Face to face: Julius Turanyik, Convic

Interest in skate park projects is taking root in the Gulf region as developers gain more understanding of their potential as investments, says Julius Turanyik, general manager of Convic

Julius Turanyik, general manager of Convic.
Julius Turanyik, general manager of Convic.

Three years from now, skateboarding will make its debut as an Olympic sport at the 2020 Summer Games in Tokyo – a development that has proven to be a divisive issue among skateboarders, with some saying they don’t need the Olympics to legitimise skateboarding as a sport, while others – like pro-skateboarder Tony Hawk – call its inclusion an exciting opportunity for the skateboarding community.

 Whatever the contentions of those involved in the debate may be, there’s no denying that skateboarding is enjoying rising mainstream popularity and acceptance, evident in not only the growing size of its global equipment market – expected to exceed $5bn by 2020, according to a study conducted by Technavio – but also the proliferation of skate parks around the world.

 Australia alone has almost 1,500 skate parks, according to Melbourne-headquartered landscape architecture design and construction company, Convic, which points out that the number is significant considering that the country’s population does not even cross the 25 million mark.

 While skateboarding is not typically associated with Middle-Eastern countries, Julius Turanyik, the company’s general manager, notes that interest in skate park projects is taking root in the Gulf region.

He tells Construction Week that ever since XDubai Skatepark – a project that Convic conceptualised and built – opened at Kite Beach in early 2016, the company has “seen an extraordinary amount of interest from developers and design offices in Dubai and Abu Dhabi, and neighbouring countries” that are thinking of integrating skate parks into their projects.

Attributing the increase in interest to growing awareness among stakeholders that “youth spaces” like skate parks can be good investments, he explains that developers can make their projects more attractive to buyers by creating spaces targeted at the youth – an oft-ignored segment of the population.

 He elaborates: “We often find that having a well-designed youth space in a development works as a magnet [for buyers]. It works as an investment because it can function as a community infrastructure and create more demand for the property. Developers can also get more value from the space by setting up restaurants or a food and beverage area around the skate park, for example.”

By highlighting the community aspect of the project, developers can ensure that its appeal extends to more than skateboarders, Turanyik emphasises, adding that the 3,200m2 XDubai facility effectively demonstrates how a skate park can be designed to serve the whole community.

He says: “The XDubai project is a good example because it has been integrated into the Kite Beach environment, to the food and beverage area, and the walkway, opening up the skate park even to passive users who just want to sit with their drinks and watch the kids enjoy the facility with their skateboards, bikes, inline skates, or scooters.

“[XDubai Skatepark] offers different sets of age-group choices when it comes to activities, and all in the same facility. Skateboarding is actually just the key element around which the project was designed, but the space can be utilised for other [purposes].”

One possible alternative use for the park, he says, is as a venue for concerts or community events like weekend markets, similar to how some skate parks in Australia are being used.

To ensure that the company was able to produce the kind of facility that the client had in mind, Turanyik says that he and his team worked closely with XDubai. Communication between the two parties commenced in 2014, with Convic assisting XDubai in formulating design ideas.

“The client wanted a skate park that would cater to professional and novice skaters, as well as serve the general community,” he reveals, adding that the consultation process went on for months before Convic was engaged to design and build the park, which it managed to do in just 11 months. “The skate park was completed in early December 2015 and opened to the public in mid-January 2016.”

The park’s features include a skate plaza comprising banks, blocks, and quarter-pipes, for amateur skaters; and obstacles like ledges, banks, steps, a vert wall, rails, and a bowl that is 3.2m deep with a 2.1m shallow end, for advanced skaters.

While these features can be found in skate parks in other parts of the world, Turanyik says that Convic and XDubai saw to it that local elements were integrated into the project. An example of this is the park’s colour scheme, which takes its inspiration from sand dunes.

The climate of the country was also taken into account, with shade elements incorporated into the project design to offer users some relief from the sun, especially during the blistering summer months, notes Turanyik, pointing out that the XDubai facility is “nearly 100% shaded or covered”.

Recognising how sand could pose as a problem when it came to maintenance, Convic also made sure that the facility’s concrete surfaces were sealed, he says, noting: “Since it’s a sealed surface, maintenance of the concrete is less intensive for the first five years, compared to ordinary concrete surfaces.”

He clarifies, however, that while local elements and maintenance are huge considerations in all the company’s projects, accuracy in design is top priority and a source of pride for Convic, which has a landscape design division and a construction delivery group. It is also what he believes sets Convic apart from other firms.

“Convic operates using the consult-design-construct-activate (CDCA) model. We believe it’s important for the company to manage the entire process, because skate parks have to be designed according to the right parameters and must be delivered using the right construction techniques, with sufficient attention to details,” explains Turanyik.

Relaying the observation that skate park designs have evolved over the years, he says that skaters and communities today deserve more than the poorly designed, grey structures of the past that were little more than eyesores.

 His comment on old skateboarding facilities echoes an observation that American filmmaker and former pro-skater, Stacy Peralta, made in the documentary, Bones Brigade: An Autobiography.

 In the film, which follows the rise of a band of unknown but talented skateboarders – the Bones Brigade – during the 1980s, Peralta said: “99% of the skate parks that were designed, were designed improperly because nobody knew how to make them yet. These parks didn’t work and they closed across the board, and skateboarders were turned off to skateboarding because of it.”

Although Peralta was talking about skate parks in the ’70s, Turanyik says it’s not impossible to find ill-designed skate parks today. And often the problem can be traced to ignorance on the part of the design and construction companies of the needs of skateboarders.

Convic, he says, makes sure that the parks it designs and builds add value to their surrounding communities by integrating landscaping into the project and creating a mix of active and passive features, including refuge spaces, as well as making use of coloured concrete.

The company also consults with professional skateboarders like Renton Millar, who is based in Melbourne.

He elaborates: “Renton Millar, who is a former world champion skater, often comes and visits our office in Melbourne, and we take ideas from him about future skate park projects. We sometimes ask him to verify new ideas from a skater’s point of view.

“We also conduct surveys to understand better the response of skaters using the parks we’ve built, so their ideas and feedback can be incorporated in our next projects.”

Underscoring the significance of Convic’s holistic and integrated approach to its projects, as well as the importance of transforming public spaces into facilities that encourage teenagers to be active members of their communities, Turanyik concludes: “Convic doesn’t just design and build skate parks; we develop youth precincts – connected spaces for the youth, who have the most disposable time available to them but have the least amount of space that caters to their needs.”

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