Tag: Architecture

Everything around us is designed. Someone, some time figured out what it is going to look like, how it is going to work and where it is going to be put. Everything is there for a reason, everything has a purpose.
But what if we start reimagining the purpose of our surroundings? What is the role of the architect if we start using the objects around us differently than what was intended?



As I make my way into the city from the airport, the rickety subway line I’ve been riding so far is replaced by one which reminds me more of a movie poster for Metropolis – huge caves of concrete and glass echoing the footsteps of hundreds of commuters as we collectively make our way up to street level.

Up here, the metropolis is mostly gone. In fact, you’d be hard pressed to find a building in the inner city that reaches higher up than the caves of the subway reach down. Instead, the facades looking over the street tell of a kind of lost grandeur – beautiful old buildings worn down through the decades.

I came here with a group, and as always when we travel together, we came here to skate. But this time I am focusing as much on the city as I am on the board.

“Our everyday life in the built environment
is far more complex and intriguing in reality.”

I meet Gergő Hory at Studio Gallery – a small art gallery and studio space a few miles west of the city core. As we speak, Gergő is very thoughtful, it seems he does not want to rush into someone else’s point of view, but would rather consider his own. When I ask him about Budapest though, he smiles and gives me a reference.

“I heard someone describing Budapest as an old lady once – a bit dirty, she’s seen better times. She has a makeup on which is a bit old fashioned, trying to pretend that she has some kind of greatness and elegance but in reality, she is a little bit poor and not as elegant as she wants to be. Some kind of lady who pretends she is a bit younger. Well, if you really want to experience the atmosphere of Budapest you ought to listen to Tamás Cseh. He was like the Hungarian Bob Dylan you know, with one guitar and very very strong verses. The melodies are melancholic but very lively at the same time, listening to it I think you can grasp something of the essence of this city.”

Gergő moved to Budapest in 2007 to study architecture and is now doing a research project while working as an architect. Coming from outside and being a student of architecture, he has been able to see how the city has changed over the years.

“It was very different some five or six years ago, that time I think it was more inspiring than it is today. When I came here the now very famous ruin bars were not so famous. For example, you could walk into places like Szimpla and spend the whole day there brainstorming with your friends and working on projects. Today some of those places are either not existent anymore or they are full of people who go there to party. Tourism has really transformed some of these places.”

Going into it, Gergő knew very little about architecture. He had been interested in art and drawing before, but it was the multidisciplinary nature of architecture that attracted him. During his studies he was also active in a group that did different kinds of interventions in public space, aiming to provoke the city dwellers to take notice of their surroundings.

“When the new metro line was still under construction, the whole city was filled with barricades. It lasted for almost 10 years I think. It was a very haphazard and expensive project which created a very chaotic situation for people. We wanted to make it even more chaotic by building a fake construction site for a fake metro ventilation shaft on a very narrow street. To provoke, and to show people that it is insane what’s going on.”

“As a member of the group I experienced during the projects that the everyday life in the built environment is far more complex and intriguing in reality than in the abstract world of most university design courses.”

After a while, the local residents started protesting and demanded it would be taken down, which in this case was actually the success of the project – to raise awareness about our everyday physical environment.

Perhaps the way we relate to space and what demands we put on our surroundings is not very apparent to us until our surroundings get in our way. But thinking about the others out in the city looking for places to skate, I can see that skateboarding is an exception to this rule.

In skateboarding, the relationship to space changes dramatically; everything around you is either an opportunity or an obstacle, and this can be very different from the experience of a pedestrian or driver – an obstacle walking or driving is many times an opportunity for the skateboarder. This is my strongest relationship with architecture, a physical and experience driven one, one that leaves me with sore legs and hands so dirty it turns the tap water brown when I wash my hands in the evening.


Talking to Gergő I get another perspective. He is working on a research project about public spaces being used for something entirely different than what was intended. It is something which skaters are very good at.

In my research project, I deal with these types of uses of public spaces which are not intended but just happen informally. I think it’s a great thing. They are things that a designer can hardly cope with sometimes, but you can learn from it, of how people relate to space.

