Skate Spot Porn: Tempelhof Skate Plaza in Berlin

August 9th, 2013 | 10:24 am | Features & Interviews | 11 Comments

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In a spring Monday Links post, we commended Berlin on recycling old materials in the creation of a sanctioned space for skateboarding, mostly at the expense of Philadelphia’s consistent idiocy. On the last day of a recent trip where skateboarding was hardly a priority (it was also 100+ degrees for most days), we had a chance to check out the Tempelhof Skate Plaza. With the opening of Paine’s Park, which incorporates the original City Hall benches, Philly took a step in the right direction after years of stubbornness, but the approach to each space is miles apart.

If you ask about spots in Berlin, a common notion is that “you have to know where everything is,” in the sense that you can’t skate around and find everything like you could in a city that has a “downtown.” This spot exemplifies that to an absurd degree. Though it is still technically within city limits, it sits on a defunct airfield-turned-public park that’s far removed enough to have once accommodated a commercial airport. Once you get off the train, and pass a hilarious excuse for a skatepark that some small American city would surely dream to pass off as sufficient after outlawing skateboarding, you enter a field with an asphalt track circling around it.

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It takes about ten minutes of skating or twenty minutes of walking before the park appears like an abyss among grass, and you’ll question whether you’re going the right way half a dozen times along the way. Bring water. And hope you don’t roll your ankle, because it won’t be a fun walk back.

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The park is more of a skateable sculpture than an actual skatepark. It has the appearance of what you’d expect to be the best spot in Barcelona or somewhere in China, with natural surfaces and some slight imperfections abound in the design. Paine’s Park is just a standard good skatepark that gets elevated by the use of benches from a former skate spot; Tempelhof could very well exist in some European plaza under heavy security, except it was made specifically for the use of skateboarders. If you film there, an unknowing spectator would assume it’s just some miraculous coincidence of architecture, not something intended for skateboarding. Kalis would probably be into it.

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The park sits on some historic ground. Tempelhof was once considered the longest operating commercial airport in the world until its closure in 2008, in addition to one of the largest buildings on earth. Wikipedia says it is where Allied leaders landed in May of 1945 to sign and oversee Germany’s surrender in World War II. Even the slabs used for the park have historic origin, in that they come from the Palace of the Republic, the place of East Germany’s parliament during the Cold War. The Palace was demolished in 2008, and the stones have found themselves repurposed as ledges and banks here. Where else do two pivotal eras of twentieth century history converge under your skateboard?

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As you might tell from the pictures, nature was not on our side that day, and a downpour came less than ten minutes after our arrival. Everyone scurried under the few square feet of shelter to wait out the rain.

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Since this is a New York-based site, the point of this post is not to refer people to a spot that’s a few thousand miles and a few hundred dollars of airfare away. A frequent theme around here, particularly surrounding the days when New York was knobbing a skatepark, is pleading (to the choir, obvs) for the allocation of space for skateboarding beyond an explicit skatepark. There are over ten skateparks in the city now, but the simple pleasure to be had in riding a skateboard without being stuffed in an overcrowded cage or repeating the skate-each-spot-for-two-minutes ritual has not gotten any more accessible.

Skateparks are quite obviously a business, and its understandable if building things like this is not profitable or worthwhile for skatepark companies. But New York is ridden with underutilized public space, and presumably stocked with scrapped materials from renovations that are in a yard collecting dust somewhere. Berlin did an amazing thing here by allowing an architect to design a space solely using recycled materials — like a D.I.Y. spot with government resources afforded to it. The amount of kids riding skateboards isn’t decreasing by any means, so it might be a good time to take note from one of the more free-thinking cities in Europe for a solution that’s more creative than “skaters = skatepark.”

P.S. Since this is likely the last time we are mentioning our Berlin excursion and also because it never gets old…

Past International Skate Spot Pornography Posts: Shenzhen, China, Barcelona

11 Comments

Comment by herbert
  • ALLES AUßLANDER BITTE RAUS!

    August 9, 2013 @ 3:22 pm
  • Comment by Samuel Hamilton
  • I was in Berlin in 2008 and saw the Palace of the Republic get torn down. Now it’s the people’s skatepark.

    August 9, 2013 @ 7:09 pm
  • Comment by Joey Budafucco
  • I’ve always wondered what skatepark builders have against STRAIGHT FUCKING LEDGES. I live in CO and there’s a skatepark in every town with A 20 foot cradle but not a STRAIGHT FUCKING LEDGE at any of em. What are the kids gonna do with a 20 FOOT CRADLE?!?! Just build us a STRAIGHT FUCKING LEDGE and be done with it! FUUUUUCK!!!

    August 9, 2013 @ 8:38 pm
  • Comment by Amy Fisher
  • Your next QS cap should read STRAIGHT FUCKING LEDGES. You can have that one. Just hook me up with a cap.

    August 9, 2013 @ 8:53 pm
  • Comment by Hamsung Dong
  • There are straight fucking ledges all around the Denver park, Joey buttfuckpuko.

    August 13, 2013 @ 2:41 pm
  • Comment by Winona Riders
  • The Denver park is the shittiest park in CO. And the crappy, rounded off, un-grindable wall that boarders the park doesn’t count, asshole.

    August 13, 2013 @ 8:47 pm
  • Comment by The Rink
  • Nobody from CO is allowed to complain about skateparks.

    August 13, 2013 @ 9:24 pm
  • Comment by Ricky Sauce
  • Fuck Colorado. Fuck skateparks.

    August 13, 2013 @ 11:55 pm
  • Comment by Sylvain
  • All credit goes to Adam Sello ( http://www.anzeigeberlin.de ). He took the initiative, kept the stones for years, found a spot and designed the skatepark, spending a lot of his own time and money.

    August 14, 2013 @ 5:41 am
  • Comment by In the know
  • Dear QS Guys, ya know that the above comment is from this guy?:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xiTwMEROvis

    August 22, 2013 @ 12:15 pm
  • Comment by Yo
  • “Once you get off the train, and pass a hilarious excuse for a skatepark that some small American municipality would surely dream to pass off as sufficient after outlawing skateboarding” haha, perfect.

    Joey Buffafuco – you should get the American Ramp Company out to Colorado, they’ll build ya some sweet dragon’s backs, 4 foot long tall curved ledges and a pump track.

    August 6, 2014 @ 2:05 pm
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