From Abandoned Train Sheds to Street Sport Mekka’s

Original article written for The Danish Architechture Centre (Arcspace), available here

Once a greasy, dusty train shed that belonged to Denmark’s national rail company, DSB, GAME Streetmekka Esbjerg represents the matrimony of raw, edgy street culture with disused architecture. Street culture, as the name suggests, tends to rely on the narrative and aesthetics of urban landscapes.  Disused, semi-derelict architecture, such as an abandoned train shed, is an ideal environment within which street culture can flourish.

A partnership between Esbjerg Kommune, Realdania, TrygFonden, Nordea-fonden and GAME Denmark, the building is the first of three such-like facilities that planned for construction in various towns around Denmark.  GAME Streetmekka Esbjerg, located on the west coast of Denmark, opened its doors at the start of January 2016, following many months of construction and planning.

Skærmbillede 2016-03-17 kl. 23.27.38.pngStreet Basketball and Street Football courts. Streetmekka Esbjerg, Effekt Architects @ Game Denmark

Focus on The Youth

GAME Denmark is an NGO that has focused on giving children of all backgrounds access to sport through activities such as street football, parkour, and street basketball. “We Love Asphalt” is the maxim that the organization operates by – using tough, asphalted urban terrains as a backdrop for creating equal access to sports for all.

The industrial confines of the former train sheds form the backdrop for an architectural narrative that does away with elaborate structures and creates democratized spaces that can be occupied by youth culture. In this manner, the existing aesthetic with its rough, unbridled qualities are given a new lease of life under an architectural narrative that is conducive to playfulness and flexibility.

Skærmbillede 2016-03-17 kl. 23.28.28.pngSkate bowls render. Streetmekka Esbjerg, Effekt Architects @ Game Denmark

Skærmbillede 2016-03-17 kl. 23.28.40.pngSkate bowls. Streetmekka Esbjerg, Effekt Architects @ Game Denmark

A Space to Hang Out

EFFEKT Architects, the designers behind GAME Streetmekka Esbjerg focused on creating plenty of strategically placed hang-out options within a brief that “keeps the existing building as a rough, industrial shell with great connectivity between the exterior and interior.” For their part, GAME Denmark describes the venture as the perfect place to meet and play street sports on asphalt.

The facility opens up towards the street and lowers the threshold to sports with its big gates and low entrance fees […]After the first week of usage we’ve had more than 2,000 young people through the doors”/Simon Prahm, GAME director.

Skærmbillede 2016-03-17 kl. 23.28.52.pngAccess to sport for the youth. Streetmekka Esbjerg, Effekt Architects @ Game Denmark

At a time of major criticism towards sporting venues built specifically for events such as the 2014 World Cup in Brazil, initiatives such as the GAME Streetmekka project are a prominent reminder of the fact that it is possible to re-use and indeed re-invent existing urban spaces. Such spaces have the potential to transform ragged confines in a state of disrepair to pulsating areas that are accessible to a broad economic demographic, who interact with them in a manner that creates a vibrant, active culture. In such a way, the aesthetic appeal of the raw urban space is preserved and reinterpreted through the expression of street sports. In the coming years, GAME hopes to establish similar street sports facilities in other countries around the globe with the goal of helping more children and youth through sport.

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