It seems almost weekly now we are hearing of yet another iconic skate spot being threatened with destruction, the latest being Atlanta's Black Blocks (sign the petition here).
Famously, thanks to the organisation and incredibly hard work of the local skaters, London's South Bank managed to avoid redevelopment - preserving what's left of the 'home of English skateboarding'. There are lessons, as well as inspiration, to be taken from LLSB efforts.
The reasons for the losses seem to be universal - local councils want to find more ways to monetise public space, something which skateboarding is inherently resistant to. As long as public space continues to be seen as a cash cow for private investment this, sadly, will continue.
We need to organise, resist and use the power of the skateboarding community to fight wherever we can.
Bristo Square, Edinburgh
Bristo Square was redeveloped and made into the skateable mecca that we all know it as in 1983, with the University of Edinburgh surely not expecting the steadily growing influx of skateboarders drawn to its open space and surrounding ledges. It wasn’t long before it became central to Edinburgh’s scene as both a meeting point to head out into the city, or just a place to skate/lurk in whatever ratio seemed appropriate at the time.
Steppe Side, Malmö
"In 2004 an era ended and another was born. In the smoke of the bulldozers that was tearing up the concrete we had mixed with sweat and blood over at Savanna side, we dealt with the loss and put our efforts into creating Steppe side, chapter 2 of the Malmö D.I.Y saga.
For three years we developed this little bowl like creation, making it to a unique place that grew bit by bit every year and was sessioned to pieces most everyday. We were sharing the space with homeless people and rats, junkies and thieves but fitting in nicely nevertheless. After dodging a few bullets over the years we lost the fight in the end to a sledgehammer and chapter 2 was smashed to bits. R.I.P"
Shell Centre, London
In the 1980's the concourses around the Shell Centre started to become populated with skateboarders, having spread slowly from the 'spiritual home' of London skateboarding - Southbank.
"The open square in the middle of the complex, with its abundance of flat spaces and stair sets, was used extensively by skateboarders throughout the 1980s until the 2000s when anti-skating measures and textured paving were put in place to deter rough sleepers and skateboarders." Southbank Undercroft Cultural and Heritage Report
There's some great Shell Centre footage in this dedicated episode of Sidewalk's Jake's Crates, as well as scans of photos from the spot.
Love Park, Philadelphia
LOVE Park, one of the most recent and most prominent losses to skateboarding culture to date. Made famous by the likes of Ricky Oyola, Josh Kalis, and Brian Wenning, and - with that same spirit - kept alive through the videos of Brian Panebianco - it's impossible to truly explain the importance of LOVE to the East Coast skate scene, and to skateboarding worldwide.
"...LOVE hosted dozens who were content merely to skate there. These were the [skaters] who composed LOVE's core of regulars —kids who rode the El (the Market-Frankford subway) from the Northeast and Frankford, skated downhill on Market Street from West Philly, through the neighborhoods of South Philly, Center City residents who moved specifically to skate nearby LOVE. It's these folks whose daylong sessions generated the murmur that would eventually spread throughout the East Coast and to the (skateboarding) industry." Rick Valenzuela, author of A Eulogy for a Fallen Landmark
Have a look at some of the guys looking for a new love here.
Gas Works, Manchester
"It was just rad place to hang out. It was almost like the Southbank of Manchester." Joe Gavin, Grey Interview "We tried to save the spot actually. We went to some meetings and tried to get it made into a little plaza, but they just kind of fobbed us off and told us what we wanted to hear, then built a big car park."
I don't think there's any greater tribute to a spot than when one of its locals makes a 30 minute film documenting the history of the place. We'd thoroughly recommend you watching Joe Gavin's love letter to the Gasworks to get a real sense of the place and what it meant to the Manchester skate scene.
The space around Cologne's famous world cultural heritage Cathedral, the "Domplatte", once used to be Germany's first and best plaza spot. All throughout the 1990's and 2000's the large marble square in the heart of the river Rhein metropolis used to be the German equivalent of EMB – an epicentre of skate culture. Diffrent sized, long (and rather high) ledges, stairs, banks and vast space of perfect floor nurtured a breed of tech heavy ledge and flat dogs, a sort of skater you can tell straight away.
But despite the city of Cologne's rather liberal image, skateboarding became a problem, a political issue even. With skateboarding's popularity rising from times of the EMB heyday towards the late noughties, eventually the skaters had to make way. Yet, as compensation for their loss, a group of locals managed to arrange the built of prestigeous KAP686 – tailored a 100% to their demands. A skatepark, yes, and not by any means full replacement of vibe and cultural value of a street spot. But KAP86 by far was not the worst trade in for ledges meanwhile worn out and run-ins with random idiots found at Dom plaza… just another page in the book of skate(spot) gentrification.
Another of the recent loss in Melbourne's Lincoln Square. You'll no doubt be familiar with this spot having seen the likes of Callum Paul, Nick Boserio, Tom Snape and various other Australian rippers charging about the place.
A combination of slappy curbs, ledges, stairs, and manny pads - basically everything you'd want from a street spot. In a story so familiar, complaints from wealthy local residents relating to noise and perceived anti-social behaviour saw the council agree to redevelop (knock down) the plaza.
The locals, in true skateboarding fashion, skated the spot till the very last minute - which in turn lead to the bizarre accusation of skaters causing criminal damage to the square whilst it was being torn down.
Sandra Bloodworth wrote an excellent article on the destruction of Lincoln which you can read here.
EMB, Embarcadero, Justin Herman Plaza in San Francisco could be credited as the cradle of not only plaza skating, but to a big share of street skating as we know it. Local skaters like Mike Carroll, Henry Sanchez, Chico Brenes and many others wrote new pages in the book of skate history daily on the red bricks, stairs, blocks, ledges to the infamous Gonz gap. Inventing tricks, filming, hanging out – the epitome of skate life; inspiration for a whole generation. In its time EMB used to be THE skateboarding Mecca, with poeple from all over the globe flocking to SF to touch holy ground.
Skating at EMB came to an end around 2000 when the c-block and most of the other ledges got taken out and security increased, rendering skating EMB nearly impossible. RIP!