Not Just Skating By
For years, professional skateboarder Rob Dyrdek has ranted about wanting to build a skate plaza: a skate park integrated into the urban environment as a landscaped, multi-use public space. When he got word in 2002 that his hometown of Kettering, Ohio, was planning a skate park, he saw his chance.
Pro skateboarder Rob Dyrdek has spent most of his life at war with city architects. They’d design public parks perfect for skating; he’d get arrested for skating there. They’d install steel knobs to keep skaters away; he’d show up in the middle of the night with a generator and cut the knobs off with a grinder. “It’s the most misunderstood sport there is,” says Dyrdek. “People can’t fathom that skate parks don’t do the sport justice. Instead it’s handrails and urban architecture that make the perfect skate spots.”
Dyrdek approached Site Design Group, the Tempe, Arizona, firm that had been awarded the project contract, with his concept for the world’s first official skate plaza. They suggested Dyrdek learn how to draft it himself. “He was very particular about what he wanted to implement into the design,” says Brad Siedlecki, designer and project manager at Site. “We worked with Rob to make sure his ideas could be translated into the construction documents.” Dyrdek photographed and measured some of the world’s most famous skate obstacles, put his 27,000-square-foot dream on paper, and began selling his idea to city planners.
The Kettering Skate Plaza opened in June of 2005 to rave reviews. But designing the ideal skate spot was only part of the plan: Dyrdek and filmmaker Kirk Dianda released Groundbreaking, a film that documents the entire process, giving young skaters the tools to become skate plaza advocates in their own communities. Dyrdek also founded the Rob Dyrdek/DC Shoes Skate Plaza Foundation, which assists communities that want to bring skate plazas to their cities. Plazas are already under way in cities throughout the United States and Australia.
Dyrdek has not only made his truce with city architects—he recently worked with one on a Shreveport, Louisiana, plaza, the first time a city architect has collaborated with a pro skater—but he’s given them a new type of space to design. “My plan was to create a model where city planners and city architects could take on the concept of an urban plaza, since it’s already what they do,” says Dyrdek. “The way I envision it, in the future there’s beautiful sculpture and architecture that happens to be skateable.”