RaD: A definitive history of Skateboarding in the UK from 1978–1995

Growing up as a BMX obsessed then skateboarding crazy kid in the 1980’s “RaD” (short for Read and Destroy) magazine was THE major source of everything about skateboarding.

Every month, every issue, I would read it from cover to cover. From the cover, contents page, articles, letter’s page*, photos to the small ads at the back I would consume everything about it and so much of it is forever burned into my brain to be recalled at random times! In the times way before the internet, instagram, youtube and social media the printed skateboard magazine was the only window into the wider realms of skateboarding in the UK and beyond.

A small sample of my personal RaD magazine archive :)

RaD had several key photographers who contributed to the magazine: Vernon ‘Jay Podesta’ Adams, Tony ‘Dobie’ Campbell, ‘Mad’ Mike John, Tim Leighton-Boyce, Paul Sunman and Wig Worland. I once stayed over at Tim Leighton-Boyce’s flat in London many years ago and spent hours looking through boxes of photos, some which had been in print and some that never saw the light of day.

Since the late 1990’s all of Tim’s and other contributor’s photos and all the materials from the production of RaD – much of which predates fully digital workflows of graphic design and print production – has been in storage in various places. But in recent years massive efforts have been taken to sort through all of the remnants of the RaD magazine archives and has resulted in a Kickstarter campaign to document the history of skateboarding in the UK and the role and influence that RaD magazine had and the effect it continues to have to this day.

“Skateboarding History. RaD. The book of the magazine.”

The Kickstarter project is titled: “Skateboarding History. RaD. The book of the magazine.” and has the sub-title “A definitive history of Skateboarding in the UK from 1978–1995
The Read and Destroy archive book project.”. The plan is for a two-volume book and is summarised on Kickstarter:

This two-volume book revisits the seminal independent magazine RaD (Read and Destroy), first published over 30 years ago – and still with a global following today. It is an inside view on skateboarding and youth culture from the 1970s, 80s and 90s, told primarily through the archives of 6 British skate photographers at the core of the magazine’s original editorial team.

https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/322122905/rad-the-book-of-the-magazine/description
This is what the finished two-volume book should look like.

There are only about 8 days to go as I type this so if RaD magazine is something that had a similar influence on yourself as it did to me, or your keen to see this aspect of skateboarding-related social history be brought to the surface, or if you love photography or graphic design then I’d strongly encourage you to go and back the project as the resulting book is going to be something special in all those aspects. Do it, go back it now and help make it happen!

View the Kickstarter project here: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/322122905/rad-the-book-of-the-magazine

You can also find more about RaD on their website and social media sites at:

*My own letters made it to the letters page once or twice ;)

Skateboard urbanism, hostile design and the V&A Dundee

Excitement about the impending opening of Scotland’s first design museum, the V&A Dundee, is growing. Many a passer-by has recently stood outside the Heras fencing and stared at the building as it nears completion.

Some of those people will have noticed with anticipation the stone benches and ledges of the mirror pool and contemplated not just their aesthetics but also their functional use. Skateboarders tend to view cities and architecture differently than the average person walking through a town centre, seeing potential for skating in the various objects and structures encountered in the urban environment.

Benches and ledges of the mirror pool outside the V&A Dundee.
Benches outside the V&A Dundee.
Benches outside the V&A Dundee.
Benches outside the V&A Dundee.
Benches and ledges of the mirror pool outside the V&A Dundee.

 

“Skaters by their very nature are urban guerillas: they make everyday use of the useless artifacts of the technological burden, and employ the handiwork of the government/corporate structure in a thousand ways that the original architects could never dream of.” ~ Craig Stecyk

As the quote above by Craig Stecyk suggests, very often the creators of architectural surfaces have not had in mind some of the ways that people ultimately interact with them, skateboarding, bmx, parkour, all make use of the urban environment in alternative ways. Walls that were intended to contain or guide people become something to jump over, grind and slide on.

This latter point is what raises a concern about the benches, ledges and the general surrounding area of the V&A Dundee. Has the “skateability” of the surrounding street furniture been a consideration when it has been designed and built? Is this going to be a surprise consequence and result in the deployment of hostile design measures to prevent anyone trying to skate any element of Kengo Kuma’s creation?

