Youth into town – Skate park in Werdau

By Sylvia Staudte, Architektur Concept Pfaffhausen & Staudte GbR

Youth into town – Skate park in Werdau

Skate parks to improve leisure-time options for young people work in small towns, too are sustainable, and are accepted when politics, users and citizens are all involved. Teenagers can, albeit often unconventionally but not utopian by any means, provide stimuli for urban development.

Werdau is a small town in southwest Saxony with just over 20,000 residents. It is one of those towns, typical in the region, which was originally influenced very strongly by industry. After the political reunification large parts of the economic infrastructure broke off and the town had to contend with a marked decrease in what was becoming an ageing population. The effect was felt most keenly in the town centre. The town centre, which was originally urban, has become increasingly eroded in the last decade, not least because the ruins of factories had been demolished and the areas could not, in part, be built upon again.

In the town centre itself the area around the river Pleiße, which flows through the town, had been cleared of structures. The areas next to the Pleisße, which belong to the town, were supposed to be designed as a green area for all generations. In 2010 the town successfully participated in the state competition “Head to the centre – the Saxony City Offensive” with several themes, among others, with the planning of a multi-generational park next to the Pleiße

The idea to build a skate park within the multi-generational park close to the town centre stemmed from the municipal authorities, but not without good reason: The small skate and BMX scene in the town had long been a contentious issue for the population due to the unsafe nature of it being carried out in the town centre outdoor areas and supermarket car parks. The young people weren’t to be forced out though; their activities were to be channelled and sensibly integrated into the free municipal areas. It was important to the town planners to be able to offer young people opportunities in the town centre, too, which would also benefit the facilities there and provide an overall vitalisation of the area. In 2011 the landscape architects from the firm Architektur Concept Pfaffhausen & Staudte Zwickau were commissioned with the planning of the multi-generational park.

During the first meeting in the town hall, members of the municipal authorities, the commissioned landscape architects, street workers and, in particular, an astonishing number of skaters and BMX riders from different backgrounds all sat down together at the table. The young people brought their ideas, wishes and even small designs with them. The municipal workers and the planners also had initial ideas – everything was discussed and assessed. In order to arrange the planning for everyone involved so that it was efficient and realisable at the same time, a small team was formed from those participating in the planning stages.  

A budget was put in place right from the outset, and the planning had to operate within those boundaries. The timeframe for the realisation of the project and the project financing using urban development funds (urban renewal) were also, to a large extent, settled. As the spokesperson for the town was involved in the process from the very beginning, good lines of communication between the town and the teenagers were in place, as well as ensuring that all factual information pertaining to the project was in the public domain.

 

The question of location

It was only the selected location which proved to be problematic after the appropriate testing had been carried out, as the area originally intended for the project was ruled out on the grounds of noise control. A new location for commercial development was found a short distance away on the opposite bank of the river. The site’s accessibility, including for those in more rural areas, is good thanks to the public transport connections.

The neighbouring parish, which also uses its outdoor areas for leisure activities, was integrated into the planning process.

However, the new plot of land was less favourable in terms of size and required a complete rescheduling of the planning. The site was adapted to the shape of the plot of land and planned as a cross-shaped combination consisting of various elements. The elements were joined together using a stretch of flat concrete. This was the way in which differentiated offerings of varying difficulty for the different user groups could be housed in the small area. For reasons of durability and maintaining a uniform appearance, also owed to its town centre location, it was decided that the site would be realised completely in concrete.

The entire project was confirmed and put out to tender by the town Council. The construction work was carried out by a local landscaping company, Lechner & Galabau. For the site itself, the experts at Concret Sportanlagen GmbH and a special concrete tenderer were commissioned and played a part in the further developments. Together with these participants there was a period of fine tuning the planning and, ultimately, the realisation of the project.

Construction work began at the beginning of September 2011 and was presented to users at the beginning of May 2012.

 

Pipe, Banks and Ramps

The enclosed skate park is accessible via an entrance area that cannot be accessed from the main road. The site, which is almost shaped like a cross, is adorned with king-size banks of varying sizes along three sides and a Quarter Pipe that is connected via a flat concrete stretch. A rooftop ramp with a low flat-rail made from steel was constructed here between the Quarter Pipe and the bank. Opposite the second bank the lower level of the concrete flat is joined to the slightly higher second level by a set of stairs and  ramp combination, and various ledge banks. In addition, there is also a curb box on the lower level, as well as a skate rail. The skate park was complemented by robust seating elements made from concrete blocks and grass was planted on open spaces.  

The construction costs for the skate park were approximately €93,000 plus planning services costs and advance payment for freeing up the plot of land for development. The facilities have enjoyed great popularity and were, even before the official presentation ceremony, actively used.

The neighbouring towns, such as Zwickau and Reichenbach, may well offer considerably more leisure opportunities, but they can only be reached on a limited basis by younger users.

The eventual design of the skate park was the result of a planning and discussion process in which the future users of the park, the specialists from Concrete Sportpark GmbH, as well as planners and the local authority actively worked together:

Of course the process of the teenagers as users taking on a degree of responsibility is a new one for all involved and not without its problems. In terms of operations, there are always groups which do not adhere to the agreements made with the town.

The local authority, together with the club and the street workers, is in discussions with teenagers and attempts to counteract these tendencies. For dedicated teenagers who worked to help the project succeed, this is a learning process that they must put themselves through.

 

Conclusion

Before the planning phase commenced, the location needed to be tested, in particular the emission control requirements, as well as the accessibility and the integration of the site into the town’s eco and leisure systems.

Skate parks as a means of enriching the leisure time options work in small towns, too. They are sustainable and are accepted when politics, users and citizens are all involved.

With the full inclusion of the users in the planning process and where necessary in the realisation of the project, they come to identify themselves with the facilities. They also learn how to negotiate (financial and political, among others) preconditions and constraints in the planning process which could, under certain circumstances, have an impact on the desired ‘end product’. This could potentially lead to a higher level of acceptance and counteract any destructive tendencies.

The skate park being commissioned does not mean that the process has ended; the dialogue between the administration and the users must continue, in this instance with the help of the club.

 

Photo: Architektur Concept Pfaffhausen & Staudte GbR

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