Thursday, September 24, 2009

Derive on wheels

There are physical objects that can either open or close a city. In addition to these physical things, there are also activities that open the city for its participants. One such activity is riding a skateboard. Very similar to the idea of a derive, skateboarding takes people into areas of the city that would generally not appeal to visitors and changes the use of almost every aspect of the built environment. The act of skateboarding involves looking at the city as a whole through this any pre-constructed notions of division become invisible. “…the psychogeographical attractions discovered by derivers may tend to fixate them around new habitual axes, which they will constantly be drawn back.” (Guy Debord's "Theory of the Derive) Skateboarding gives you a reason to go to areas of the city that have no real attraction. I feel far more comfortable in parts of the city that aren’t generally safe areas if I am skateboarding there, and therefore have a reason to be there. People who live there also have an easier time accepting an outsider in their area and when they see a skateboard usually watch and cheer you on, although obviously this is not always the case. It is an act of discovery and skateboarders take pride in finding spots hidden away in corners of the city that no one has bothered to look before. Skateboarding involves looking at the city with an entirely different set of criteria that a normal everyday visitor would. Although the act of skateboarding through a city is “open,” many of the facilities created specifically for skateboarding are not. While there is something restrictive about skate parks in general, there are some that have many open city characteristics.

This skate park in Hampden is an inclusive part of the city, as opposed to most skate parks, which I believe serve to collect and exclude skateboarders from the rest of the city. The difference being, this skate park is free, unmonitored and most all of the obstacles are built or brought by the people who use the park. It is a mixed use area in a sense that everyone is welcome. It is an area where people can go to escape the harassment from the public who more often then not have a problem with this rolling plank of wood. Skate parks can often times exist to contain skateboarders and keep them off the streets. This type of park is usually built by the city, poor quality, and often in a very inconvenient location.

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