words Ashitha Nagesh
Few things are more daring than skateboarding. Keeping your balance is hard enough, not to mention those few crucial airborne seconds at the end of a half-pipe. But add to this liquid-smooth curves, a large cemetery and 15 metres of potentially explosive war debris festering beneath you, and you have an entirely different experience.
Matthias Bauer’s new skate park in Stuttgart is just that: entirely different. An ex-professional skater himself, Bauer wanted to challenge the usual asphalt skate rinks, which are built in the most run-down areas of the city and often gradually become a hub of criminal activity.
“The idea is to develop a trans-generational space, a place where people of all ages can come together. Small kids skate, older kids skate … I myself am 46,” Bauer explains.
The park ebbs and flows like a pool of smooth white water. This is because the entire structure is made from concrete poured into a mould – with the exception of the “bowl area”, which is hand-moulded for extra smoothness.
Bauer had considerable freedom to design. “Each skate park is new, because there are no set rules for designing one,” he says. “A racing track is a racing track – it may be beautiful, but it has a given shape; skating is about finding new lines. It’s evolutionary, it’s creative.”
Possibly the most interesting thing about the skate park is the location. It’s right next to one of the biggest cemeteries in the city, and built directly above a rail track that was buried under 15 metres of debris from the Second World War.
“They found highly contaminated stuff in there … like unexploded bombs!” Bauer enthuses. “It was a green area for around 50 years. We had to be really careful.”