Janne Saario

Interview from EASA 2012: Wastelands magazine 

Skateboarding has carried Janne across the world to explore different kinds of environments to skate in. Nowadays, after his career as a pro skater, he is focusing more on his one-man office to design surroundings for skateboarding.

”For me, skateboarding works as a good counterbalance for design work, and it used to work the other way around too; if my tricks weren’t hitting it, I knew that I can always go back to my drawing board.”

© Janne Saario

A skateboarding background seems pretty unique for a landscape designer and gives a whole new perspective.

“A skateboarder gets to know the environment very physically – when normally people feel the streets through their shoe soles, skateboarders have tiny tires, 50 millimeters in diameter, that can crash any moment and you end up wiping the pavement with your shredded t-shirt. Skateboarders use as much time on the streets than bums or homeless people do.” 

Janne has felt the rough touch of public space and concrete paving since he was six years old. “We were rather normal kids from Torpparinmäki, a Northern-Helsinki suburb, so using outdoor spaces was quite intense and diverse”. One of the greatest places in his childhood yard was a pool shaped like a giant’s footprint, made out of asphalt, that had many options for skating – the heel was the lowest spot and the toes with little edges between were a good place to curve with a skateboard. 

Soon the suburban forests and fields of Torpparinmäki changed into the urban streets and public spaces of Helsinki. For spots to skate, Janne lists inner yards, some public statues, streets of Kruununhaka and pavements of Kallio.

During high school, Janne was an active skateboarder and managed to secure his first sponsorship deal. He didn’t have any plans to become a pro skater, he just skated to have fun. Then one day, while skateboarding in the local Schoolyard, he got an invitation for a local skate shop team. Soon after that, he was asked to the European team of Element skateboards and the traveling started. 

During his active skateboarding years, Janne grew fond of art. After high school, he took many art courses and ended up working for the teachers of an environmental art course, Marco Casagrande, and Sami Rintala. “I was kind of an apprentice for them. I went along to build a park in Japan, and later on assisted on one project of Sami in Southern-Korea.”

Skateboarding, traveling, and studying was a good combination. “Sometimes at uni they were showing some pictures of architecture samples around the world, for example, Bilbao, where I had just been skateboarding and looking at things a bit differently.” 

When entering the school of Architecture, Janne thought that he would infiltrate among other designers and then start to hide small spots into public spaces for skating, small details that are twisted and shaped for the tricks. This idea slowly faded away as he realized that he wanted to design other stuff too. Janne didn’t have a specific plan to start designing skate parks, but accidentally found a good way to start his designer career by doing them: “Skate parks are a good concept. There are many ways to do the park and the suitable materials are great and inspiring. And the greatest thing is that the parks are always in intensive use.” 

Lately, Janne has mostly been working with suburb design and preparing skate parks for youngsters. “At the moment they clearly want durable and carefree design when a few years back they could only afford to renew structures made out of plywood. It’s a good change since the concrete lasts longer and gives more freedom for the shapes. Skateparks can also turn into diverse environments, which can be a designated to many different activities for e.g. parkour. In Tikkurila, the skate park I’m planning has a parkour possibility – it’s basically a huge sculpture where people can skate, jump and climb.” 

© Janne Saario

Skateparks have huge potential, but why not expand that to other places? Safety standards seem to be one of the biggest problems for a designer, and it also demands a lot from the place that is being designed. Janne tries to always minimize the number of railings by elevating the ground so as to make big drops as few as possible. It is also technically cheaper to carry out most of the time…


Find more interviews with Janne bellow:

Weekly studio – Janne Saario

The Skater Turned Architect

Interview With Landscape Architect & Skater Janne Saario

Kingpin interview



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