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Design Stages

Skatepark design starts with a loose concept. These often are casually drawn.

Skatepark design starts with a loose concept. These often are casually drawn.

Skatepark design contains different sub-stages. Each stage concludes with the creation of a document representing that stage.

The first stage is “concept design.” This depicts the skatepark space in terms of its appearance. This is a flexible document that is subject to change. A concept design would be used when a specific location isn’t known, or if there are likely to be changes to the size or scope of the project.

The second stage is “final design” and represents the skatepark in its fully approved appearance. The final design is used to create construction documents.

The final stage is “construction documents.” These are the blueprints for construction and the instructions for creating each element. The CDs, as they’re known, describe everything from the type of rebar to the smoothness of the concrete.

1. Concept Design (aka Schematic Design)

Fundraising opportunities often require a skatepark design so that people understand what they are being asked to fund. Also, donors want to see that the project they’re funding is underway and inevitable, and not just a vague desire by a few passionate people.

The concept design, or schematic design, is a preliminary design depicting the skatepark idea. It shows what the park looks like. This schematic is used to show non-skaters what you are talking about when you say “skatepark.”

The final design will come with blueprints and usually some nicely modeled graphics you can use to promote the project.

The final design will come with blueprints and usually some nicely modeled graphics you can use to promote the project.

This stage of design is sometimes called a 30% design stage.

People unfamiliar with how projects like this work will often interpret the schematic design as the “final” design. They don’t understand that the design is still loose and subject to many changes. This is one of the drawbacks of schematic designs. All of your concept- and schematic designs should be indicated as “work in progress” or “preliminary design” or some other language that indicates that it’s probably not what the final skatepark will look like.

Concept designs can come from a professional skatepark designer, if one has already been employed for the project. Some skatepark designers will provide their concept design services for free in hopes of winning the lucrative construction contract later.

2. Final Design

The professional skatepark designer will work directly with local skaters to identify needs and desires. This is accomplished through a series of design workshops. The first workshop will usually be a casual conversation. The designer will meet directly with local skaters to talk about the kinds of places they skate now, and what kinds of things they’re interested in skating in their new skatepark. The designer will also meet with the people responsible for managing the project to talk about any special considerations, and together they will walk the site to get a first-hand look.

Within a few weeks, another meeting will be scheduled with the designer to present a few concepts. If the design budget is very small, it may be just one illustration, but if it’s a large, well-funded project, several different concepts might be presented. The core group will be invited to these meetings, as well as the larger skateboarding community.

The skateboarders will provide feedback that the designer will incorporate into the preferred design. The designer will try to meet everyone’s needs while staying within the anticipated construction budget. Sometimes additional meetings and presentations are scheduled until the skatepark design is as good as it can possibly get.

After a while, the designer will supply the community with a “final design” that can be used on promotional materials. It isn’t a buildable design yet; it’s just an approved concept.

3. Construction Documents (aka CDs)

The designer then takes that approved design and creates construction documents (CDs). These are basically blueprints that a construction company can use to build the skatepark as it is intended to be built. The CDs specify all of the curves, heights, and distances, but also how thick the concrete is, how the soil around and under the terrain is prepared, where rainwater goes, and so on.

The construction documents are used to present the project to construction companies that may be interested in building the skatepark. The CDs are important because they allow the builder to understand exactly what they are bidding on.

Changes to the design at this point are impractical and costly. The construction documents cannot be used if the site changes, the budget changes significantly, or some new constraint emerges (such as the desire to keep a particular tree in the middle of the proposed skatepark site).

After the CDs are delivered to the community, the designer’s work is done. In some cases, the designer will be hired to oversee construction to ensure that it is being built exactly as intended. Although this adds to the budget, it’s a very useful service to include, particularly if the company winning the construction bid does not have a lot of experience with skateparks.