Parisite Skatepark before and after (Courtesy The Albert and Tina Small Center for Collaborative Design, Michael Wong)

In 2010, a group of young skateboarders, seeking an alternative to the city’s uneven streets, initiated a makeshift DIY park using found materials on vacant land near the intersection of New Orleans’ Interstate 610 and Paris Avenue. When the popular park was subsequently removed due to safety concerns, the skateboarders reached out to the Albert and Tina Small Center for Collaborative Design at Tulane University School of Architecture for technical assistance and design expertise to help craft a replacement.

In 2014, the Center’s staff, faculty, and students from Tulane collaborated with the skaters, public agencies, a structural engineer, and a landscape architect to realize a new skate park on land adjacent to the previous park. Two 14-week-long design-build studios led to the development of a phased master plan for an urban landscape that features surfaces and elements desirable for skaters and non-skaters alike. The design also includes a landscaped edge to manage stormwater runoff and future expansion space.

Opened in 2015 with a ceremonial 40-foot “Reuben cutting” by Mayor Mitch Landrieu, Parisite Skatepark includes a defined entrance at Paris and Pleasure Streets, landscaping, and colorful artwork spanning the highway superstructure above it. A handicap accessible ramp leads to a viewing platform and seating that overlooks the park and surrounding neighborhood. Inside, concrete and wooden ramps offer a variety of skating experiences. Interpretive signage highlights the perimeter rain gardens, which collect and filter runoff from the highway.

Ongoing volunteer-led programming, which includes clean-up and ramp-building days, neighborhood barbecues, and all-girl skate nights, contributes to a sense of community ownership. Reflecting on the project, Tulane Adjunct Associate Professor Doug Harmon observed:

Working in concert with the city through engaged and thoughtful design, urban voids can be capitalized on to transform them from perceived public nuisance to public amenity.

Entrance to Parisite Skatepark (Courtesy of Michael Wong)
Parisite Skatepark (Bruner Foundation)
Parisite Skatepark (Bruner Foundation)
The 2014 design review for Parisite Skatepark (Courtesy The Albert and Tina Small Center for Collaborative Design)
Bruner Foundation Site Visit (Courtesy Jose Cotto)
Parisite Skatepark (Courtesy Jose Cotto)

This post was originally published by Metropolis as part of a series written and curated by RBA that offered a detailed look at the 2019 award cycle and site visits.

Anne-Marie Lubenau, AIA, is director of the Rudy Bruner Award for Urban Excellence (RBA) for the Bruner Foundation in Cambridge, Massachusetts. An architect and advocate for educating and engaging people in design of the built environment, she is a graduate of Carnegie Mellon University and was a 2012 Loeb Fellow at the Harvard Graduate School of Design.