood spends the summer dropping off it before they get old enough to hit the real skate spots. It's a little noisy sure, but no one minds and they get endless hours of entertainment out of it.
posted by fshgrl at 11:46 PM on June 19, 2012 [1 favorite]


A public space specifically designed to exclude members of the public is no longer a public space. It's a herding pen.

A herding pen is designed to keep the occupants in.

I have nothing against skateboarding as such, but some skateboarders make a habit of taking over public spaces while endlessly practicing their tricks. The rear entrance of the SF city library, for example, is an unofficial skate center which denies its use to patrons of the library (not to mention being loudly audible inside the library, even 3 or 4 floors up).

Like it or not, skateboards tend to be noisy and break up concrete. Too much of that gets obnoxious.
posted by anigbrowl at 11:49 PM on June 19, 2012 [3 favorites]


I call 'em bum-botherers.

And they're often even annoying to non-bums. Things like this are like Digital Rights Management for the physical world.

A couple of weeks ago when it was particularly nice summer Seattle weather I was trying to get comfortable on a public bench. What I really wanted to do was just lie down and soak up the sun and read a book, maybe even take a nap with a book over my face like people used to do in parks in big cities.

But, no. The public benches in question have arm rests in the middle of the bench. The armrests are fairly useless as armrests, and they just make a large fraction of the bench unavailable for sitting. You can't really sit two people between the armrests, so a bench that could possible seat three or four people can really only seat two people.

I tried to arch my legs over the middle of the armrest and stretch out anyway, but it was about as comfortable as wedging myself into a piece of luggage. They literally design the outdoor furniture to be as inherently uncomfortable as possible. Even using it as intended the message is clear: "Feel free to sit, but not for too long. Don't enjoy yourself or loiter."

Meanwhile the bums pass out upright in the benches anyway, or they sleep directly on the ground. Mission accomplished!


Many years ago in LA many buildings around downtown had installed drippers or sprinklers along the sidewalks to prevent overnight sleeping or camping. They'd just drizzle water on the sidewalk to make it wet.

If I'm recalling correctly they were eventually ruled unconstitutional or a violation of public space or something similar. Not to mention a gross waste of water in a city that imports most of its water. I believe they may have been banned. I didn't see them around downtown when I was last there, but then again since they've gentrified the hell out of downtown with fancy new condos and art lofts, they've just shoved most of the homeless people over to Skid Row, AKA Central City East.


The irony about anti-skateboarding architecture and what many people overlook about the history of skateboarding is that the evolution of "street skating" (IE, stunts on public architecture) could have been avoided if cities and lawsuits didn't shut down all of the skateparks that existed long before street skating existed, if cities and their police departments didn't chase skateboarders out of the legal, legitimate places they were already skating.

Street skating evolved almost entirely because of these closures, lawsuits and harassment. They literally didn't have any where else to skate any more, and it was rapidly becoming criminalized so they took to the streets. And walls. And stairs. Loading docks, abandoned malls and plazas, drainage ditches and more - you name it, someone skated it.

And this persecution and harassment spawned an entire couple of decades of wannabe rebels who somehow were sold the idea that being an angry asshole was somehow part of skateboarding. It drove women and families away from skateboarding as a legitimate and highly enjoyable sport. It made getting new parks built almost impossible.

Skateboarding-related companies like Thrasher cashed in on this highly marketable "rebel" image as a way to sell magazines and product to millions of teenagers. Even today there's the damn near trademarked Thrasher attitude problem pervading skateboarding as a "bad boys only" club, and it's fucking toxic for skateboarding as a sport.


And even as a skater myself, I'm annoyed when I see skaters riding things they really shouldn't be riding. No, man, you really shouldn't be grinding the marble on that public fountain. No, you really shouldn't be riding on that sculpture or fouling it all up with curbwax. It's not all good or ok. Go find a plain old curb somewhere to grind on. No, I don't want to fight you, asshole. What, you think being a dickhead or bully makes you a better skater? Shut the fuck up and skate.
posted by loquacious at 11:52 PM on June 19, 2012 [34 favorites]


that howell essay was great - thanks.
posted by facetious at 12:13 AM on June 20, 2012 [2 favorites]


These trips were pure joy. Now my memory of them is one big glowing romanticized mix of laugher with friends, sunshine, discovery, accomplishments. It has to be one of the best uses of "The City" you could ever have.
But think about all the noise you were making!
posted by delmoi at 12:52 AM on June 20, 2012 [2 favorites]


Is it really so terrible for a property owner -- even one who operates a public space -- to try and prevent damage to property and injury/annoyance to users of the space by people who are using it in a damaging, dangerous and noisy way?

If the amount of mental effort that is put into telling skateboarders "FUCK YOU! DIE IN A FIRE!" was put into mitigating the same issues brought on by automobiles (as opposed to just trying to cram a few more of the damn things into every urban space possible) you might have a point.
posted by Kid Charlemagne at 1:00 AM on June 20, 2012 [6 favorites]


If I claimed to be an artist whose medium was walking around a city with a hammer and pounding on any exposed surface -- slowly chipping out little bits and ruining the finish, and making a lot of noise in the process -- how many people do you think would be sympathetic to my "art"? How many people would say that it's no longer a public space when people with hammers aren't allowed to bang on things and slowly ruin them?
posted by Rhomboid at 1:01 AM on June 20, 2012 [2 favorites]


Or alternatively, how about this: since automobiles generate revenue through gasoline taxes and parking fees -- revenue that can be used by the city to pay for the repairs to fix the damage done by their presence -- how about we require skateboarders to chip in to a collective fund that pays a team of maintenance personnel to clean and repair all their damage? But of course this would be impossible to enforce, and much of the property they damage is private property and not owned by the city, and they would just claim that they should have a fundamental right to skate without having to pay, so this is a stupid exercise.
posted by Rhomboid at 1:10 AM on June 20, 2012 [2 favorites]


Haven't watched the video, but the essay made me think. In fact it made me do more than think - it made me get my old board, rediscovered at the bottom of my girlfriend's old car's trunk two months ago, take a broom, sweep a part of the lot at the feed and hardware store next to my building, and SKATE for two hours. Haven't been on a board in five years.

