JAMES THOMAS

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Archive for the ‘002/ S.L.O.A.P’ Category

Reinventing Concrete

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Notes for extending (RE EDIT):

Every morning without fail, inside the railings separating his home and my public right of way, a barrel-bellied bulk of a man stood massaging his shar-pei skull. We had a relationship of sorts – a quick nod in the early hours as our cycles crossed. I was sad to find, one morning that he and his neighbours had moved on.

One day two caravans, two vans, one car and a bus were situated on a large concrete area under the A104. The next day, they were gone. One in a line of successive groups that have taken over the fenced void of no-mans-land that sits underneath the busy main road.

So what now? Are they slowly circumnavigating the inner city? Forming temporary residence in unwanted plots of concrete alongside canal paths and behind bus depots? The search for S.L.O.A.P. sending them in patterns around the middle spread of the city where tower blocks meet dual carriageways, housing estates meet scrapyards, infrastructure and residential layer over one another. I wonder how many years it would take to navigate full cycle.

Previous to their occupation the area had been used as a skate-spot. Concrete barriers dropped to stop vehicle entry tipped and relocated to form obstacles. Bucket mixed cement easily transforming central reservation barriers into quarter pipes. Wax application morphing concrete road-blocks into perfect ‘grind’ targets.  Amazing what you can do with a bit of wax and a leaf blower. [swimming pools/east coast US/dogtown]

At some point this group also got moved on, or just got bored. Venturing on into unknown locations to momentarily possess a concrete bank until over-used or exhausted. [Seek and Destroy]. Moving within circumferences from their local spot, another layer of ‘terrain vague’ pioneers re-inventing forgotten space.

The space now sits in a moment of flux – the ground is clear. Concrete bollards and blocks (previously tables, benches, grind obstacles, chopping blocks and one morning a T’ing off point for a rather bored young man with a rather large piece of timber and a squash ball), accumulated rubbish, leaf/tree/plant debris, the broken folded chair and breezeblock bbq’s are all gone. The space is huge and apparently reclaimed.

JT

Written by James Thomas

02/10/2010 at 13:08

Posted in 002/ S.L.O.A.P

Reverse Engineering

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Cabinet Magazine: Issue 8 Pharmacopia Fall 2002
‘Skateable Reverse Engineering’
Jocko Weyland

Skateboarding’s evolutionary leap from flat ground to the vertical walls of Southern California’s empty swimming pools in the mid-70s was the starting point for an inspired re-appropriation of familiar sites. This was followed by a construction boom in commercial skateparks, almost all of which had gone bankrupt and been bulldozed by 1985. The­ subsequent dry period made skateboarders a breed of connoisseurs unique to the building arts: they possessed an instinct for evaluating every type of manmade object from the sole standpoint of whether or not it was skateable. For the last 25 years, a growing number of virtuoso manipulators of wood and cement have been using this criterion as a template for large-scale orchestrations of physical space that combine utter functionality with sensuality of form. ­ ­
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Photos Jocko Weyland, Newburg, 2000.­
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­The epitome of renegade, untrained skatepark construction, where architecture and engineering come together, is Burnside in Portland, Oregon. Started in 1990, it lies under a bridge ­that used to be frequented by drug addicts and other undesirables. It was the perfect place for a dedicated group of self-taught designers to build without any meddling from city authorities. Over an eight-year period, Mark Scott, Mark Hubbard, and their colleagues led the effort to transform the desolate 50-by-80-yard plot into an unprecedented urban renewal project. They started with one banked wall and from there went forward, learning by trial and error, until they realized the current mind-boggling conglomeration of bowls, corners, and vertical walls. Burnside has enough quarter pipes, funboxes, curves, blob-like shapes, and radical contours to rival efforts by the avatars of the new architectural language that eschews ninety-degree angles.

Lacking an adequate place to skate, Scott and Hubbard started building out of necessity. While they illegally assembled Burnside, they also worked as masons or built residential swimming pools to learn how to pour slump and to mix sand and 3/8-inch pea rock to suit their special needs. What Hubbard calls “reverse engineering” means imagining the craziest skateable surfaces possible and then fabricating them. As Hubbard claims, “Anything with a curve, any shape that could be skated, especially rooftops … you look at it and then figure out how to make it happen.” The city of Portland belatedly gave them an award in the late 1990s for civic improvement, but the real proof of their success is defined by the pilgrims who travel from around the globe to enjoy the free-flowing, intricate environment.

Hubbard, Scott, and their company DreamlandSkateparks have built, in addition to Burnside, five free city-funded parks in Oregon and have recently completed projects in Washington state and Austria. The undulating cement moonscapes they have realized at Newburg, Lincoln City, and Aumsville in Oregon take the Burnside model to a level never reached in the commercial parks of the 1970s or the backyard halfpipes of the 1980s. Their new parks are organic and fluid, allowing skaters to roll unimpeded until they fall down or drop from exhaustion. When filled with skaters perambulating from side to side in an instantaneous choreography, they provide an arena for numerous riders rushing to and fro, zigging and zagging, flying above the coping in a poetry of motion that Hubbard likens to “a play where people are making up their lines as they go along.”

Jocko Weyland is an artist and a writer based in New York. His book The Answer Is Never: A Skateboarder’s History of the World is forthcoming from Grove Press in September 2002.

Written by James Thomas

23/09/2010 at 14:14

Gutterspace

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Cabinet Magazine:
In the early 1970s, Matta-Clark discovered that the City of New York periodically auctioned off “gutterspace” unusably small slivers of land sliced from the city grid through anomalies in surveying, zoning, and public-works expansion. He purchased fifteen of these lots, fourteen in Queens and one in Staten Island. Over the next years, he collected the maps, deeds, and other bureaucratic documentation attached to the slivers; photographed, spoke, and wrote about them; and considered using them as sites for his unique brand of “anarchitectural” intervention into urban space.


Written by James Thomas

21/09/2010 at 20:53