I think architecture is good if it serves many possibilities for different uses, and it is not over-determined, over controlled. However, people’s behaviors will find their way even in the most controlled area, if they want to use it differently they will use it differently. In many cases, it leads to very interesting situations. You know the classic example – there’s a park with designed pathways but users usually don’t use the designed pathway but the shortest path instead.

The phenomenon Gergő is talking about is called Desire Paths, and it is happening everywhere. It is of course often based on a need (“I need to catch the bus”), or maybe a disdain for the alternatives (“no way I am walking all around this thing!”), whereas in skateboarding it is more related to some kind of push and pull play with objects and spaces. What they have in common though is that they both stem from the question what if? What if I could just cut through here? And as with desire paths, once someone answers that question, a hundred others will follow. In a park, this creates a beaten path, in skateboarding, it is how new skate spots are born.

“It’s not about intentional design,
the people themselves design the city.”

Moving through Budapest, I notice one very public display of this behavior. The Freedom Bridge, one of the many bridges connecting the two sides of the city, Buda and Pest, is a massive steel construction used by cars, trams and pedestrians alike to cross the water each day. Except nowadays, not everyone who walks onto the bridge aim to cross it. The construction of the bridge mimics that of a suspension bridge, but in place of wires forming the classic arcs, the Freedom Bridge uses broad plates of steel “hanging” between the two towers. In the middle of the bridge, the structure reaches down low enough for a person to climb, and on warm evenings you’ll find people scattered all over this oversized bench enjoying the last of the sun reflecting off of the river.

“In the case of the Freedom Bridge, I wouldn’t say that it was designed badly just because the designers probably didn’t think about that people will sit on it. It’s not about intentional design, I mean the people themselves design the city.”


It seems architecture is not just a building or a structure, it is the relationship between an object and its occupant. The architect and the user both produce architecture — the former by design, the latter by use. However, one object can have an infinite amount of different relationships with different individuals.

This begs the question of authorship. If the purpose of an object or a space is tied to use and not to form, then who really creates the city?

“Use is a challenge for design since the designer cannot have full control over it. No matter how controlled and deterministic a building or a space is, human behavior will find the loopholes and implement unexpected creative uses. This uncontrollable side of use fascinates me.
If a street or a bench is used by a skateboarder for skateboarding, then it is not a bench anymore. But only for that moment.”

I say goodbye to Gergő and head out on the street again. When I get back to the others, I notice something else – not only do they have their own relationship with the objects around them, but they are also actively questioning them, constantly changing them, twisting and turning them, both physically and mentally.

“I think a building is a manifestation of a social network,
a way of thinking and a way of living”

Of course, the most literal change is the marks left behind – chipped curbs and benches, dark marks on walls, ledges, and rails. This is one of the most common explanations as to why we should not skate somewhere – it is the reason we got kicked out from Fővám Tér by the Budapest river side for using the small plateau as a skate obstacle – and it is often put in terms of destruction. But I can’t help but think that it is only half of the explanation, because while the marks (and the sound) may be somewhat provoking, perhaps the bigger provocation is going around saying things are not what they are, that they are not what they should be, and in doing so claiming the space as your own.

“You can say a building is a piece of art, but I am not really interested in that. I think a building is a manifestation of a social network – a way of thinking and a way of living, these patterns of usage then creates then the physical form. To me, this point of view is more interesting. The buildings, they don’t change much, but the usage changes very rapidly.”

In this way of thinking architecture is not solid, as its concrete foundations might suggest, but instead incredibly fluid, existing only in a temporary space between the object, the user, and the way they use it at a specific time. And skateboarding might just be one of the most elaborate displays of it.


Gergő Hory is an architect living in Budapest. He works at PRTZN – Partizan Architecture, a studio he established in 2013 together with friends Zoltán Major and Péter Müllner. The group that he was a part of during his studies was called Space Detournement Working Group. Gergő is currently doing a research project surrounding the unintended uses of public space.