Skateable by design – Glasgow Museum of Transport

In 2011 Glasgow’s £74m Riverside Museum of Transport, designed by renowned architect Zaha Hadid, was opened to the public. From the outset the museum was designed to have a multi-functional open plaza area intended for hosting events and to be specifically skateboard-friendly. Lawrence Fitzgerald, Project Director for the museum describes the intentions:

“Rather than discourage the informal use of the hard landscape by skateboarders and cyclists, the Riverside museum provides an undulating and kerb-free space for this hard-to-attract young audience. Inside the museum, teenage transport is further validated through displays on Glasgow skateboarding, BMX and chopper bikes.”

So from the outset skateboarders have been encouraged to skate parts of the building itself and in the area surrounding the building. Rather than attempting to prevent this usage they instead have embraced and actively encourage it, and in turn to encourage a younger demographic to have a reason to visit the museum. Their commitment to this has continued with the hosting of various skate competition events and also in the summer of 2017 with the addition of purpose built concrete features to provide even more opportunities for skateboarders.

One of the design briefs for Glasgow's Riverside Museum of Transport was to make a skateable area, so the metal blocks out the front were designed and built to be skated. (Image credit: Glasgow Museum of Transport)
New additions to Riverside Museum of Transport under construction in 2017. (Image credit: Concreate Skateparks)
New additions to Riverside Museum of Transport under construction in 2017. (Image credit: Concreate Skateparks)
New additions to Riverside Museum of Transport under construction in 2017. (Image credit: Concreate Skateparks)
New additions to Riverside Museum of Transport under construction in 2017. (Image credit: Concreate Skateparks)
Completed additions to Riverside Museum of Transport. (Image credit: Concreate Skateparks)

For a Museum of Transport there would obviously have been quite a degree of irony if they had chosen to actively fight against these activities.

Unskateable by design – Bristo Square, Edinburgh

In a fairly stark contrast to the approach of actively embracing skateboarding from the outset there is the example of Bristo Square in Edinburgh. A public space within the University of Edinburgh’s campus which many people passed through and home to many skateboarders, as well as a few homeless people. This was a prime urban skate location for decades, skateboarding was never actively encouraged in Bristo Square before the refurbishment and it definitely wasn’t an activity that was considered in its design, but it was an extremely popular location and visited by many skaters from across Scotland.

Bristo Square nearing completion of the major refurbishment in 2017. (Image credit: Kaysgeog - Flickr Creative Commons licensed image)
Skate stoppers added to all of the steps in Bristo Square, a common method used to prevent use by skateboarders. (Image credit: Zeefoto / Dopezine)
Close-Up of a simple form of skate stopper (Image credit: Zeefoto / Dopezine)
Skate stoppers on the stone benches in Bristo Square. (Image credit: Zeefoto / Dopezine)
Skate stoppers on the wooden benches in Bristo Square. (Image credit: Zeefoto / Dopezine)
Skate stoppers were added to the old monument steps. (Image credit: Zeefoto / Dopezine)

Bristo Square underwent a major refurbishment in 2015 much to the dissatisfaction of the skate community. A local student is quoted in an article on the youth culture site The Tab:

“It’s a missed opportunity by the university. They could have included the skateboarders in their plans, combining the user groups. Perhaps the university was a bit narrow-minded with its approach. They didn’t even consider skateboarding. It seemed a little bit from their plans as though they were purposely going out of their way to prevent it.”

The refurbishment of Bristo Square was used as an opportunity to prevent various “anti-social behaviour”, among which skateboarding was specifically clarified in the planning application documents as being one of them:

“Skateboarders have been a problem in the past and regularly return to the area. Consideration should be given to materials such as tactile pavers and landscaping techniques that dissuade skateboarders from using the area. The position and design of handrails on either side of the pavilion should be such that it also discourages use by skateboarders and bikers”

These purposeful design decisions were taken despite the planning application documents also citing a report prepared by the Edinburgh Urban Design Panel in 2012 which considered skateboarding a contributing factor to what made Bristo Square a positive part of Edinburgh’s urban environment:

“The mix of different type of people, including people passing through, students and skateboarders and others that use Bristo Square mean that even though it presents challenges for clarity of pedestrian movement, community safety and so on, the space does contribute positively to the life of the city.”

