German landscape architecture firm Maier Landschaftsarchitektur has designed a very colorful addition to Bethlehem, a town you’d be forgiven for foremost associating with the birthplace of a certain Biblical character. Built with the support of charities Skate-Aid and SOS Children’s Villages and on the latter’s village grounds in the area, the skatepark aims to install feelings of “joy” and “happiness” in the troubled area.
The park is split in two, comprising two bowls, one open and the other closed. The park gains an increased lifespan thanks to its rolling landscape that protects it from damage. Currently, around 126 children reside in the SOS Children’s village in east Bethlehem, an area which has been subject to political instability, prevailing violence, high unemployment, and increased poverty.
The freedom to play is an important part of any childhood and so Maier, lead by German landscape architect Ralf Maier, hopes to give the children of the village that chance. Fortunately, skating, as a recreation, has no religious or political affiliations embedded within the sport. Neither are there any allegiances with common enemies—like with the Giants and the Dodgers, for example. Subsequently it’s an easier way to unify communities such as the SOS Children’s Village.
Working with Skate-Aid, SOS Children’s Villages, and Betonlandschaften (concrete landscapes) Maier has been able to install skate parks all over the world, across Germany, Africa, to Palestine and even Peru.
In Kigali, Rwanda, another skatepark was completed as recently as 2016. Here a mini-ramp, and ledges and curbs for grinding have been included to cater for all abilities. Meanwhile, an existing tree is the focal point of the space. Located in the middle of the park, it acts as a “volcano” surrounded at the base by curved concrete so skateboarders can interact with it.
In an email, Ralf Maier said that a “key aspect” was the “painting of skatepark with the logo of skate-aid. It gives the park colorful nuances and keeps a picture in your mind.”
The same principle was also applied to the skatepark in Bethlehem. In this case, a group of young artists from aptART (Awareness & Prevention Through Art) complimented the skatepark with a splash of color. The vibrant hues employed on the curvaceous concrete enliven the space which would otherwise be suspect to anonymity, fading into the gray surroundings of the vicinity.
Here, the children have a place that is both visually and physically stimulating, but more importantly, have a place to call their own.