We recently made a decision to eat less and eat better. The GF wants me to go to the gym with her. This blows the gym away.

As to those complaining about skaters running into you or ruining your architecture, please pay attention while walking and share the sidewalks. Skate wax doesn't hurt anything, things looking black aren't always bad. Bicycles and cars belong in the street. Skateboarding is too unpredictable to be in the street. Skateparks are (were) easy. Is it wrong to say deal with it? You'll feel better.

Those cheap bones china reds bearings are still rolling well by the way. Typing this still soaked in sweat, almost 30 years.
posted by Elminster of Labor at 1:11 AM on June 20, 2012 [6 favorites]


If I claimed to be an artist whose medium was walking around a city with a hammer and pounding on any exposed surface -- slowly chipping out little bits and ruining the finish, and making a lot of noise in the process -- how many people do you think would be sympathetic to my "art"?

If you did it in some intensely athletic and creatively stylish way, I might be sympathetic and supportive.

Conversely if skateboarders went around just beating on things with their boards, I'd be much less sympathetic.

Granted I'm biased since I know what it's like to skate. The noise of skateboards is one of the only loud city noises that I don't mind. I don't really know why, because in general I hate noise pollution. I think it might have something to do with how I can hear what a skater is doing through the noises, and I associate those clacking noises and wheel barks with someone out there shredding it up and having a damn good time. There's just something deeply aesthetically pleasing to me about those sounds - the clack-pop-silence-clack-whirrrr of someone landing a good ollie or catching some air.

In any case - skateboarding is here to stay.

In the future people will likely design architecture to accommodate skateboarders and lure them away from building entrances and stairs and foot traffic. If I was an architect or public sculpture artist I'd be doing it right now.

Then again, by the time that this day comes I'm sure kids will have some entirely new kind of irritating but impressively athletic way to get physical and explore their own physical limits, the limits of gravity and their environment.

Meanwhile, I look forward with curiosity to the day that taggers can buy hand-held industrial strength lasers capable of etching metal, glass and concrete.
posted by loquacious at 1:28 AM on June 20, 2012 [3 favorites]


I've seen similar added extras in subway escalators where there's a previously smooth metal gap about 2 feet wide between the up and down escalators. The added bumps were obviously there to prevent people from using that space as a slide to ride down the 3-5 stories underground.

Not all these things are done to prevent skateboarders, and they are all done to promote safety and certainly lack of liability for the public, who through an agency built and own the property.

I'm completely with the "public spaces aren't all conducive to all activities" comment above. And while I would probably have been one to try the between escalator slide down to the bottom level of a subway complex when I was young and thin if the barriers hadn't been in place, I completely understand why they are there, and support preventing that. Knowing my own clumsy nature, I'd have had great fun on the way down, and would have ended up with too much momentum by the bottom of the ride and tripped over my own feet and broken my nose or wrists at the bottom.
posted by hippybear at 1:32 AM on June 20, 2012


I liked Howell's article, not least because it has a lot of novel and subtle points. One is I think being missed by some of the get-off-my-lawn comments: in some ways skateboarding was created by these modernist stone plazas, grudgingly built by developers who were forced to provide public spaces but didn't have much real interest in lively urban environments. Often skaters were the only people to find a use for them.

He also isn't advocating that all public spaces be open to skaters. But it's worth thinking about that architects are expending considerable ingenuity on making public spaces unfriendly, and seemingly not anywhere near as much energy on making them attractive places where people of all kinds would like to go.

Jane Jacobs pointed out a half-century ago that streets and neighborhoods are safer, more vital, and more interesting when there's all sorts of people in them at all times. If all architects want is maybe an occasional brown-bagger, they're going to keep creating sterile, dead environments.
posted by zompist at 1:45 AM on June 20, 2012 [3 favorites]


You say cars are paying for the damage they cause as if the endless streams of asphalt out there were a feature, not a bug. Beyond that none of those fuel taxes has done anything to stem the noise of traffic, bring any of the 30000+ people killed every year in traffic accidents back from the dead or sequester any more than a fraction of the carbon dioxide emisions that represents an existential threat.

Given all that, it's hard for me to get all Grarrrr! about skateboarders scuffing things up or chipping the edges of curbs.
posted by Kid Charlemagne at 1:54 AM on June 20, 2012 [6 favorites]


I have a bit of a problem with this debate because I feel like it's been polarized (not so much here) and I can't relate to that polarization. Because I'm old enough to predate the skateboards as they now exist, I don't have an investment in defending them, but also I'm naturally inclined to oppose restrictive "get off my lawn" complaints about Those Inconsiderate Kids.

I mean, surely we can't really want to defend actual destruction of property, or oppose preventing this? On the other hand, if the issue is primarily about the destruction of property, I'm pretty sure that we could make this stuff more immune to skateboarding and call it a win. But that rarely seems to happen, so I think maybe that's not really what's going on.

Loquacious's timeline seems weird to me because I think it's not true, perhaps not even in spirit, that the elimination of skateparks preceded the ubiquitous use of other surfaces by skateboarders. There was a mini-revival of skateboards in the late 70s, which I did participate in (as someone in junior high). Then that sort of went away and then suddenly there was this modern version. I remember that time and obviously, at first, when skateboarding as we know it today became popular people used whatever was available. Skateparks came later. And, then, according to loquacious, were removed (which is just stupid — but, again, I think there's definitely some weird anti-skateboarding thing going on in a certain segment that's just like anti-comic books or anti-rock music or whatever).

Anyway, my initial reaction when reading this was SKATEBOARDING IS NOT A CRIME even though I was never a (modern) skateboarder. But then, reading this thread, I also found the whole "everything anyone wants to do in public shouldn't be acceptable to do everywhere in public" especially in conjunction with "and especially not if it's destructive".

