In the past the town of Schifflange, Luxembourg had a place for skaters which was far from good. Through skate trips to the neighboring town Trier in Germany, the local skateboarders contacted myself, Axel Reichertz, and the landscape architect Stefan Jacobs. After we had seen their skatepark we had the chance to speak to the major of Schifflange 2006.
We decided to arrange three design workshops with local skaters. Our first challenge was that we did not know what size of park we would be designing so designed the park in three different sections composed of 30% transition and 70% plaza. The total space was about 1200sqm (about 13,000 sq ft). Our main target was to ensure that skaters and bikers will be accommodated within the whole concept.
Some ideas were frequently mentioned during the design workshops. This list included flood-lights, a water feature, a chill-area, and ramps. Every skater had different ideas of the ramp arrangement but most were inspired from videos and magazines. It was difficult to cater for everyone’s dreams. We contacted and got second opinions from Winnipeg and DC-plaza.
One and a half years later the neighboring town to Schifflange – Esch wanted to be part of the project. They offered to help fund the park. This was our chance to expand the size and pay more attention to details. We organized three more design workshops to collect ideas from more different skaters. Half a year later, we met with the local politicians for a final presentation. During this presentation one of the workshop participants stood up and requested an American company to design the park because of their experience. That caused irritation with the politicians and the other skaters claimed that they were happy with the current planning process. This kind of separatism so late in the project threatened to delay the whole project.
It took another year until the towns of Esch and Schifflange finalized all agreements to finance this collaboration and request funding from the Department for Families. We used this time to work on more details of the design and promote the project publicly by releasing an article in the newspaper.
Over the last couple of years Minus-Ramps, a skatepark design-build company, began to build a reputation for building pools. We met with Matt Grabowski from Minus-Ramps at one of their construction sites in Stuttgart and visited another park in Namour, Belgium to talk to Pierre Jambe from the company Brusk. We learned from these interviews: The skaters from Namour wanted mainly stairs and rails but the company decided during the construction of the park to build a snake run with multi-hip lines and no stairs or rails. It didn’t feel right for me to change the concept during the construction.
We also learned that none of us would be able to come up with a good pool design. After consultation with the shire we decided to outsource the design of the pool. Luckily the upcoming local elections sped up the process as politicians jumped on our project.
The German company UVB sent us the best bit. We met at my local skatepark in Trier, Germany for a skate demonstration and to illuminate some the construction problems at this skatepark. During its construction a lot of misunderstandings floated around. Everyone was positive after this meeting as both companies, UVB and Minus-Ramps would be working together. Minus-Ramps would build the banks and transition structures while UVB would construct all of the stair-sets and platforms. Some minor changes occurred during the construction; a love-seat was added to the pool and some adjustments were made to the rail on the pyramid. While the changes did not cost any money the whole park improved a lot. The size of the park is 1.575 qm, with 300m concrete and 10tons of steel.
I hadn’t heard of Skaters for Public Skateparks before one of the workshop participants showed me the Public Skatepark Development Guide. Every word made sense to me. SPS demonstrates the needs from skaters all over the world.
Through SPS, non-skaters like parents, politicians, etc., can understand skateparks better. Just the sentence “leave room for freestyle” makes so much sense: If you are skating your local park everyday it can get boring over time. Leaving room for freestyle and gathering areas are important features of a park. The inclusion of a landscape architect helps as they can provide vital direction for the public aspects of the park.
The skater and riders of Luxembourg will face a new era. I envisage more parks in the future as the image of a “moving” youth can only be positive.
Every politician knows that budgets are tight but there is money. It is only about the priorities of who receives the money. What changed for the local skaters? Beforehand the skaters had to travel over the border to visit a skatepark. Now skaters from other countries will travel to Luxembourg for a session in our park. Formerly guests to other parks, the local crew are now hosts!
Words: Axel Reichertz
Translation: Frank Weisenberger