Dutch Design Week: Area 51 Skate Park
Every year at Dutch Design Week we always take time out to escape the design circus and visit Area 51 Skate Park.
Because even if it does make us feel really old; Area 51 probably has more to do with design than a lot of what we see at most designer furniture trade fairs throughout the year.
Established in 2002 – so one year after Dutch Design Week – Area 51 is 3000 sqm metres of landscaped wood inside an old industrial building on the former Philips estate where youngsters can skate and blade in safety.
Not safety as in “not hurting themselves”. But as in “not getting hassled by a society that thinks it knows better”.
For just as graffiti isn’t if its on an official wall and off-piste skiing isn’t if you get there by helicopter; skateboarding belongs on the street.
We don’t think anyone could disagree with that.
Bizarrely many do.
Inside Area 51, however,the kids can test their skills without having to worry about getting told off. A bit like a designer in their atelier can experiment without having to worry about getting told off.
It’s fair to say that most of the skaters in Area 51 are never likely to challenge the supremacy of Tony Hawkes, or whoever the modern skate stars are.
But that’s not the point.
It’s about having fun in doing something, it’s about community feeling and being part of a group.
A popular prejudice amongst the more conservative sections of society is that skate kids just hang about making noise.
Look deeper and you’ll see individuals trying to achieve something. Failing. Trying again. Failing. Trying again. Failing. Trying again.
And then suddenly it sits.
And it all seems so easy and you wonder where the problem was.
Now if that ain’t a metaphor for the design process. Or indeed the writing process.
And then after half an hour dreaming with the kids, Iggy Pop’s Lust for Life came over the stereo.
While the youth rocked out to the subversive promise of endless freedom being prophesied by a youthful Iggy; we had the nightmare vision that is a bare chested, 60-something Mr Pop selling car insurance in a British TV advert.
And realised that it was time to return to the curated and structured world we now call home.
All around Area 51 Strijp S is turning into the sort of area one expects from former industrial premises on the edge of major cities. The lofts are there. And the architects offices and pricey coffee shops.
In the midst of all this exclusive and expensive development Area 51 reminds us that responsible city planning, responsible urban design, needs space for all groups. All members of society. Even teenagers in woolly hats and lumberjack shirts.