Video edit, interview, and text by:
Paul Botwid

Illustrations by:
Tom Botwid

partizan architecture
Space detournement group

Santiago Sasson is all about three things: ambience, communication and community. He skates for companies that represent those values like Magenta and Futur – both “smaller” companies with a strong identity. After some failed attempts at meeting in a bar, we ventured out to his office, where Santiago and his mother – who is also his boss – work on different types of architectural projects, from creating new office spaces and shops to remodeling homes and storefronts. I wonder if he ever had the balls to skate on something he created for a client. Funny enough I never got to ask that because our discussion seemed to never end. One train of thought followed the next and all of them were worth exploring. We have been waiting for someone like Santiago to elaborate and explain some of the thoughts and questions we as skateboarders have always had.

By Roland Hoogwater
Photos: Danny Sommerfeld


As skateboarders we move through urban environments that were designed by an architect. You chose to become an architect just like your mother, the difference being that you are also a skater. What happened to you when those two worlds collided?

In my seven years of studying architecture, my vision of skateboarding totally changed. It took me seven years of studying to finish my degree and it was an interesting process for me being both a skater and an architect. A lot of time’s though, I feel like people don’t understand my position. As an architect, I am supposed to build, but at the same time, most people feel like skateboarders are destroying architecture (urban things). In reality, we are not destroying anything we are reacting with our mind and our bodies to the environment that we are in. That is why I feel that skateboarding is an art! In art, everybody can formulate their own answer, translate that into skating and you can see that every skateboarder has their own vision and response (tricks) to those surroundings. Architecture is similar. One architect might feel like using wood, metal or brick. Another architect might feel the best thing to do is to go with more modern styles and materials. When you finish your studies, you are not really an architect yet. You were taught some skills but it’s even more important to learn how to re-learn things. In a sense, you are always researching who you are, what you want to achieve and how you want the end result to look and feel.

Sounds similar to what people learn in art schools. What do you feel are the core values of architecture?

Historically, architecture fills one of the most basic needs of the human species. Cavemen used the basic ideas of architecture to make their cave into a livable space. Skateboarding and architecture are two microcosms, and as a person that does both, I find myself using (appropriating) existing space as a skateboarder. All of those spaces, most of them public, were thought up by an architect. The definition of public space is that the space is available for use by everyone! In that space, we all can do whatever we want. Still, we as skateboarders get kicked out and that is because we are not using that space in a way that fits with the codes and ideas that people have about public spaces. But if we look at the law itself, we have the right to be there and use it in our own way. In the end, it is not about the law, it is about the way that people view what we do. They see us as people who damage things that were built with tax money. What they seem to forget is that we pay taxes and our money also goes towards cleaning and fixing all sorts of things–things like dog piss or broken bus stops. The question that we need to think about is: how do we live in and with the city together? Of course, we can do whatever we want, but we do need to respect the others around us. Place de la République is a good example: it is a new space that people want to use and that is where the problems start. When they sit on a bench they feel like it is theirs, or they walk across the square in a specific line because it is “their” line. When you are skating, it is hard to deal with those things. Skaters discovered the plaza quite early on and they also feel like they have a claim to certain places at République. We all know it can be frustrating if you have been skating a ledge for three hours and some dude suddenly sits down and takes that space from you. The important part is not to confront the person in a stressful way but rather to communicate and explain what you are trying to do. The goal is to create a valuable exchange with that person, a compromise that respects both your rights to be there and to use that space in your own way.


Is that exchange already happening at Rèpublique?

In a way it is. The new generation that is growing up now is more familiar with skateboarding. They see it on the television on a daily basis. In turn, they have a better understanding. Previous generations might not have had access to a television, let alone the Internet. Your own grandmother might look at a skateboarder and have no clue what she is even seeing, so they only see the result: people falling down, marks on a ledge, loud noise, and scared dogs. I think it is our job to open peoples minds and make them understand not only what we are doing but also why it makes us happy. For a lot of people, the plaza has a symbolic value. That value may vary from functioning as a monument to the revolution or the terrorist attacks, but even though it is a very mixed and busy place in Paris, everyone is in his or her own world! That is the root of the problem. Unfortunately, changing that is a long process and we have not succeeded in finding a good way to communicate that allows us to share public spaces without conflicts. We need to look beyond our differences and find the thing which connects us to one another. An example of finding that thing which connects us is you guys being here. We all have different parents, from different cultures, speaking different languages but because of skateboarding we are now talking to each other. For me, a skateboard is like a passport. You can go everywhere and meet other people. They will show you around their city and you get to see different places, spaces, and the ambiences.


