Discussing skate park design with Janne Saario

As part of a project focusing on skateable architecture in Denmark I had the opportunity to interview Søren Enevoldsen. In the interview (posted on Fakiehillbomb, for those that are interested) he described the ‘poetic touch’ of fellow skater and architect Janne Saario. Intrigued by this phrase I got in touch with Janne to discuss his work.

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In Søren’s interview he mentions the way that surfaces interact with one another. Is this something that you are interested in?

Yes for sure! And especially the existing material from the site like vegetation, former structures, found objects etc.

The design process is at it’s best when it’s kind of an exploration or adventure to reveal the hidden potential of the space and situation. I think there’s similar feelings involved when we go searching for skate spots in the city.

And in Second Nature we hear how a park has channels cut out for the local animals.

My designs are always influenced by the essence of each individual project. If there’s rabbits living on the site, then they are of course one factor to get influenced by.

In Olari you incorporate rocks into the design. Is it important to build spots around their context?

The character and identity is really important factor. If this is played right, the park fits to it’s landscape and becomes unique and recognizable. This way it’s easier for the skaters to bond a personal and deeper relationship to the place were they hang out and skate.

Is skatepark design moving in interesting directions? Where I grew up in the South West of England all of the parks in my area had the same few obstacles. It seems that parks are becoming more unique now.

Maybe. I see a lot of testing with different colors, materials and sculptural shapes. But what I look for is not separate recognizable special features, but rather a comprehensive concepts that make the whole park whisper the same story. A strong atmosphere can be created in many ways, but generally the basic landscape architectonic methods work well with a good understanding of the local skate scene.

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Do you have any involvement with councils on incorporating skateable aspects into urban spaces?

There could be more projects like that, where a so called “normal city spaces” could be tweaked in the right direction to make them skateable. Just by changing some measures and materials there could already be achieved something. But if a skate consultant could involve from the very beginning of the planning, the skateboarding could be taken account in a very comprehensive way.

In Bristol there are marble benches that have been skate stopped with rough concrete on the sides as opposed to metal bars or bumps. It seems as though designers have found a less intrusive and unattractive way of skate stopping the bench. Is there a way to make nice ledges skateable and resistant to damage?

I think by choosing the right materials for the ledges and surfaces the space will endure the impact of skateboarding. The main problem is the responsibility issues with safety as skateboarding would be mixed with normal city life, pedestrians, bikes, cars and residency.

I really liked Last Rainforests. Is this artistic approach to the city something you are wanting to explore more?

Yeah, I like to think that there’s a bigger picture in the cities than just the human layer… soil, climate, vegetation, water, topography… these create the reality that we have built on top of. In the Last Rainforests there’s a random situations where vegetation is forcing its way through the human layer which is covering the potential forest. Also this work is commenting on the consumption society and ignorance of the future of our environment.

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Interview by Daryl Mersom.
All images courtesy of www.jannesaario.com.

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