“What about Parkour?”
He was a teen with hair in his face, wearing a hoodie and tight jeans. His hand didn’t know if it wanted to be raised or lowered, he glanced to his right and left surveying his friends. When he asked the question about parkour, his tone was part question, part statement. But this teen had the floor so he had the attention of everyone in the room.
We were in our 4th community meeting. We looked at each other in bewilderment? “Can you repeat that?” It was clear we had no idea what he was talking about.
The best description is the opening scene in the James Bond movie, “Casino Royal”. Imagine an urban environment, jumping, running, sliding from obstacle to obstacle, using your momentum to propel you forward, and this series of movements is in constant fluid motion. That is Parkour.
As an architect I’ll let you in on a little secret: it isn’t about the building. It isn’t about the windows, or the walls, or the lighting.
It’s the void. It’s what goes into that void. This is where people go to work, to play, to heal, to catch a cat-nap, to gossip with their friends, to jump, to run, and to live.
Before we can design a community center we have to understand that specific community. What goes into a facility depends on the users; who they are, what are their needs and what will make them use a facility. We take off our round-lensed frameless architect glasses and put on our anthropologist lab coat. We cast a broad canvas, collect information, and vet our discoveries. Our task is to develop a space meaningful to the people who will inhabit it.
Through this discovery process, documentation and implementation in our conceptual design we were awarded a State Grant. Through this Grant we were able to build the Lathrop Generations Center. A facility which holds; a community center, teen center, public library branch, skate park, basketball court, community garden, amphitheater, and a parkour course. In fact, Lathrop is home to the first municipal parkour course in the nation. Traceurs (those who are practitioners of parkour) are willing to drive two hours to test out their stills on this course. Teens gather to run the course and cheer others on. Children climb on the concrete blocks and rails for the view and play hide and seek. Through the discovery process we found the pulse of this community and it beats every day moving swiftly, overcoming each obstacle in a series of movements discovering the ability of the human body and mind, here in Lathrop.