So, I know I'm sort of saying the obvious. But the real problem here isn't practical. It's cultural. This is very much about two different cultures that don't like each other. Or, rather, it's about one culture that doesn't like the other and the other has reciprocated this dislike. Either way, at this point, it's cultural. We could accommodate the skateboarders. Apparently, a lot of us just plain don't want to. If we did, they wouldn't (so much) doing destructive shit in places where people don't want them to. The fact that we don't simply solve the problem in a way that isn't the equivalent to attempting to eliminate skateboarding says a lot about what "we" really think the problem is.

Not unlike, as it happens, how we deal with the homeless.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 1:57 AM on June 20, 2012 [4 favorites]


A public space specifically designed to exclude members of the public is no longer a public space. It's a herding pen.

It's not merely defensive architecture; it's arguably aggressive in that it asserts an ideology (shopping, walking and otherwise "behaving oneself," and those people who engage in such occupations, are valued over particular groups of young people and their athletic-social activities) by imposing a physical impediment.

I've never felt any particular love for skaters, but I would much rather share public spaces with noisy hordes of them than have to look at those ugly, bolt-on, anti-aesthetic, destroy-the-village-to-save-the-village hunks of metal all over the place.
posted by univac at 2:06 AM on June 20, 2012 [4 favorites]


Oh, the poor, counterculture sk8ters get no respect. Have you ever seen a cola commercial or a music video with skateboarders? Have you ever seen a t-shirt shop specializing in clothing for skateboarders? I thought not.
posted by iviken at 2:58 AM on June 20, 2012


If I claimed to be an artist whose medium was walking around a city with a hammer and pounding on any exposed surface -- slowly chipping out little bits and ruining the finish, and making a lot of noise in the process -- how many people do you think would be sympathetic to my "art"?

me. i would
posted by This, of course, alludes to you at 2:58 AM on June 20, 2012 [1 favorite]


It's official, guys. 2012-06-20, 1:51 AM EDT. Metafilter is officially over the hill.

More worried, apparently, about cement getting chipped and clatter then kids having fun (not to mention actually getting some exercise)
posted by delmoi at 3:04 AM on June 20, 2012 [2 favorites]


I think this is lousy, and I am an old lady:-) Kids are welcome on my lawn.

My youngest son and his friends did not skateboard but did similar tricks on rollerblades when they were in high school. This was in the late 90s. They did not get hurt (wore proper safety gear) nor did they hurt anyone else. They would get chased away from some public spaces, but at least these kinds of barriers were not in place then.

I guess teenagers should just stay home and sit quietly in front of computer and TV and get fat rather than be out skateboarding or rollerblading, right?
posted by mermayd at 3:32 AM on June 20, 2012


I think you misspelled "get off my lawn"

I'm in my late 30s. Skateboarding as we know it today was neither new nor underground when I was a teenager.

There's a skateboard park near where I live, and it's lit during the evening. It's got a pretty good crowd at all times, enjoying the hell out of themselves. There are a bunch of guys my age thrashing it up, as well as teens.

What is new and underground are longboards and offroad boards - tho more underground than new at this point.
posted by Slap*Happy at 4:18 AM on June 20, 2012


Defenestrator: " I'm all for defensive architecture."

You mean, like windows large enough to throw a man through?

I keed, I keed!
posted by notsnot at 4:41 AM on June 20, 2012 [1 favorite]


If those steel shims were lined along the edges of the thing, they would protect the rest of it from harm and make a sweet noise when ground upon.
posted by LogicalDash at 4:49 AM on June 20, 2012 [3 favorites]


I do find anti-skating architecture depressing, though I'm sympathetic to people who don't want everything skated on all the time.

What makes me really, REALLY sad, though, are the steel sawteeth they bolt to any butt-high exterior ledges to keep people from sitting on them. Those nasty little bits are even worse than the dividers that slice nearly every bench in the city into single-ass servings, which were bad enough.

It's like the city itself is telling the bulk of the citizenry "Move along. Move along." And that is some oppressive shit.
posted by Sokka shot first at 4:56 AM on June 20, 2012 [14 favorites]


Barcelona has skateboard friendly architecture, like the block at the entrance to el Maresme Forum (a purpose-built conference centre). And a skateboard friendly culture - think of the crowd who spend all day doing amazing stuff outside MACBA (one of the city's big art galleries)... without getting moved on.

Doesn't seem to have resulted in tourist guides advising people to give BCN a miss due to all of the chipped concrete and noise pollution.
posted by Isn't in each artist (7) at 5:00 AM on June 20, 2012 [2 favorites]


I think those metal bits on the public benches would be a great way to demark individual seats and provide an easy way to quickly assess the average separation between people already sitting there in order to determine a socially-acceptable and non-impinging location to sit.

(For the record, I'm not speaking facetiously.)
posted by RonButNotStupid at 5:04 AM on June 20, 2012


skaters chipped up a beautiful sculpture near my old place. It's design was very reliant on a perfectly clean edge, and they wrecked it.

It's not art to break art.
posted by jb at 5:21 AM on June 20, 2012 [3 favorites]


I can't skate, not cordinated enough for it--but i am overjoyed everytime i see it happen, i like when people figure out how to use the city, how to construct the city for their purposes--it becomes a living object that we can push back on. It's the same reason why I don't mind tagging.

I guess that's been said, but as someone who's queer, i am reminded of how skating can be like cruising, in that it takes leisure/pleasure in the city that does not traditionally allow for leisure/pleasure--and it finds ways of liquid access in concrete worlds (pun intended)....Thom Gunn makes this point in several poems in his book "The Man with Night Sweats", that the city is for those who use it, and those who make art of it should be rewarded.

won't be, but should be.
posted by PinkMoose at 5:49 AM on June 20, 2012


The thing about "public spaces are for everyone and every activity!" is way too simplistic. There's a park a couple of blocks from my house that includes a skate park (it's very popular). Just because it's public doesn't mean it would be cool for me and a bunch of my friends to go sit along the edges - or at the bottom - of the bowls and read or just hang out. The skaters would rightfully object.
posted by rtha at 5:56 AM on June 20, 2012 [5 favorites]


If a curb is chipped, waxed, and dirty, is it still a curb?
posted by helicomatic at 6:02 AM on June 20, 2012


I have long heard that the main entrance plaza at UT Austin has those low planters taking up half the space because Frank Erwin wanted to make it easier to round up student protesters by conning them to narrow channels.
posted by spitbull at 6:05 AM on June 20, 2012


Ah! So this has a name. I have to find a picture of it, but there's a new public art installation here at a train station. It's sneakily meant to dissuade homeless people from sleeping on or otherwise loitering around the hotel air vents in the platform.
posted by Calzephyr at 6:05 AM on June 20, 2012


Confining, although conning works too. Erwin was such a bastard.
posted by spitbull at 6:05 AM on June 20, 2012


It's official, guys. 2012-06-20, 1:51 AM EDT. Metafilter is officially over the hill.

