The Cape Town Gardens skate park won the PLAYscapes competition to transform a neglected urban space into somewhere that encourages fun and creativity.

The Cape Town Gardens skate park won Building Trust International's PLAYscapes competition to transform a neglected urban space into somewhere that encourages fun and creativity. Gerrit Strydom gives us the lowdown on his team's winning proposal.

Building Trust International ran a competition to find the most creative ideas that would turn abandoned and neglected areas into positive community spaces that encourage public interaction and creativity. The PLAYscapes competition attracted scores of inventive entries from all over the world but the winning entry was the Cape Town Gardens Skate Park. The local government developed a proposal in conversation with local skaters and South Africa’s National Skate Collective to regenerate a forgotten piece of land under a road overpass that had become a magnet for crime. Together they transformed the area into a rad park that they hope will set a precedent for the regeneration of unused spaces all over Cape Town.

Why is play so important in a city?
“In a city like Cape Town where numerous citizens live and work you need to accommodate for adequate play opportunities for different users. Play is important for a balanced lifestyle, people need to find relief from work and other stresses through exercise, sports and just having fun. And through this project we can encourage a healthy lifestyle for everyone who lives in the city.”

Does Cape Town have enough spaces for citizens to play?
“Cape Town has many amazing resources like Table Mountain and the amenities along the Atlantic seaboard – nature couldn’t really offer anything any more impressive. That being said, we can and should always add or upgrade our urban play spaces to accommodate new creative ideas to have fun and play together in different ways.”

How can urban planning encourage creativity?
“Creativity and innovation are triggered by observing the surrounding environment; beautifully designed places offer scope to encourage and awaken creative thoughts and passion to think out of the box and come up with even bigger and better ideas to create functional beauty all around. Such a noble innovation is supportive of and consistent with the World Design Capital 2014 theme “Live design, transform lives”.

How much input did you have from local skaters?
“During the Concept phase our skatepark designer, Clive Croften of Spyda Ramps got input from local skaters as to what is they would like to feature in a skate park. They made us aware of the needs of the finer details of the park – things like the pipejam came out of that discussion. The National Skate Collective, an advocacy group that is engaging with the city regarding skateboarding helped to create awareness of the project and reached a wider audience than we as the city could have done. Then local residents were also asked relevant questions about the needs, what they view as ideal operating times and how noise might impact on their daily lives.”

How does the project seek to resolve the problems posed by the old space?
“The large open space that was left vacant invited anti-social behaviour and crime. Lighting should help to increase visibility and eliminate antisocial behaviour. Fencing would help to control access and therefore possible vandalism on the site. Most importantly the facility will generate activity and more people using the space will increase the number of eyes on it. Perpetrators of crime are less likely to commit a crime if the potential exist that they can be confronted, reported or caught in the act. People therefore have a greater sense of security in spaces that are frequented and where there is passive surveillance.”

How will the project transform the surrounding area?
“By occupying what was previously a vacant and derelict space, the project will generate activity that would displace unwanted elements and prevent anti-social behaviour in the area. The project will also encourage the use of public transport given that most skateboarders will be able to use it in conjunction with their skateboards as a means of transport.”

What are the key lessons other cities can draw from your project?
“One of the key lessons is that successful projects cannot work in silos. When different departments and stakeholders with varying views and functions commit to collaborate in a project the chances of success are far greater. This increase the opportunity to deliver very rich and layered projects that speak to various aspects and satisfy much more than just the initial brief. With this project we had the transport department, structures department and city parks department all working together to realise the skatepark.

“The Building Trust International competition helped create a huge amount of publicity and people had greater awareness of what was planned and why it was necessary. But most importantly, it helped created an appreciation for the importance of design, the need for active recreation within dense urban areas and what can be achieved by way of transformation of negative spaces.”

To find out more about the PLAYscapes competition and the other rad shortlisted entries, check out the Building Trust International website.