Love park

So-called Love park (official name was JFK Plaza) in Philadelphia, was one of the most known street skateboarding spots. Skateboarding there was legal only on special occasions and now the park is facing a major reconstruction. It is planned to reopen in 2017. Original design by the city planner Edmund Bacon and architect Vicent Kling is gone – probably forever.

“I want to talk directly to the skateboarders, you really are the revolutionaries in thought and culture. You should be proud of the resistance you have created and you must stick with it. You must not let the stick in the mud older people prevent your continuing of the great, great process that you have initiated.”  Edmund Bacon

Love park was an example of how skateboarders can step together to defend the true nature of the public space. On the other hand, skaters saw how powerless can a public users voice be against the municipalities will. Municipality failed to understand the social value of the park and how skateboarders became part of it. To truly understand the whole story behind the history of Love park, Jenkem mag featured article “The Death and Life of Great American Skate Plazas”, written by Christian Kerr.

“… As integral threads in the city’s rich tapestry, we should be pushing for representation in every public space, no matter how big or small, so that we don’t get relegated to the confines of our narrowly defined skateparks and skate plazas. Healthy cities are ones that can accommodate and promote diversity, and by segmenting city life into closed quarters, cities lose that life force that makes them so exciting. Isolating skateboarding into a specified corner causes all of us to lose, so it’s on everyone, skaters and non, to push for that diversity … ”  Christian Kerr, “The Death and Life of Great American Skate Plazas, Jenkem Mag, 3.11.2016 

 

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The City as The Playground of The Creative Class, by Catharina Thörn [taken from : Intervention or The Need For a New Cultural Critique, Venice Biennale, 2005]

“…City planning is not only about housing, shopping centres and communications; culture also plays a major role. In the beginning of the 2000’s Richard Florida became internationally renowned for his book The Rise of the Creative Class. The main idea he presented is that a city should have an interesting cultural scene in order to attract the creative class – meaning the part of the population that contributes to the city’s economic growth by creating new ideas and technological innovations. To analyse cities, Florida devised a creative index to measure the relationship between a city’s economic growth and cultural activities and he argues that a high concentration of high-tech workers, artists, musicians as well as homosexuals correlate with a high economic development. Not surprisingly, in the United States, harbour cities such as San Francisco and New York are ranked high on the list whereas Houston and Memphis are listed at the bottom. The importance of Richard Florida’s theory for city planning should not be measured by his contribution to a field of research, but rather by the impact it has had on city planning in practice. Wherever he goes, he is expected to give the city a locally adjusted recipe for a ’creative fix’. That he highlighted the importance of culture was welcomed by representatives of the culture industry, and in some cases it has resulted in increased resources to both large and smaller actors working with culture. However, another consequence is that culture has

An interesting case is the development of Love Park in Philadelphia’s city centre, studied by Ocean Howell. The park or plaza was completed in 1965, was publicly funded and aesthetically created for the broad public (Howell 2005). For the first two decades it was a lunch spot for local office workers but also a place for demonstrations and street games. In the 1980s the plaza started to attract a homeless population, as well as groups of skateboarding teenagers. Howell argues that in the 1980s, both the homeless and the skateboarders were defined as intruders. In the beginning of the 2000s, the image of skateboarders changed and they were praised for their contribution to the ‘hip image’ of the city. This transformation of the skateboarders, from stigma to cool, needs to be understood in relation to the transition of the political economy of the city from industrial to cultural/symbolic economy. Howell describes how the park, during the 1980s and 1990s, was portrayed as a plaza stolen from “the average person” by dangerous and anti-social behaviour. In 2000 the city banned skateboarding, and in Love Park the ban was enforced by police sweeps. In 2002 the ESPN Games of Skateboarding were held in Philadelphia and the city government was asked to let the games take place in Love Park; the city refused.

Shortly before the games started the city closed the park in order to redesign it. The skateboarding event generated eighty million dollars for the city and a public debate started on the presence of the skateboarders. In 2002 Richard Florida visited Philadelphia and made a comment on the debate regarding Love Park: “Skate parks are very important to young people, an intrinsic part of their creative culture, part of their identity. We should be expanding skate parks. To take the park away is to tell them that they are not valid. Big mistake.” (Richard Florida quoted from Howell 2005, 35)

After Florida’s statement, the public debate changed and the skateboarders were rapidly transformed from intruders of the public space to indicators of whether Philadelphia would be able to handle the transition from an industrial city to a creative one. The skateboarders’ right to the city was reclaimed within the framework of economic development. But the homeless were expelled from the park and so called bum-free benches were placed in the park. In this case it was obvious that the right to the city coincided with what was economically beneficial for the city. In certain contexts the presence of skateboarders as well as graffiti artists will not only be defended with economic terms, but will also be institutionalised as instruments of urban development…”


Do you want to know more?

– Documentaries about Love park:

 

– Articles, blog posts and more:

How Philadelphia Destroyed The Greatest Skate Spot Ever Made

The “Creative Class” and the Gentrifying City: Skateboarding in Philadelphia’s Love Park

Paved Paradise: How Skateboard Theory can Help Us Shape More Inclusive Cities

The poetics of security

How is the new park going to look like

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