Worrying about if 15-year-plds think you are still cool is no way to go through life, son.

Also:
SKATEBOARDING IS NOT A SPORT
posted by thelonius at 6:19 AM on June 20, 2012 [1 favorite]


A recent change to bus stops in my home city to prevent homeless sleeping in bus shelters has been to make the seats slant forwards. It's really awkward, it converts them from seats to things that tempt you into thinking of them as seats, until you sit on them and end up having to use the full effort of your legs to not slide off.
posted by ElliotH at 6:22 AM on June 20, 2012 [1 favorite]


Oh, the poor, counterculture sk8ters get no respect. Have you ever seen a cola commercial or a music video with skateboarders? Have you ever seen a t-shirt shop specializing in clothing for skateboarders? I thought not.

Yeah, you probably should have read the article. Part 7
posted by Isn't in each artist (7) at 6:25 AM on June 20, 2012 [2 favorites]


Make the surfaces on the skateboards softer so they wear down instead of the surface being ground upon and you will have my sympathy and support.
I used to run with lots of boarders in my youth but am now a property manager. The thing is the damage that is done to the surfaces have to be repaired. By real people and a non-zero number of them may be harmed or even killed in the process. It isn't just some faceless corporation or government bookkeeper moving a decimal in a spreadsheet. Real money has to go to fix the damage. That money comes from the budgets that might otherwise have paid for more efficient equipment or more amenities.
posted by The Violet Cypher at 6:28 AM on June 20, 2012 [4 favorites]


... aren't a class of users like wheelchair users who we owe a level of accommodation to ...

Neither are wheelchair users.
posted by Bruce H. at 6:42 AM on June 20, 2012


Also:
SKATEBOARDING IS NOT A SPORT


And I suppose Merriam-Webster is not a dictionary.
posted by victory_laser at 6:44 AM on June 20, 2012 [1 favorite]


Loquacious's timeline seems weird to me because I think it's not true, perhaps not even in spirit, that the elimination of skateparks preceded the ubiquitous use of other surfaces by skateboarders.

My argument is supported and historically delineated in the linked Howell essay. Sure, sidewalk surfing existed before skateparks, but grinding on rails/curbs, doing wall rides and other "lip tricks" as well as the flatland ollie didn't arise in street skating until after the advent of "vert" or "pool" or later "park" skateboarding. The "flatland ollie" didn't exist until someone did it on vert first, because it's actually easier to do in the low-gravity apogee of vert skating.

Before pools/vert skateboarders were carving mildly inclined banks and such at most. Part of this progression is technological - better, wider trucks that weren't based on narrow rollerskate trucks, better urethane wheels, wider boards. The technological difference between 70s era sidewalk surfing and 80s era street skateboarding is like the difference between going sledding on a toboggan and going snowboarding at a modern snowboard park.

SKATEBOARDING IS NOT A SPORT

Heh. Learn to pump, turn and carve in a half pipe and do it for more than 5 minutes at a stretch without passing out from exertion and get back to me on that one.

Skateboarding is one of the most physically difficult sports I've ever tried. You have to have the squatting strength of a weightlifting pro football player with the agility of a ballerina with the style of a surfer, all while competing against one of the deadliest opponents known to man: Gravity, with his goon squad kinetic and potential energy.

In an hour or two of hard vert/park skateboarding you'll get more of a workout than if you tried riding 100 miles on a bike, a 50 mile hike or a 20 mile run.

Skateboarding vert is more of a workout than heavy trampoline routines. I know, it looks really easy and graceful on TV when Tony Hawk is launching 10 foot airs out of a 20 foot tall half pipe, but I've ridden pro-grade halfpipes - but that's only because they're pros. It's their job to make it look easy and graceful.

I can't even drop in on that stuff or pump my way up to the lip past the 4-6 feet of completely vertical wall. The most I've been able to manage is a couple of feet into the vert and I have to work really hard for it. Worse, those ramps are decked in a plastic-impregnated composite wood called Skatelite that's so smooth and slick it's like trying to skateboard on ice.

It's a really intense workout and combination of brute strength and delicate balance to even be able to pump up to the edge of the vert. Most people can't even handle the shifting center of gravity required to ride the curved transition, much less use physics to defy gravity and get up on the vert - or 10+ feet in the air past the vert - and then turn around and do it again over and over a couple of seconds later.

It's much, much harder than it looks.
posted by loquacious at 7:23 AM on June 20, 2012 [3 favorites]


Skateboarding is a crime. Duh.
posted by clvrmnky at 7:30 AM on June 20, 2012


In the late 1990s, Trinity Church in Boston had a huge problem with skateboarders grinding on the soft sandstone steps of the church and parish house, but also didn't want to forbid them from hanging around in Copley Square. The facilities manager of the church met with a group of the skaters and convinced them to confine their skating to the adjacent modern granite fountain (empty of water for most of the year), with the skaters responsible for policing themselves. If they could not keep each other off the church steps, then the ban on skating in the public park would be enforced. I'm not sure how long the detente lasted, but I know church officials were very happy with the outcome at the time.
posted by Rock Steady at 7:37 AM on June 20, 2012 [2 favorites]


In an hour or two of hard vert/park skateboarding you'll get more of a workout than if you tried riding 100 miles on a bike, a 50 mile hike or a 20 mile run.

