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Skate park goes international

A little piece of Elmira will be making its way to coffee tables in China this spring.

The Elmira Skate Park is being featured in a Chinese landscape architecture book after Spectrum Skateparks Inc. – who designed the facility – was approached by the publisher.

“They just emailed me out of the blue because we’re one of the more known international skate park firms,” said Jim Barnum of Spectrum Skateparks. “So they emailed me and said do you have any nice looking projects you’ve done recently? And Elmira is one of the best looking projects that we’ve  done in the last three to five years. I sent them maybe seven different parks and they chose Elmira and one other one.”

This isn’t the first time for Spectrum’s work to be published. Barnum says every once in awhile  they’ll be contacted by different Chinese publishers to have their skate parks in one of their hard cover books. They also were in a top 50 landscape architecture book for the world for a different project.


“It seems to be a thing in China, these books showcasing beautiful landscape architecture. So it’s kind of like a coffee table book. The one that I’ve got here is part Cantonese and part English. They’ve got the article in both languages. I don’t know if landscape architects keep them around their office or coffee table books, you know how people are into design, I think maybe it’s design aficionados who are into it,” Barnum said.

Some other types of landscape architecture usually featured in these books include large city parks, businesses, universities, and even private projects like someone’s backyard. He says a lot of them focus on unique designs with crazy sculptures, plantings, walkways, or seating areas.

So why the Elmira Skate Park?

“It’s the long linear nature of the park that I think allows the landscape to affect the aesthetic. If you have a really wide, massive skate park sitting in a grass field it’s a long ways to the grass, whereas this one is long and narrow. The landscape nature is always pretty present to anyone using the park or in the park,” Barnum said.

Skaters also can skate nicely on it too because you can do what skaters call “long lines,” where you can skate a long distance and hit a whole bunch of elements all in a row rather than being in a little square and only able to hit one or two things before stopping to turn around.

He notes they wanted to be sure the park was welcoming to skaters and spectators alike, a social space, rather than a concrete rectangle in a field with nothing around it. They worked with the landscape – building around a large tree instead of removing it – to integrate nature into the park. The actual landscaping was done by a local company.

He says the local people behind the skate park made it clear they wanted the park to be aesthetically pleasing, and make the space look better and not worse. The main way they responded to that request was with coloured concrete.

“The colour really breaks up the otherwise monotonous grey space and really that’s kind of the biggest impact. Just the incorporation of the exposed aggregate seating areas and benches, and a proper walkway that enters the park,” Barnum said.

The book is expected to be published in March.

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