Kiwi architect Richard Smith challenges norm with latest skatepark design

Renowned Kiwi skatepark architect Richard Smith continues to revolutionise design and add value for the skating community with his latest design, Tauranga Destination Skatepark, now under construction and for the first time, using the contemporary and sustainable construction method of 3D printing.

“This will be the first 3D printed skatepark of such scale in the world. We’ve made a massive 3D printed concrete wave feature. No one has done anything like that before.”

Passionate skateboarder and landscape architect Richard and his companies, RICH Landscapes and FLOW, the designer and producer of bespoke skateboard features, are both working with Tauranga City Council, members of the local skate community, main contractor Angus McMillan Concrete and Aotearoa’s first 3D printing company, QOROX, to deliver this inclusive and accessible facility for Tauranga and its growing skater community.

With existing skate facilities outdated and not adequately providing for other wheeled sports, the Council could see an opportunity to better provide for this physical activity which also offers mental and social benefits for active participants from a range of demographics, genders and backgrounds.

Richard says RICH Landscapes, which has designed skateparks for the past 20 years and long advocated for more sustainable construction methods and technological advancements, saw an opportunity to really deliver on this ethos since QOROX entered the marketplace with its cutting-edge concrete construction technology. “This will be the first 3D printed skatepark of such scale in the world,” Rich says. “A couple of guys in Europe have used it to make some furniture objects, but we’ve made a massive 3D printed concrete wave feature. No one has done anything like that before.”

RICH Landscapes and Qorox tested the 3D printed product with some bespoke skate features at a skate spot in Avondale Central Reserve, with some helpful takeaways before vandals took a sledgehammer to some features and thieves literally took other features away. “I think that can happen with standard concrete,” Rich says.

Tauranga Destination Skatepark’s initial design highlighting skateable art wave feature.

“Next time, we’ll do the design a bit differently and make it stronger.” The Tauranga destination skatepark design was developed through a co-design process between RICH Landscapes and a 24-member Council-selected community design group. The concept design included a competition flow bowl, a skateable Art Area, a surf/skate ditch, competition-style stair set-ups, a mini-ramp and a linear street skating area with a variety of transition and trick features.

The 3D printer will handle a number of features including several ledge elements, a skateable art cantilevered quarterpipe and wave feature and two skinny ledges of varied heights and lengths. “3D printing allows us to achieve more complex shapes that are either difficult or impossible to make with standard form working techniques while reducing the consumption of products such as formwork to achieve the outcome,” Richard says. “The designed features are being constructed in a variety of ways to evaluate different methods that can be taken further into future projects.”

Liking 3D printing for its cost and time savings, its reductions in waste and CO² emissions, and its design freedom, Richard says it opens up the options for how skatepark environments are developed in New Zealand. He has already seen an opportunity to provide specialist skate products without the high cost of getting specialist construction teams involved, with his business FLOW which produces sustainable and prefabricated concrete and steel skatepark features.

“Prices keep going up and up and that’s why we started FLOW. We can get the cost down for the Council who can use a general contractor to get the slab down then we come in and place the product on top. It opens up the market a lot.”

FLOW skate elements included at Tauranga Destination Skatepark are Granite Pool Coping, Mixed Grain Bread, The Pharoah, Two Toes Party Skate Kerbs and a number of custom Corten steel capping elements designed exclusively for the 3D printed features. As RICH Landscapes continues to evolve its design process and its 3D printing journey, Richard can see a future of in-situ 3D printing and engineering to further reduce the carbon footprint of construction.

© Waterford Press Ltd 2024 – Independent Print Media New Zealand

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