While I have no doubt that serious skateboarding is seriously physically taxing, this statement is frankly ridiculous.
posted by Hello, I'm David McGahan at 7:41 AM on June 20, 2012 [2 favorites]


Wow... just wow.
SKATEBOARDING IS NOT A SPORT: Neither is bowling or NASCAR then.
It's not art to break art.: Who's to say? Do you know it when you see it?
Oh, the poor, counterculture sk8ters get no respect. Nobody said they were disenfrachised entirely? That argument is like saying that since one black person had a single right at one point in time, that slavery never existed and that everybody's on equal ground now.

Cognitive Dissonance: alive and well.

And yes, metafilter is officially over the hill now.

I did enjoy this one though:
If a curb is chipped, waxed, and dirty, is it still a curb?

So I return unto thee: One cannot grind the same rail twice.
posted by Blue_Villain at 7:47 AM on June 20, 2012 [2 favorites]




Other creatures can't do the same tricks as you, so they don't notice them.

I can't do those tricks, but I see them.

True story: I've ridden a skateboard once. Down my driveway, hit the change in pavement, hit the ground, blacked out.

I too get upset about defensive architecture in public spaces because it's like saying "This blender is my wedding gift to you, now don't use it with alcoholic beverages because that's bad, and I get to define that because I'm the one who is giving you the blender." It's incongruent with what it actually is: public. : of, pertaining to, or affecting a population or a community as a whole.
posted by Blue_Villain at 8:15 AM on June 20, 2012


See also:
Public, Whole

Not sure why they didn't link appropriately above.
posted by Blue_Villain at 8:16 AM on June 20, 2012 [1 favorite]


Are these things common outside of the U.S., in places that are less litigious and health care is free?

Pretty common in the UK, yes.
posted by EndsOfInvention at 8:21 AM on June 20, 2012


"...didn't arise in street skating until after the advent of 'vert' or 'pool' or later 'park' skateboarding."

But the first two are not like the third and they predate the third. If you're going to include the appropriation of all such surfaces for this use in the definition of "skateparks" then your claim is true. But those weren't skateparks. They were concrete structures built for other purposes and appropriated by skaters.

"The technological difference between 70s era sidewalk surfing and 80s era street skateboarding is like the difference between going sledding on a toboggan and going snowboarding at a modern snowboard park."

Well, two things. First, I wasn't arguing that the 70s skateboarding I mentioned was the modern skateboarding I claimed predated skateparks, which I think is clear from what I wrote (since I distinguish several times that era's skateboarding and skateboarding in its contemporary form). Second, I think given from what I quote from you above, the late 70s revival I mentioned is something you don't know much about. It directly gave rise to contemporary skateboarding precisely because it was a giant technological advance that was then utilized in modified forms for contemporary skateboarding. Specifically, that late 70s revival was all about what was then high-tech trucks and wheels. It didn't itself change the nature of skateboarding because that technological change was utilized to build a speed slaloming skateboard...which isn't what people ultimately wanted. So the board changed to something wider and longer, flexible, the trucks widened, and the wheels widened but otherwise mostly unchanged. This all facilitated how people were starting to use their boards. If you think that there was a sudden transition from the 50s era skateboard to the contemporary board without an intermediate technology and style, you're wrong. That short-lived intermediate was the revival of about 1975-1980.

Incidentally, this was high-tech and boutique stuff. My custom selected and assembled board, bought in 1976, cost $75. In 1976.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 8:23 AM on June 20, 2012


I'm sorry that people don't seem to understand the article. All I feel like saying.
posted by polymodus at 8:59 AM on June 20, 2012 [1 favorite]


Not since evangelical Christians has there been a group better at cultivating the tortured air of unjust victimhood than skaters.

You want to ride? Ride. Go places, see the city, explore. Feel the wind in your hair and the sun on your face and the pleasure of the endless sidewalks click-clacking away under your board. There's a whole world out there. Go somewhere. In the smallest nowhere town and boxed-in suburb, there are still wonders to be discovered. Find them.

You want to tear up my plaza or my historic building because you feel entitled to it out of some sense of self-righteous arrogance that the mere existence of edges and inclines proves that you are divinely entitled to do what you want? Go elsewhere. Use that sense of self-importance, create a mass movement, get funding, and build your own places. If you want to be accommodated in our spaces, raise the money to build them your way, and leave the ones built before you were even dreamed of alone. Hell, if you're going to complain that urban planners ignore you, consider going to one of the millions of public planning meetings held in every district.

In the building where I am right now, there are two terrazzo landings leading into the tower that read B R O M O - S E L T Z E R in handsome block lettering in accordance with the original mission of the building. Craftsmen built these to a high standard, and took pride in making them just right, and they've kept their color and form since 1911. Sadly, this year, the skaters discovered that the Lombard street landing made for some wicked grinding, and I had to make the first repair they've needed in 101 years. Took me a long time researching to get the technique right, and took a big chunk out of time I don't have and was an unexpected line item in a budget that's already stretched too thin.

It's so easy to talk about freedom when you foist off the maintenance, repairs, and other consequences of one's hobby on people who are usually in a lesser class than you are. In the end, it's not the entitled scions of the middle class scrubbing board wax off ravaged masonry with a wire brush and solvents that make your whole body itch. But hey, it's all about freedom and that guy waving the rake is just a laughable clown, right?

Who are the victims here, again?
posted by sonascope at 9:40 AM on June 20, 2012 [19 favorites]


More worried, apparently, about cement getting chipped and clatter then kids having fun (not to mention actually getting some exercise)

I have zip, zero, nada problem with boarders grinding the heck out of street curbs. Even blackened like miner's lung and chipped like an old tea set a concrete curb is still doing it's job. I don't even mind the noise. But when grinding extends to tiled surfaces, the edges of benches and worst for me hand railings it damages and reduces the usefulness of those surfaces for everyone. The staining black transfer from handrailings and the damage to same isn't just annoying; it's dangerous.