Whilst this does acknowledge the potential issues of having pedestrians and skateboarders together in the same environment it appears to favour the approach of embracing all potential uses of the space, as opposed to actively trying to prevent them as the resulting redesign of Bristo Square has done. An approach that has worked well for Glasgow Museum of Transport.

Which approach for the V&A?

As the V&A Dundee is a museum of design there is a strong argument that the design of the surroundings and the street furniture around it should take into account the different ways that people might interact with it. As shown from the examples of Glasgow Museum of Transport and Edinburgh’s Bristo Square, people don’t just walk or sit in urban environments.

The creation of the Slessor Gardens open space and the planned waterfront “urban beach” shows some consideration of the need to provide ways to encourage people to spend time in the area. But are we going to end up with attempts to ban and discourage activities like skateboarding and excluding a thriving cultural activity, and an important younger demographic, because it doesn’t fit in with how the area was designed?

Artist rendering of proposed “urban beach” area in Dundee’s waterfront development next to the V&A Dundee. (Image credit: Dundee City Council – Planning Application Reference 18/00124/FULL)

A sure sign that these activities were not considered will be if we see some hastily added hostile design “skate-stopper” features added to all the benches and ledges around the V&A Dundee and waterfront areas.

Skateboard urbanism – rise of the intentionally skateable city?

In contrast to the anti-skate / hostile-design approach it is worth looking at the city of Hull, a city with a similar rising cultural heritage and renewal to Dundee. Hull, the 2017 UK City of Culture, is the UK’s first “skateboarding friendly” city and plans to design “skateboard-friendly” areas in new projects for public buildings.

Hull joins other cities around the world like Melbourne, Copenhagen and Malmö who have also declared that skateboarding, and other urban sports, are a key aspect of their cultural heritage, embracing and encouraging the use of city architecture and spaces for these activities rather than attempting to ban and confine them only to dedicated skateparks.

Iain Borden, Professor of Architecture and Urban Culture at University College London, was one of the first to explore the relationship between the urban environment and skateboarders in his book “Skateboarding, space and the city: Architecture and the Body”. Rather than just being places where people go to work or go shopping the urban environment is a place to be explored and experienced in its own right. In a Kingpin magazine article Iain Borden had this to say about Hull’s plan to become the UK’s first skateable city:

“And so even more welcome is Hull’s plan to provide “skateboard-friendly” areas around public buildings – integrating skateboarding into the everyday public arena is a hugely positive step forward, and follows the example of places like Malmö, Innsbruck, Cologne, etc., who have all made ambiguous spaces which aren’t outright skateparks but are still open to skating. It remains to be seen, of course, exactly what Hull will provide in this area, but the intention is admirable. And if Hull can have a go, why not other UK cities?”

Dundee – skateboarding friendly, by design?

As a city which is the UK’s only UNESCO City of Design there is a great opportunity in Dundee to embrace “skateboard urbanism” and to see how it can benefit the regeneration of the city as a whole. Two of Dundee’s aims as a City of Design are:

  • “use design as a cornerstone in addressing both social inequalities and opportunities that exist in the city”
  • “focusing on social design, redesigning public service and community engagement”

With these aims in mind, it would seem that it’s time for a conversation about how skateboarding, and other urban sports such as parkour, BMX etc, fit in to the V&A Dundee, the surrounding waterfront space and the city as a whole.

Earlier in this article I poised a question regarding whether the “skateability” of the V&A and its surroundings was a consideration during the design process. Following on from that it just remains to ask one more question: Will those involved in the development of the V&A Dundee and regeneration of these areas take the skate-friendly approach of Glasgow’s Museum of Transport or the hostile-design approach of the Bristo Square redevelopment?

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The V and A at Dundee Exhibition

Abertay University library are hosting an exhibition of the shortlisted finalists for the Architectural designs for the planned V&A Dundee building.

It’s really useful seeing some actual models of the buildings rather than just the rendered images and video that you can see on the website so it’s worth getting along there if you can.

I thought I’d post how I rank the six finalists, it’s quite a tricky decision really as there are interesting aspects to all of the designs:

1. REX

Basically I like this one best because of the visual impact it has, it looks impressive from the outside but also exposed those inside to the impressive views over the Tay. I think it would make a great feature at the waterfront and is obviously very different than any other planned buildings for the location.

