by Jerry ElengicalMar 20, 2023
In the urbanising West African metropolis of Accra, in Ghana, a collective of multiple parties consisting of spatial design studio Limbo Accra, skate and surf collective Surf Ghana, rammed earth construction specialists Hive Earth, menswear label Daily Paper, architect Saloni Parekh, and NGO Wonders Around the World have realised the country’s first ever skate park. Envisioned as a means of engaging with the city’s youth through the lens of the skateboarding culture, the Freedom Skatepark’s successful realisation was also boosted by the efforts of the late Virgil Abloh who was a prominent supporter of the initiative. As children and adolescents in urban areas are in dire need of public spaces, the project is a pertinent statement on the ability of a recreational urban space to unite people and cultivate a greater sense of civic responsibility and pride within young minds in local communities.
The brainchild of Sandra Alibo, who was the driving force behind the project as founder of Surf Ghana, this undertaking in public space design was launched with the aim of bringing skateboarding to the limelight in Ghana’s urban sphere, while offering networking opportunities for its young residents. Surf Ghana itself is an organisation dedicated to this purpose of interacting with the city’s young residents and educating them about the benefits of engaging with the sport.
Bridging gaps in the recreational landscape of Accra by merging skate culture with the interests of creative communities in its vicinity, Freedom Skatepark will offer a community planted green area, a skateshop, and a co-working hub built with contemporary and local construction techniques, as part of its on-site facilities. Speaking with STIR, Dominique Petit-Frère, Co-Founder of Copenhagen, Accra, and New York-based studio Limbo Accra shares, “The design straddles the line between two big ambitions: one where everything is ‘skateable’ and the other where everything is open, green and recreational.”
In this vein, these objectives are accomplished through a skateable access pathway, which winds around the park’s various zones which include a skate hub, ramps, grind rails for skaters, and sloped surfaces. The core aim of this configuration is to nudge users to explore the venue by making their way ‘through’ the skate park rather than 'around' its periphery, facilitating avenues for interaction between visitors. Pockets of landscape are embedded into the park’s undulating concrete surface, which ebbs and flows to allow for smooth transitions between a multitude of program areas. This topography was achieved through a 150mm concrete surface layer spread over an 8-10mm reinforcement layer resting on compacted topsoil.
Bordered by a bustling highway on its public-facing side, the development is also home to a ‘Skatehouse’ building, which will effectively function as the skatepark's headquarters. In its role as a public space open to the city’s youth, the building is intended to act as a laboratory for social change, containing a workshop, gallery, and a skate shop, within two structural volumes separated by a garden. Petit-Frère mentions, “For the Skatepark HQ in particular, we made a decision to showcase local building styles in a contemporary-youth format by collaborating with Hive Earth, a Ghanaian-based rammed earth specialist company who donated 197 sqm of rammed earth walls to the structure and surrounding park landscape.”
One of the most eminent supporters of the skate park’s realisation was the late Virgil Abloh, Artistic Director for Louis Vuitton’s menswear collection and Founder of the Milan-based luxury design label Off White. Abloh boosted the project’s visibility on his social media profiles while also facilitating interactions with sponsors and designing aspects of the project’s visual identity and merchandise. “It was an honor to have worked with Virgil Abloh’s London-based design studio Alaska Alaska, who accepted our invitation to co-develop the interior design scheme and park furniture. It has been truly a beautiful exchange for us as a design studio, as it allowed us to bridge together the old and new in a contemporary format fitted for Africa’s youth, “ remarks Petit-Frère. The project’s stakeholders also honoured Abloh by inscribing his name on one of the development’s bounding walls during the park’s opening - an event marked by performances by local DJs and other ceremonies.
As sports such as skateboarding and surfing gain greater prominence in urban areas within developing nations, through the tireless efforts of organisations such as Surf Ghana, they have also become a means to build communities, empower youth, and guide them towards productive pursuits, competing with established sports such as football in this regard. Freedom Skatepark is but the first phase of a larger development that will provide an inclusive public space and cultural centre to nurture the interests of Ghanaian youth in the nation’s capital city. “Freedom Skatepark is designed to be a bustling space and a new urban site for the whole of Ghana: inspired globally but created locally,” concludes Petit-Frère.
Name: Freedom Skatepark Ghana
Location: Shiashie, East Legon, Accra, Ghana
Area: 1463 sqm
Design Team: Limbo Accra, Wonders Around the World
Architect: Saloni Parekh, Hakeem Mustapha, Margarida Waco
Landscape Architect: Malthe Mørck Clausen
Engineer: Jonas Ras Pazdzior
Collaborators: Hive Earth, Alaska Alaska, and Space Accra