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Curves and Concrete

How did a maverick Scottish architect revolutionise the design of UK skateparks? Documentary maker Steve Urquhart explores the ambition and legacy of his late uncle, Iain Urquhart.

How did a maverick Scottish architect revolutionise the design of UK skateparks?

Forty years ago, Iain Urquhart had a vision: to create Britain’s first full-scale, architecturally planned, outdoor concrete skatepark – in Livingston, West Lothian.

Iain visited emerging parks across California, taking specialist advice from skateboarders and designers. When his masterpiece opened in 1981 he persuaded some of the biggest international stars of skateboarding to come to Scotland to “skate Livi”.

Iain died two years later, aged just 44 – yet Livingston Skatepark continues to thrive. Tony Hawk, perhaps the world’s best-known skateboarder, describes Livi as “super-challenging… such a legendary spot”.

How did Iain Urquhart convince funders to support his ambitious cultural venture? How did local people react to a vast, Noguchi-esque concrete “moonscape” being constructed for the sole purpose of a niche recreational activity, on what had been a lush green valley? How has the town of Livingston itself been shaped by its pioneering skatepark?

As skateboarding becomes an Olympic sport (in Summer 2021), the documentary maker and sound artist Steve Urquhart presents an audio memorial to his uncle Iain, blending exclusive and personal access to the late architect’s archive with the sounds, music and voices of skateboard culture and counter-culture. In doing so, he reveals a bigger story of artistic ambition and cultural aspiration in Britain’s vibrant 20th-century “new towns”… and a surprising connection with a swimming pool, created by the Finnish architect Alvar Aalto…

Includes music featured in acclaimed skate films and video games – from John Coltrane, Herbie Hancock and Roy Ayers, to Dinosaur Jr, Pixies, Gang Starr, and Lupe Fiasco.

Photo: Jamie Blair and others at Livi Pure Fun Skate Party, 1988 – © Tim Leighton–Boyce, courtesy the Read and Destroy archive.

‘Livingston: A Town for the Lothians’ audio extract courtesy of Scotland’s Moving Image Archive.

Produced and presented by Steve Urquhart
A Far Shoreline production for BBC Radio 3

Available now

44 minutes

Last on

Sun 1 Nov 2020 18:45

Broadcast

  • Sun 1 Nov 2020 18:45

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