And like people everywhere there is a subset of skaters who don't care if they endanger others use the facilities for sitting, standing, walking etc. with their activity. One of my ex's had her nose broken by some loser using the railing on a set of stairs as a personal skate park. There is no need to tolerate that kind of thing.
posted by Mitheral at 9:45 AM on June 20, 2012


"Who are the victims here, again?"

There's truth to what you write but, as I wrote earlier, there's an important truth revealed in the fact that if it were about protecting surfaces then in many cases those surfaces could be protected without eliminating skateboarding

Not to mention that I don't agree that skaters have any particular responsibility to each advocate civilly for the public spaces they want any more than anyone else does and for other groups we very often use their actual behavior and usage of public spaces as a primary metric without requiring that they also represent themselves proportionally at city council meetings.

This issue has been polarized in a way that makes (mostly) satisfying both parties impossible. And it was the folk who fight against skateboarding who polarized it, not the skateboarders. They've mostly teens, doing what teens do. They're not the adults in this civil issue. Want a park to play baseball? Well, not until you show up to city council meetings.

Your comment and those like them don't really help. You have a legitimate complaint, but your complaint is used as cover for those who really want to just eliminate skateboarding. And the apparent fact that all you do is make such complaints, and don't work for solutions that allow skateboarders to skateboard but just not in a way that damages public facilities, indicates to me that in practice you're an "eliminate skateboarding" partisan and not an "eliminate skateboarding damage" partisan.

I say this as someone who has never been a skater (as it is understood now) and has absolutely no personal investment in the continuation of it.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 9:53 AM on June 20, 2012 [1 favorite]


Are these things common outside of the U.S., in places that are less litigious and health care is free?

Pretty common in the UK, yes.


Skateboarding seemed to lead to developers taking a huge interest in provision for blind people. Every newly built set of stairs in my hometown would have an unskateable section of textured pavement at the top to warn the blind that they were arriving there.

To be clear, I reckon this is was a good thing, all told. But I also think it was clearly a reaction to skating. The textured pavements really took off in the late 90's, at the same time as the handrail bumps.
posted by Isn't in each artist (7) at 10:05 AM on June 20, 2012


In an hour or two of hard vert/park skateboarding you'll get more of a workout than if you tried riding 100 miles on a bike, a 50 mile hike or a 20 mile run.

While I have no doubt that serious skateboarding is seriously physically taxing, this statement is frankly ridiculous.


50 mile hike or 20 mile run are both things I would find impossibly exhausting.

I think a 100 mile bike ride is in a lower league though. Last summer I did an 800 mile trip on a fully laden touring bike, averaging about 80 miles a day. Each was a nice tiring day and comparable to a full day's skating when I was a (much fitter) teenager. A lot of middle aged folk of decent fitness do ~100 mile bike rides each weekend.
posted by Isn't in each artist (7) at 10:16 AM on June 20, 2012


And the apparent fact that all you do is make such complaints, and don't work for solutions that allow skateboarders to skateboard but just not in a way that damages public facilities, indicates to me that in practice you're an "eliminate skateboarding" partisan and not an "eliminate skateboarding damage" partisan.

Pure projection, and particularly uninformed projection at that, but hey, don't let me stop you putting words in my mouth to make your point.

I haven't been a skater since the eighties and don't miss it, but honestly, if I had the budget and the organizational wherewithal to make a space more conducive to a multitude of uses, I wouldn't rule out doing so. Thing is—the skater commentary on this subject is so completely insulated from any understanding of the process involved with managing a public or semi-public space that it's just ridiculous.

In my previous job with the American Visionary Art Museum, I investigated the possibility of reengineering our plaza areas to make them more broadly usable, and you know what? Budgets are not unlimited, particularly in a nonprofit environment, where organizations often struggle for continued existence. Retrofitting a space that was designed before the advent of the grinding fad with stainless steel edges and other protective measures isn't a trivial thing. It costs a fortune, and it's funny, because we approached some heavy hitters in the skater business with the proposal that they could help us to make our space work for both skaters and the majority of our visitors and all we got was a horse laugh. They rake in the cash, but philanthropy is pretty fucking rare with those guys.

If there's a reaction to want to remove skaters entirely, it's because the people wanting that special accommodation have forced the issue by their absolute indifference to any limitation beyond just letting them do whatever they want, at any place and any time. The claim that it was the opponents of skateboard damage that polarized the issue is just ridiculous. If we want skaters to quit damaging private property, we're somehow responsible for them becoming even more arrogant, entitled, and obnoxious? Really? I told many a skateboarder in the plaza at the Visionary they could ride all they wanted, but to please just not grind, and that rule was broken almost every time. Why should I accommodate them at all if they're not willing to participate?

As far as them being teenagers and not participating in the public process—tough shit. There are millions of opportunities for kids to make some effort and shape policy, but if they can't be bothered, why should I make a special effort and put in my own time and budget to accommodate them. At the museum, they weren't visitors, and never came to see anything in the galleries or spent a dime in the gift shop or took one of the free art classes we offered. Their use of our space was completely peripheral. What's one good reason why an organization with a paper-thin budget create a new mission when the kids themselves respond to generosity with arrogance?

The thing is, that institution was inordinately receptive to the possibility of including skaters, and our founder would come out and offer free passes to the museum to try to bring them into a space that they would have found welcoming, but bratty self-interested kids will be bratty self-interested kids, so what were we supposed to do?
posted by sonascope at 10:18 AM on June 20, 2012 [9 favorites]


I'm sure there are many skaters|cyclists|drivers|pedestrians that respect property and other people in public spaces. I'm sure they all pay attention and know when to give right-of-way to someone else. I've come across them many times, practically every day in my daily commutes.

Unfortunately, it's those who do not exhibit any respect nor responsibility for their actions that sticks with me. And it's those individuals that seem to force the hand of others to curb their activities in such broad strokes that it creates a divide.

There's a courtyard near my office that's like the perfect haven for skaters. Stairs, handrails, ramps, and large concrete blocks that probably house generators or other maintenance equipment.

