Skatepark - Janne Saario

If Phaidon designed a skatepark it might look like this

Skateboarder Janne Saario moves into design in Finland - Aesthetically-minded Varial Kick Flippers rejoice

Skateboarding is clearly a big deal in Finland and its neighbouring countries. Big enough for a veteran skater to turn the design of skate parks into a career. Janne Saario has been skating since he was six, and as a pro he was able to check out what other skateboarding environments around the world had to offer.

“A skateboarder gets to know the environment very physically – when normally people feel the streets through their shoe soles, skateboarders have tiny tires, 50mm in diameter, that can crash any moment and you end up wiping the pavement with your shredded t-shirt,” he says. “Skateboarders spend as much time on the streets than bums or homeless people do.” 

That intimate knowledge coupled with some unfinished studies at architecture college have led him into landscape design. Some of Saario’s spaces are really inspiring, like his Moon skate park in the Finnish town of Espoo, which should be ready later this year. It’s a concrete, granite and steel affair, which mixes up craters with your usual street furniture like railings and curbs.

Concrete comes into its own again in Luleå, Sweden. Steelpark’s look is informed by the northern town’s steel industry, and some elements are actually bits of discarded factory parts. But all those lovely undulations are made with concrete and granite.

This is a good time to be a skate park designer, as the authorities in northern Europe at least seem to be digging deeper to fund them. “At the moment they clearly want durable and carefree design when a few years back they could only afford to renew structures made out of plywood,” Saario explains. “It’s a good change, since the concrete lasts longer and gives more freedom for the shapes.” More innovative and green design of this nature and beyond can be found in Vitamin Green our book on sustainable design and architecture.