Skateistan is an award-winning non-profit organisation that uses skateboarding and education for youth empowerment. It has its roots in Kabul, Afghanistan, where it was formed in 2007, when its founder Oliver Percovich, realised that skateboarding could be used as a “hook” to attract low-income youth living on the street to enrol in various programmes designed to support education.
These have developed to include a Skate and Create programme (play and learn), homework help and career advice as part of a back-to-school programme. Skateistan launched its first dedicated Skate School in Kabul in 2009. Two more Skate Schools were subsequently launched – one in Mazar-e-Sharif in Afghanistan and one in Phnom Penh in Cambodia. Earlier this year, Skateistan officially opened its fourth international Skate School in Johannesburg.
Skateistan South Africa is built on a piece of land in the urban regeneration hub of the Maboneng Precinct in Joburg’s eastern CBD. The land was donated on a rent-free long-term lease by development company Propertuity, which is behind the transformation of the precinct.
The skate school incorporates a state-of-the-art 500m2 outdoor skate park, and indoor and outdoor education areas. The building itself was designed free of charge by US architect Mike Scott, who specialises in buildings made from repurposed shipping containers. He designed Skateistan’s last building in Mazar-E-Sharif in Afghanistan. Locally, MWP Architects oversaw the design, also pro bono. The shipping containers, donated by Big Box Containers, were modified off site according to Scott’s design and assembled by crane.
The building is designed as a vertical structure at one end of the land to maximise space for the skate park. It consists of two parts: a tower four stories high housing stairs and toilets, and the main building, four storeys high and three containers wide. It houses classrooms and admin offices. Each floor of the tower and main building are connected by bridges. The main building is lifted off ground level by a steel frame which creates a sheltered outdoor space underneath and an enclosed street-facing space.
To transform the shipping container shells into comfortable and workable classrooms, building materials, systems and solutions company Saint-Gobain donated and installed top quality insulation, walls, floors and ceiling systems to the value of R150 000. A central part of their objective was to prove that better materials and design contribute to better learning environments. They chose tougher-than usual materials, but also emphasized characteristics such as insulation for thermal comfort, fire-retardant properties for safety and peace of mind, and excellent sound absorption to ensure a quiet, comfortable learning environment. Other characteristics they designed for included improved visual comfort (reduced glare), health (better air quality, which means less illness and improved wellbeing), energy efficiency and sustainability.
Skateistan opened officially in August, and already offers weekly programmes to over 300 registered students, and plans to have more than 400 by the end of 2017 thanks to the support of Royal Danish Embassy, Comic Relief and Tony Hawk Foundation. Construction of the facility was made possible thanks to a large donation from The Skateroom and artist Paul McCarthy, with a contribution from LinkedIn