Every day there were skateboarders and cyclists practicing their tricks, but it's not always the same group. And I saw differences in behavior; some groups conceded the space to pedestrians and would actually ditch their boards or themselves into the brush if they might collide with someone who just came around the corner. Other groups (or maybe just one group) think the courtyard is theirs and that everybody else is required to wait for them to finish their grind down the stairs before others could use it, or force others to not enter the courtyard until their friend is done building up speed to ramp up and over a bench.

I'm pretty sure this bad group was likely responsible for increased security and a blanket "no boarding" rule imposed by building management. I don't know what policies or solutions were offered beforehand, though, as all I could observe was the result. And unfortunately, the result was that the "good" group(s) left while the "bad" ones continue to show up. I don't doubt that the next step would be the installation of defensive architecture.
posted by CancerMan at 11:15 AM on June 20, 2012 [1 favorite]


Pure projection

No.

There are millions of opportunities for kids

Privileged viewpoint.

American Visionary Art Museum

Narrow modeling. This is really an urban-political problem, and needs to be addressed at that level.
posted by polymodus at 11:19 AM on June 20, 2012


Narrow modeling.

Trouble is, I've worked at both the institutional level, the urban planning level, and on the street. If my informed, detailed viewpoint doesn't count, why should I care to engage on this subject?

Privileged viewpoint.

On this one, I've officially lost interest in this conversation. I spent a year at the Visionary working with kids in juvenile drug treatment, shelters, and halfway houses on a community art project that had the dual function of creating one of the largest mosaic works in the country and teaching kids that the rest of society basically threw in the garbage that they were human beings with thoughts and ideas that were worthy of consideration, giving them valuable skills in the process. Five years after we wrapped that project up, there are kids that have better lives because we didn't let people mire us down with the whole "urban-political problem" bullshit. If you want to fix a problem, you start where you are. If all you want to do is sit around and be the smartest kid in the room—good luck ever creating any kind of meaningful change in the world. Privilege that gives away resources is not the same as privilege that is selfish.

For the record, polymodus, I did RTFA. I noted all the clever touches, took in the conspicuous brilliance of the author's invocation of the Situationists, and ultimately, find the conclusion wanting and without any prescriptive value.

We can't solve this problem because we have to fix the whole culture first.

Lovely. That'll get us...what, exactly?
posted by sonascope at 11:38 AM on June 20, 2012 [6 favorites]


Wow, parody of that silly "NOT A CRIME" slogan didn't go over so well.
posted by thelonius at 12:31 PM on June 20, 2012


Kid Charlemagne: "If the amount of mental effort that is put into telling skateboarders "FUCK YOU! DIE IN A FIRE!" was put into mitigating the same issues brought on by automobiles (as opposed to just trying to cram a few more of the damn things into every urban space possible) you might have a point."

There are structures all over every city I've ever been in to keep automobile drivers in their place: curbs, walls, gates. And they are there for much of the same reason: safety of pedestrians, protection of pavement, avoiding the annoyance of sharing walking spaces with them.
posted by IAmBroom at 12:44 PM on June 20, 2012 [1 favorite]


Skateboarding seemed to lead to developers taking a huge interest in provision for blind people. [..] To be clear, I reckon this is was a good thing, all told. But I also think it was clearly a reaction to skating.

I think you'll find it correlates more with advocacy from disability groups and (especially in the US) litigation against cities and counties that became easier after the passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act in 1990.

Privileged viewpoint.

What nonsense. Skating is an expensive hobby, and a half-decent setup (board + trucks + bearings + wheels) costs a good bit more than an adult bicycle. San Francisco abounds in open-access skating opportunities (places that are safe, interesting, and have low traffic) because of its natural geography as well as public and private skate parks. Complaining about how hard it is to skate in San Francisco is like complaining that The Man won't let you play tennis in a traffic intersection.
posted by anigbrowl at 1:52 PM on June 20, 2012


A lot of teenagers who skate are harking back to the SKATE AND DESTROY ethic. I doubt any of them give a shit about this video or this thread or architecture or 'skating as art'. Wax up a kerb and if your board hits someone, we'll lol over the video later on in your mom's house. That's not what skating is about, it's about line and form and the grandeur of space devouring itself within walls of glass and wank.
posted by Elmore at 2:21 PM on June 20, 2012


While I have no doubt that serious skateboarding is seriously physically taxing, this statement is frankly ridiculous.

It's not a ridiculous statement in the slightest. Unless you've successfully skated vert you probably have no idea what you're talking about.

I've done all three things that I mentioned. Of the three skateboarding vert is the most strenuous full body workout I've ever had. It's harder than skiing, snowboarding, surfing average 4-8 foot waves, biking, hiking or walking.

When skating vert you're basically doing a deep knee bend full body squat every few seconds under a 2-4 G load, basically the equivalent of 2 to 3 times your own body weight. Except instead of doing it on a nice flat floor you're doing it on a chunk of wood with wheels on it that acts like a gymnast's pivoting balance board. So you're doing a powerlifting squat while in the middle of fast twitch balance controls with your feet and legs.

Today's pro skaters utilize an arsenal of physical trainers and cross-train with a variety of disciplines like yoga, martial arts, swimming or cycling to keep their endurance, strength and balance up.

Even if you can stay on your board, even if you're a good, skilled skater - it will wreck your shit all day long. It's the most technically difficult and physically strenuous sport I've ever tried, period.

Which brings us back to the real point: Skateboarding is most definitely a sport. Claiming that it isn't is lame.
posted by loquacious at 2:25 PM on June 20, 2012


Skateboarding is both a sport and a pastime. And by pastime, I mean fashion statement. For a lot of young men/boys, carrying a skateboard says something about them. They are rebellious, their parents hate it, they are cool. It's not about art or architecture, it's about beingin your face. For a lot of young men, carrying a skateboard is about being an annoyance. It is that simple.
posted by Elmore at 2:39 PM on June 20, 2012 [1 favorite]


Second, I think given from what I quote from you above, the late 70s revival I mentioned is something you don't know much about.

