Rune Glifberg, skatepark-itecht
Danish skateboarder Rune Glifberg has never missed a summer X Games event, and has 12 medals (two of them gold) to show for his 23 X Games appearances. Glifberg, who turned 40 last month, is still a top competitor, but these days he's as likely to be winning international skatepark design contracts as gold medals.
"I think all skaters dream up things in their head that would be cool to skate, and I happen to have a very vivid imagination from skateboarding for so many years," explains Glifberg, whose design partnership with his childhood skate pal Ebbe Lykke, dubbed Glifberg+Lykke, has led to nearly a dozen skatepark projects in Europe over the last decade. "All our lives we've been drawing up dream skateparks together. Ebbe went on to get the technical background to make all those architectural design visions real, and I'm wearing the core skater glasses."
While Glifberg was living in California, chasing his pro skater dreams and X Games glory, Lykke stayed home studying architecture and furniture design. "By my fourth year I was asking myself, 'does the world really need more furniture?" Lykke says.
Lykke won his first major skatepark contract in 2005, and he called his old friend for input. Glifberg says his first tastes of taking on real-world skatepark design challenges with Lykke were addicting: their first project was followed by a series of commissions for temporary installations of skateable sculptures, and more permanent concrete skatepark projects than Lykke could manage on his own. After 17 years in California, Glifberg moved back home to Copenhagen to make the design partnership his top priority.
"I really admire Rune's perfectionism," Lykke says. "We've now been working closely together for about five years, which is how long it takes to get an architecture degree in Denmark. He's earning his through trial and error on the job, but without a lot of error."
In October, the duo added a $6 million crown jewel to their portfolio with the grand opening of Skatecity Haderslev, also known as Streetdome. The Streetdome project, now one of the biggest skateparks in Europe, was first envisioned more than a decade ago by Haderslev local Morten Hansen, who brought Glifberg+Lykke into the design process in 2009.
"We started hearing from this guy who had been shut down a couple times trying to get funding and trying to find a location," Glifberg says. "He finally sold the city on a massive multi-sport facility that would incorporate skateboarding, BMX, rock climbing, and all these other activities, including an art gallery and a cafe."
In Denmark, according to Glifberg, the term "action sports" translates as "disorganized sports." With Glifberg+Lykke's help, Hansen finally succeeded in convincing his city's leaders that disorganized sports are what the youth are into, and therefore represent the future. In the end the city agreed to make a dollar-for-dollar (or, rather, krone-for-krone) match for any funds he could raise through private donors and grants.
Now that the project is complete, Glifberg says the actual skatepark design was the easy part. He and Lykke have been learning to navigate several layers of complexity around municipal governments, local and international contractors, diverse funding sources, and -- most importantly in a place like Haderslev prone to periodic flooding -- environmental building regulations and best practices. In Haderslev they worked with an engineering partner, an architecture partner, two construction partners, and five funding partners.
Glifberg ensured that the actual skatepark was built to his specifications, bringing in U.S.-based skatepark builder Grindline to handle the build and supervise the concrete finishing.
"This is the second large-scale project that we've worked with Rune on, and Streetdome was a totally new and different design challenge for us, which was exciting," says Grindline project manager James Klinedinst, whose team was in Haderslev for over two months. "That fresh perspective is what we look for in any new designer coming to the table, and in this case it's Rune, so that definitely adds a lot to it: He's one of the best skateboarders in the world, and he sees more potential lines in a skatepark than anybody."
Rune Glifberg and Streetdome
After 17 years in California, Rune Glifberg returned to his native Denmark to found Glifberg+Lykke, a skatepark design firm with lifelong friend Ebbe Lykke. Their latest project, Streetdome, recently opened in October in the city of Haderslev, Denmark.
After working for more than five years on various aspects of the Streetdome project, Glifberg says it's all been worth it, especially since he personally handled some of the quality control testing during the build.
"The Streetdome was immediately something we thought was super interesting: it has 12 sides to it and we made four of them skateable, incorporating the skatepark into the building inside and out, which was something we'd never seen before," Glifberg says.
"Our philosophy has always been that if you're building today you can't look to what you want to skate right now or what skateboarding is in the present," Glifberg says. "You have to look at the kids and imagine what they're going to be doing in the future."
After traveling the world and visiting many of the best international skateparks, Glifberg says he can envision a future where Denmark becomes a hotbed of skate tourism. He hopes he's not merely designing these parks for himself and his friends, or for the local kids, but for every skater in the world to come visit.
"Haderslev has 20,000 people or something like that, so it's not even a big major Danish city, but now it has one of the world's biggest and best skateparks," he says. "It's about three hours from Copenhagen and I'd never heard of it before I got the call for this project."
He catches himself shifting into Danish tourism pitch-man mode and decides to run with it. "I've never met anyone coming to Denmark who hasn't had a good time here," he says, exaggerating his Danish accent. "Come to Denmark, skate, and have a great time. You might not want to leave."