by Anmol AhujaJan 03, 2022
Historically known for and culturally enriched by a deep history with the sport, Belgrade’s Block 70 is now home to a new basketball court and playground by Nike, under its umbrella sustainable initiative, ‘Move to Zero’. Designed by the London-based multidisciplinary design practice, specialising in brand and visual design, the court is bold in its shades, bolder in its spatial sensibility, and game-changing in its composition. Sporting bold neon tints, contrasted by pitch blacks, and complemented by greys, the court itself is made out of nearly 20,000 upcycled sneakers, donated by the local community, and features a repurposed, exciting new layout for the basketball that derives from the brand identity design Accept & Proceed did for Nike’s ‘Move to Zero’.
Along with employing sustainable design principles, the intervention is also seen as an urban level exercise in community building and rejuvenating public spaces through thoughtful design. The design of the court and playground builds on the already strong sense of community and togetherness prevalent in the Serbian neighbourhood, responsible for birthing and raising a number of legends of the sport, who also attended the opening ceremony of the court. A&P acknowledges that strong communal spirit fused with a sense of locality, through “BLOK70” printed in its original type design onto the surface of the courtyard.
With the intervention, Nike, A&B, along with the community aim to “re-energise the local neighbourhood and provide a space for play and for sport among kids and adults alike”. Picking up from their previous collaboration to generate a cohesive and expressive system for Nike’s ‘Move to Zero’, an initiative towards a zero carbon and zero waste future, and to “protect the future of sport”, A&P worked expansively on the court design, the children’s playground, bleacher benches, chain link fence, outdoor gym, collection bins, in-store campaign presence, and restoration of existing elements as part of the collaborative intervention.
"With Nike Belgrade, we evolved the visual language we had developed for Nike’s Move to Zero identity by incorporating bespoke Serbian lettering in the court markings to celebrate New Belgrade’s local community,” stated Nigel Cottier, Principal Designer at A&P, on the very interesting design challenge posed to his team, who felt that their thinking of spaces for sport was challenged through this exercise. The team of designers at A&P then proceeded to work through breaking down the essential ingredients of a basketball court, reimagining its traditional layout to attempt to create a “fun and unexpected space, whilst retaining legibility and playability”. The lettering and formation of the Serbian font used to incorporate ‘BLOK70’ in the layout of the court itself thus defines and informs other functions in the court, including the three-pointer, free throw, and half-court line. According to Cottier, the design “will not only inform the players’ movements, but influence the community spirit and energy of Block 70”.
The second area in Block 70 encompassing A&P’s more transformational approach is the playground area. Embodying the same bold neon colour palette as the court to “enliven and unite” block 70, the playground utilised existing fitness equipment and park furniture provided by the municipality, fully restored by A&P. Furthermore, the graphic design elements on the surface of the ground are marked with bright hazard stripes to delineate play and gym activities, while the overall borrowed style from ‘Move to Zero’ hopes to evoke the urgency of the climate change and the global climate crisis.
To represent the holistic nature of Block 70’s facelift, collection bins in local stores are framed by plinths exhibiting the various stages of upcycling that the sneakers donated by patrons must go through, before being compressed to form the ‘base’ of the park. While lending an additional layer of engagement and information to visitors and shoppers, the display also showcases the lifecycle of worn-out athletic shoes, now being given a second chance to perform and gain new life through Block 70.