The glass face and angles remind me of ice or icebergs which perhaps hints at Dundee’s history with south atlantic exploration, whaling etc.

The only unknown aspect of this design for me is how the glass panels will be connected, it’s not that apparent from the visuals or the model as they just appear to be huge panels of glass.

2. Snøhetta

This building is very different than the Kuma, completely understated in comparison to the Kuma and most of the other finalists. However, the Snøhetta design reveals itself more when you look into it, it is actually intended to rise and fall with the tide and will actually generate energy for use in the building.

I think it’s really important that whichever design is chosen it should really make the best use possible of renewable, sustainable energy sources such as solar, wind and tidal power. All three of which are available at the site of the building. Although this design has much less visual impact from the shoreline it actually looks great from the river itself.

3. Kengo Kuma

This was originally my favourite design, it has a big impressive aspect which is reminiscent of a ships bow and stern from certain angles, presumable this isn’t just me making it up and it is intentional! The light appearing through the horizontal strips of the buildings exterior is subtle and would look amazing at night time.

The biggest problem I see with this design is how it will look as time goes on, it looks to be the perfect seagull magnet with all of the horizontal beams of the structure presenting perfecting roosting locations for seabirds. An unfortunate clash with reality there for this design, I can’t see how they could prevent this from happening without resorting to prevention methods which would be both costly and unsightly.

Perhaps another issue is cost, I’ve read some comments that suggest it would be overly ambitious to achieve for the overall budget, we don’t want to see another Scottish Parliament style overspend.

4. Delugan Meissl

My initial reaction to this design was that it looked pretty crazy, like a spaceship had just touched down in the middle of a plaza. However, having looked at the model closeup I actually quite like the interior space.

It’s quite an unusual, imposing design (to say the least!) which definitely makes a statement. However, it’s perhaps a bit too off the wall. It’s also not very clear how the exterior finish will be done, it looks to have some form of translucency to it, almost like a see-through space shuttle with the black and white colour. I’m not sure if it’s a little bit too retro-futuristic.

One other concern with this design is how it will work with the forces of the wind, it can get a bit windy down on the river sometimes – will there be some unexpected wing effect? It’s an interesting concept and the interior offers space which would definitely be very functional and would work well for gallery space etc, perhaps better than some of the other designs. Overall, perhaps it’s a bit too "Take me to your Leader" to be in the running.

5. Steven Holl

I’m now getting to my least favourite of the designs. I’m pretty unimpressed by this design overall, partly due to the renderings of it just being quite vague. It looks quite indistinct and hazey, like the Meissl design I can quite see how the surface of the building will look or function – is it glass or a cloth-like material?

The renderings showing this design against the backdrop of Dundee really didn’t work for me either, it just didn’t look good. Overall the renderings make it look like a building that’s only half there – like a building that is trying to appear from another dimension but can’t quite make it all the way.

It really just looks quite non-distinct, you can see from the rendering to the right that it just merges in with the grey-ish clouds they’ve depicted in it, all of the other renderings are the same. Perhaps if they’d presented it in nice bright sun light it would have a better impression upon me. Dundee is considered to be the sunniest city in Scotland so at least presenting it in that light would help.

6. Sutherland Hussey

Last in my ranking is unfortunately the design by the only Scottish architect practice. My initial impression is that it is just too boxey, especially in comparison to the other finalists.

It just doesn’t seem organic in anyway, I don’t mind the main aspect of the building to some extent but it’s the surrounding vertical columns of the pier it’s set on that further add to the rigid box-like appearance. Perhaps if it was on a softer, smooth landscaped environment then the simple box shape of the building would make an interesting juxtaposition?

So unfortunately it’s last in my ranking, although I’d say it’s probably tied with number 5 though, the more I look at number 5 I would perhaps be tempted to swap them over, but I’ll leave it as they are for now.

~ ~ ~ ~

What I’m really interested to hear about for all the designs is the type of materials, the use of renewables etc. The location provides great opportunity to make use of things like vertical axis wind turbines and tidal power generation, Dundee hopes to be at the forefront of renewable energy technology so these buildings should walk the talk too.

You can view more about all 6 finalists over at http://vandaatdundee.com/your-future/shortlist/.