Try me. My first real board was a sculpted hardwoood Makaha, not plywood. I was 5 or 6 or something. My dad used to skate pools and quarterpipes back in the era, and was somehow involved with the now famous Vans "Off the Wall" logo that was designed in the 70s. I can't remember if he helped design it or was just printing the stickers, but he was there. I was just a little kid, sure, but I grew up in the epicenter of modern skateboarding. The suburbs of LA.

Anyway, point being is that yeah, we're at a miscommunication mainly about the definition of "street skateboarding", which by my definition must include the flatland ollie, which enables the use of stair handrails, ledges, walls, curbs and other non-horizontal surfaces as descended from vert riding and lip tricks like grinds, board slides, stalls and such.

The ollie wasn't invented until 1977, and even then it was only on vert surfaces as I mentioned above. Rodney Mullen is credit with doing the first flatland ollie in 1981 on a flatland freestyle board, but it wouldn't have had enough altitude for modern street skating since freestyle boards were short, skinny and flat squared-off decks with narrow trucks and wheels.

The flatland ollie wasn't really possible in a reliable fashion until bent plywood boards with true concave decks and kick noses came on the scene which didn't happen until the early 80s. Before that even the wide "modern" pool boards were flat and not hydraulically pressed into deep concave shapes like these 2nd/3rd generation boards.
posted by loquacious at 2:42 PM on June 20, 2012


Skating is an expensive hobby, and a half-decent setup (board + trucks + bearings + wheels) costs a good bit more than an adult bicycle.

How is that possible? A bike has more bearings; half the tires but they are much larger and more complicated, and a frame that is much more involved than a fiberglass layup or formed plywood. Plus brakes, lights, reflectors, seat, gear set, cranks, pedals and assorted fasteners. Or are you comparing a half decent skate board with a Wal-Mart bike?
posted by Mitheral at 2:50 PM on June 20, 2012


Well it is expensive when you are Danny Way, 'course it pays too... And that's what skating is all about.
posted by Elmore at 3:15 PM on June 20, 2012


For a lot of young men, carrying a skateboard is about being an annoyance. It is that simple.

wut
posted by BitterOldPunk at 3:34 PM on June 20, 2012 [1 favorite]


How is that possible? A bike has more bearings; half the tires but they are much larger and more complicated, and a frame that is much more involved than a fiberglass layup or formed plywood. Plus brakes, lights, reflectors, seat, gear set, cranks, pedals and assorted fasteners. Or are you comparing a half decent skate board with a Wal-Mart bike?

I was thinking of a Target bike, but same concept. This is a valid comparison for 3 reasons: first the market for bikes is more mature and a lot larger than that for skateboards, because far more people cycle than skate; second, I specified an adult (size) bike for, well, cycling around on as opposed to doing tricks or negotiating rough terrain - because most people cycle to get from A to B rather than perform stunts; and third, even if you like trick cycling (which I did as a teenager) you're not bouncing the bike off the ground/street furniture anything like as frequently or violently as you are a skateboard.

This is not say that you can't spend more on a bike than on a skateboard. But in normal use you're going to wear out a cheap skateboard way faster than you wear out a cheap bike. Skaeboarding is hardly the refuge of the underprivileged as asserted above.
posted by anigbrowl at 4:54 PM on June 20, 2012


I don't have a strong opinion on the matter, but I don't think that cost of ownership alone tells you whether someone possessing something is underprivileged, or not. This is like claiming that teens who definitely live in poverty are not underprivileged because they wear expensive sneakers. Or similar claims made about adults. When people want something badly enough, and it's de rigueur for their subculture, they'll find a way to get it, beg, borrow, or steal. Or save for a long time while cutting back on less important things like food and shelter.

That's not to say that I think that skateboarding has the same demographics as the more underprivileged in our culture. I don't. But they're probably much more diverse than you're allowing because there's just not as strong a correlation between the dollar-barrier-to-entry and being underprivileged as you think there is in the case of strongly social-identity signifiers like hobbies, sports, and fashion.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 5:11 PM on June 20, 2012 [1 favorite]


No disagreement there. I was responding to the dismissal of the idea that there are opportunities for kids to enjoy themselves in many ways besides skateboarding as a 'privileged viewpoint.' If that's the case, using the library building to sell skate trucks or promote your gear is a privileged viewpoint as well.
posted by anigbrowl at 6:33 PM on June 20, 2012


I don't really feel too strongly here either way. I like architecture. I like skateboarders and skateboarding.

I think it's pretty simple. Don't go around breaking shit. I like to break fans but it's an activity that, sadly, I can only indulge at my house. With my fans. If you're not sure which definition of fans I'm using here, don't worry, no one else is either.

This society thing is like flippin' rocket science to some people. "Get to the right of the stairs!" "Stop smashing sculptures!" This isn't that hard. But it's delicate, oh so delicate.
posted by IvoShandor at 8:51 PM on June 20, 2012


loquacious, no I've not ever successfully skated vert, hell after a year of practice I still couldn't consistently pull of an ollie, so you are quite right that I don't know what I'm talking about. While I'll obviously deign to the experience of those like you who have direct experience of these things I still have a hard time believing it. Though I get what you mean. With things like running, cycling, or hiking it is mostly about stamina and aerobic fitness, whereas vertical skateboarding has a whole technical dimension on top of that that requires the sort of balance, flexibility, core strength, and so on of things like gymnastics as well. But sideways and in mid-air.
posted by Hello, I'm David McGahan at 6:21 AM on June 21, 2012


Isn't in each artist (7): "Skateboarding seemed to lead to developers taking a huge interest in provision for blind people. Every newly built set of stairs in my hometown would have an unskateable section of textured pavement at the top to warn the blind that they were arriving there."

That's just a coincidence. Skateboarding became popular around the same time as the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) came into effect.

Hostile architecture sucks, but ADA is a very good thing. It's one of the only major progressive things that the US has done in my lifetime.
posted by schmod at 7:30 AM on June 21, 2012 [2 favorites]


« Older In 2010 you loved "Valentine's Day"...In 2011 you...   |   Batmanologist Kevin Smith Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments



Post