Europe's Hidden Plazas
Ah, the public plaza - a cornerstone of street skateboarding. Though the number of true public plazas is dwindling at an alarming rate, their role in skateboarding is as important as ever (just look at all the plaza-specific parts we got this past summer alone). It's hardly worth repeating at this point, but the public plaza represents some of the best of skateboarding culture and progression of the craft, not to mention they're integral to daily sessions. Last year, we trudged through the American heartland to uncover some of North America's most overlooked plazas, but we didn't stop to think about how our friends abroad were faring. Now, keeping skateboarding's globalism in mind, let Theories of Atlantis take you on a tour of some of Europe's finer plaza spots.
Milan's main train station (and Europe's eighth busiest) has so many different options, it's tough to justify calling it a single spot. Step out the front door, and you'll be treated to ledges of all sizes and variations, a couple of round rails, plenty of curbs and manual pads (including the infamous mini street gap to manual pad), and the creme de la creme: the ledge over the grate gap to rival Flushing. For the past three decades, the station has been a hot spot for both locals and touring teams, to the point where you can chart the slow decay of the ledges and ground in footage. Like any other plaza of note, Milano Centrale is subject to several spot-centric edits, including this one from our friends at Magenta, and Jacopo Carozzi's recent "Statione Centrale" part that really showcases the possibilities the spot holds.
Creteil Town Hall
Travel eleven kilometers southeast out of the capital of France and you'll find yourself in Creteil, a small commune in the Parisian suburbs with an internationally adored spot. Despite living in the shadows of several lavish plaza spots, Creteil's town hall made a name for itself with an overwhelming amount of flatground, a variety of long ledges, a hefty three-block, and several hubbas for the daring, all tied together with a distinct tile pattern and color scheme that can push a spot from "local novelty" to "international sensation." Creteil's three block has been heavily featured in European releases since the early millennium, including They Don't Give a Fuck About Us, Diagonal, and every single Cliche video, while occasionally popping up in American releases. If you're keen on new footage of Creteil, keep an eye out for new Blobys' video drops, as they frequent the spot quite often.
Prague's Letna Square has a much darker origin story than your typical skate spot. The site originally housed Stalin's Monument, a 51 foot granite statue honoring the Soviet dictator. The sculptor, Otakar ≈†vec spent five and a half years on the piece, and killed himself mere days before it was unveiled in 1955. Stalin's Monument stood for only six years and was dismantled in 1962, to eventually be replaced by the Prague Metronome in the same park. Nevertheless, the granite base of the statue remains as a veritable oasis in a cobblestone desert. With naturally occurring ledges, manual pads, and D.I.Y. slab creations, Letna Square is perfect for flowing lines and ledge technicians. What's more, the spot's proximity to the park ensures you're never more than a short skate away from a burger and a beer, as well as one of the best views of Prague the city has to offer. Really, what more could you ask for out of a plaza?
National Palace of Culture
Sofia, Bulgaria is well off the beaten path for most skateboarders. However, those who are willing to make the trek into this former socialist state will be rewarded with the National Palace of Culture, or NDK. The plaza acts as a multinational conference and exhibition center, but skateboarders were attracted to the space's unique configurations of banks, hubbas, ledges, manual pads, and smooth flatground, as far as the eye can see. Western audiences got their first glimpse of the spot in the early aughts, in videos such as Static II, the iPath promo, and Subject to Change. The plaza seemingly lay dormant for a few years, as travel budgets for eastern European tours dried up; however, a precursory YouTube search shows that NDK is still popular with the next generation of Bulgarian skateboarders who've outfitted the plaza with a few DIY boxes and find new ways to skate the empty fountains with gusto.
Our journey ends at the Kulturforum, in the German capital of Berlin. Kulturforum is something of a misnomer, as the name actually refers to the cluster of innovative modernist buildings in Berlin's Potsdamer Platz, while skateboarders congregate in the piazetta specifically. Though the name doesn't have the same ring to it as Republique or Southbank, American skateboarders will certainly recognize this spot from Static III, the French Fred b-sides from a few years back, and countless clips from tours through Berlin. Nomenclature aside, this no-bust spot has been heavily sessioned for years, probably because it has something for everyone. Jumpers will gravitate towards the double set, rails, and marble hubbas, street purists might skate over a block or fiddle with the unique ledge to double bank configuration, and a select few will use everything available to string long lines together, as Jan Kliewer did in Strongest of the Strange.
Is there a spot we should add to the itinerary? Did we snub your favorite plaza? Let us know!