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Friedel Schlör builds skateboarding inspired extensions to attach on everyday objects

It's pretty obvious that we got a soft spot for skate urbanism projects like Pierre Deschamps' or Leo Valls' work. So as we heard Friedel, a Cologne based student, local skater and friend of mine, finished a university project inspired by that kind of projects, the whole office got interested in what's behind. The release clip looked pretty fun and you could easily see there is a good amount of inspiration taken from skateboarding, but also something completely new as his "tools" are more like little gadgets to brighten or spice up our daily life. Read what is behind the whole thing.

What was the main idea behind the Urban Toolbox?

I originally came up with the idea through SOLO. Your skate urbanism project with Pierre Deschamps really impressed me back then. It always stayed in my head and when I had to find a project for university, I got back to it. The main idea was more or less to provide food for thought that would contribute to the public discourse on a more open cityscape and open urban use, rather than actually designing products that could be sold. Use what's there and make something even better out of it.

What were your main sources of inspiration?

Definitely Pierre Deschamps and what Leo Valls is doing in Bordeaux by making the city skate-friendly. Even if you look at Israel Plads in Copenhagen, you can see a public square and a good skate spot that is used by everyone in many different ways. But there are also exciting projects outside of skateboarding, such as the Super Blocks in Barcelona.

CPH Israel Plads

CPH Israel Plads – Source: Skate Scope

Your tools are mobile and not damage any objects, whereas other people tends to implement non-mobile installations that are usually removed again after a short time.

It was very important to me that you only add a purpose, that you can still use the objects in their previous function. I would see it more as "temporary appropriation". The idea is more about living together and open discourse rather than rebellion and occupying. The design-technical added value and the solution to a problem are far more important than the artistic aspect. The most important feature is that the tools are all mobile. I could now concrete a Polejam into the ground somewhere, but then you're unfairly appropriating the place. It will remain an eternal discussion, but if you're being precise, a grandpa can eat his bread on the ledge you're skating on. Sure, it would be nice if he'd sit somewhere else, but to be honest, no one has a higher claim than the other. This can only be solved through contact.

SOLO Urban Toolxbox3

If grandpa sits on the ledge, just offer him having a seat here.

SOLO Urban Toolbox4

For the athletic ones.

In my opinion, skating has become more open and creative in recent years in terms of "what's allowed", e.g. dirt downhills, curb corner grinds etc.. But my feeling is still that "built" spots are not too accepted. What's your opinion on this?

The tools should never replace street skating. That would never work, as the hunt for new spots is far too deeply rooted in our culture. You can put perfect ledges in a public space for skaters, but they won't stop looking for new spots. I would see the ledges as a grey area between skate parks and street skating, or just as a way of spicing up a session.

You also made extensions for the Cologne local Lentpark contest. It addresses the problem that skateparks are built once and then are just static. How were they recorded?

The tools for the Lentpark are different. They are quite obviously extensions for skating, whereas with the first attachments you can't even see what they are for. But I'm definitely not the biggest fan of insanely creative and unusual obstacles in skate parks, just to do something a bit out of the ordinary. They're usually not particularly accessible and rideable for everyone. But yes, you can make "simple" obstacles more exciting with the attachments, theoretically whenever you feel like it.

Urban Toolbox Rail

Rail Extension

Urban Toolbox Rail Kink

Kink Rail Extension

Shouldn't skatepark companies be approaching people like you and requesting a whole set of individual essays for each new skatepark?

[laughs] Poah! That would definitely be a business idea. It would be commissioned work, of course, but I'd love to do it.

Are there any other ways for you to solve the problem?

Only DIY, really. But that's only possible if you keep building and you live in a perfect world with enough space and no permits. The Red Square in Copenhagen is a good example, where the obstacles change from time to time and a simple transit area, as it would otherwise be in many cities in Germany and other countries, becomes a space that is used by skaters and other groups.

But unfortunately there are many bad examples. The new plaza in Cologne Deutz, for example. At first I thought: "Great! Cologne has a plaza spot again". The ledges are cool, the flatground is perfect. For some time now, masses of cars have been parking in front of the ledges, even though they are not parking spaces at all. But the city only hands out parking tickets and does nothing else. Now the place has been deprived of its usefulness in many respects. Nobody sits on the benches, some of which are on the ledges. Who sits on a bench that is parked by a car? But it doesn't seem to be that important to the city. That's a really sad example.

Deutz Plaza

What could be a nice spot... – Photo by Florian Grütters

"A grandpa can eat his bread on the ledge you're skating on. Sure, it would be nice if he'd sit somewhere else, but to be honest, no one has a higher claim than the other."

How long does it take to build an obstacle like this?

The building process itself doesn't take that long, maybe 5 hours. The problem is more finding the idea, especially when it comes to extensions for urban spaces. You first have to find a place or an object where it clicks in your mind.

Do you have any ideas for other obstacles?

I definitely have more ideas, but as I'm still studying I'm not constantly working on the tools. But I would rather have goals to really make a difference. Whether it's a trick, how to build the tops so that you can use them in several cities across the region. Or maybe something like what Leo Valls and Pierre are doing with the sculpture exchange, maybe my work will have added value for the city of Cologne and other scenes. In any case, I would like to enter into a dialog, as I have already done with Pierre, for example, and collaborate with several people who have done similar projects.