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Contact – skateable sculptures made from a 3D printer

Leo Valls has been pretty active over the last years with Skate Urbanism projects in Bordeaux (and also inspired our Skate Urbanism issue). And he doesn’t slow down but is constantly working on new ideas like the Contact project, where the skateable sculptures were made with a 3D printer, to bring skaters and non-skaters in contact.

Hey Leo, can you tell how this project came together?

I’ve been working on skateable sculpture projects in public space for the past five years in Bordeaux. This is project number four and it came through Côte Ouest, an event agency in Bordeaux. They proposed to me to do a skateable sculpture project with them. They were working on a festival called Lacanau Pro, which is a surf festival near Bordeaux. They wanted to connect it with skateboarding. I wanted to do something with skateboarding and water and my idea was to create an effect of a ricochet, like stones would jump on water. So we designed skateable pebbles and placed them in front of the water mirror at Place de la Bourse, which is the most visited public space in Bordeaux. It was pretty epic for us to have it right there for six weeks. Everybody saw it and I think projects like this help to change the perception of skateboarding. All our skateable sculptures are always multi use. My idea is to make stuff that other people can use and obviously people were sitting on the wallie pebble and on the one that looks like a banana, kids put water in it and used it as a slide. I saw ten kids in a row waiting to jump on it. Seeing people use obstacles you designed in ways you didn’t even think about is always exciting.

"Seeing people use obstacles you designed in ways you didn’t even think about is always exciting."

How was the reaction of skaters?

People came from all kinds of places to skate it. Charlie Myatt came from Scotland, Ben Koppl flew in from America. What’s also funny, every time we do a project like this, one pedestrian comes, saying something like: “The city makes this beautiful art and you’re scratching it with your boards”. Then I’m explaining the project and they’re like: “Oh, okay.” And you can see that their perception of skateboarding switches.

What’s also interesting about the project is, that the obstacles have been built with 3D printing. How did it happen?

I wanted to find a new way to build this sculptures and I heard through Rich Holland of this way. Then we found 3D Concrete in the Basque country. Basically they can build anything you want. You put your design in the computer and the machines can print it. It was especially good for this projects cause the obstacles are rounded and we wanted to have them look like pebbles.

Can you do a whole skatepark like this?

I think you can build whole houses with this technique now. You can build pretty big stuff.

But in the beginning there were some problems.

Yeah, it was our fault, because we were rushing them although the molds would’ve needed to dry longer. So a mold broke.

How are the obstacles built?

The machines make the mold and then they put concrete inside. Then we used a very thick paint and in the end we didn’t even need wax. You were able to bluntslide them first go.


Ben Koppl – Ice Plant

Solo skateboard magazine LEO VALLS BLUNT ONE FOOT

Leo Valls – Blunt One Foot

Was it easy to get the city to put it in the heart of the city?

Luckily we have a good relationship with the city now but that comes from years and years of projects, mediation, communication and meetings.

Did the city also promote it through their channels?

Not really but recently we worked with the city on a skateboarding guide, and we managed to get all the spots in Bordeaux legalized. There is not one No-skateboarding sign in the whole city now, instead you have this guide that gives you infos about the spots and for some spots tells you things like: “Please after eight skate somewhere else”, or something like this. That works so much better. They posted about this and on the website of Bordeaux there is a page about skateboarding with the guide and all the main streetspots.

Imagine every city would be like that! But lets get back to the 3D printing. Do you think that could be the future of skate obstacles?

I think you can do all kind of projects with it and the first experience was really promissing. But sometimes you want to work with granite as a material and you need to work with stone cutters.

Where are the stones now?

Right now they’re stored at the Côte Ouest garage and we’re already working with them on a bigger project. Maybe we integrate them in there.

Are the stones hollow somehow or are they completely made out of concrete?

They are complete out of concrete and very heavy. You couldn’t move them at all. You need a crane and a truck to move them.

Did you have infos about how to build obstacles with 3D printing or you just went for it?

Rich Holland sent me some stuff about a company who does 3D printed sculptures.

Is it less expensive then doing it the usual way?

It is actually a bit more pricey but the result was worth it. It was a suave feeling skating those 3D printed pebbles.

Any last words?

Shoutout to Feugz for filming! He has a great sense of humor and I think you can see that in the edit. Shoutout also to Côte Ouest and 3D concrete.