FS Flip – Photo: Benjamin Deberdt

You were born and are still living in a city that is famous for its ambience. Do you feel like something has changed?

Paris has been changing a lot, thanks to places like République and the new crews full of young people. Formerly, the city was divided into different crews like the Bastille crew, the Bercy crew or the Le Dome crew. Those groups of people would not skate together but thanks to projects like Parisii and a platform like Live Skateboard Media, cruising the city together has become part of the way skaters in Paris skate. The great thing about the Parisii project is that it showed the different vibes that each part of the city has through showing skaters using the city’s architecture. The crew mentality is still there but now there is a greater sense of community. At the same time, the speed of social media channels allows us to see where your friends are skating while you are out skating and at the same time the whole world can watch. A lot of brands from overseas started to notice our city and the ambience it has. Basically, skateboarding in Paris is like skateboarding in a museum.

The space around us has a big influence on the way we feel. Living in a house that is dark is different from a house that lets in a lot of light. How do you see the effects of your surroundings and how do you take them into account?

What you are saying is true. Some people need the sun to be happy! If that person moves from Hawaii to London, that will actually change that person’s mood. We as architects enter into the life of a person or a group. It is our job to translate what the client is telling us and incorporate that into our plans. The problem is that not everybody is able to put words to their feelings. A lot of times they do not want us to enter their “Jardin Prive”. They freak out if they feel like one can look inside and see what they really want, discovering their secrets. The client wants to remain in control: “You are working for me.“ But as an architect, I need to look into a person’s mind to do just that. If I cannot see what you really want, how can I draw up a plan that suits your needs and wishes? People often forget living is about the details, for example: the bedroom door, if somebody is used to opening their door a certain way and I change that without understanding the client’s needs, they open that door and start the day doing something they do not like. This “reading” of the client is subjective and that is why it is important for people to find an architect that suits them. I spend a lot of time thinking: is this what I want to do or is this what the client wants? The answers is both–it is what I want based on what they need. In the end, I am not working for myself. I am working for the client who needs to be satisfied and happy with my work from the beginning to the end of a project, which can last from six months to three years or more. It is important to have a good relationship with your employer. If I have a day off and show the wrong emotions, that could influence the whole process. I have to leave my ego at home so I can do the work I need to do. Sometimes this includes lying to the client so that they feel like it was their idea instead of mine because if the client feels like it is his own idea he is more confident in the decisions that lay ahead. It is like a long tightrope walk to get to the end of a project. You have to document everything and if you do not do this accurately there can be some serious consequences! Architects have landed in jail because of issues that arise after a construction process. The people you are working for can turn into your worst enemies if they are not happy or if they find a flaw. That is why I keep a file with all the emails, bills, notes and more. When it comes down to it and things have to be fought out through lawyers, it is not my word against the clients. After I finished school, I finally saw the reality of what architecture really is and that it takes a lot of time, a lot of time! And that is why I need skateboarding. Skateboarding is the activity into which I put all my energy, whether it be through a trick or the social aspect, it is what I need to level out and relax. When I skate I feel like I have no problems at all.


Bei diesen Bildern haben wir aber direkt zweimal hingeschaut – wir hatten die Kontaktlinsen noch nicht drin. Was auf den ersten, verschwommenen Blick aussah wie ein neuer Skatepark mit unendlich vielen Banks aus Beton, entpuppte sich dann auf dem zweiten Blick als neue Kinderbibliothek in Monterrey. Gebaut und entworfen wurde das “Conarte Children’s Library & Cultural Center” vom Studio Anagrama – wir unterstellen jetzt einfach mal Skateboardroots. Skate, äh, read this!