Photos by Clément Taquet, Jago Stock and Tim van Asdonck
After six weeks of hard slog under the sweltering Moroccan sun, Concrete Jungle Foundation has put the finishing touches on a brand new skatepark.
The 740 sqm Fiers et Forts Skatepark in Tameslouht, Morocco, was built on the grounds of an orphanage located just outside of Marrakech’s city limits. A dozen professional skatepark builders from across Europe and the Americas headed to Morocco to devote their time to creating an entirely new skatepark from the dust up, and as you’ll be able to see from the photos, the results are incredible.
An ode to the design elements of the local culture, the skatepark was built to incorporate traditional Moroccan elements such as the arched doorway, ornamented rails, an olive leaf ramp and large palm trees. Created using natural, black and red ochre surfaces, the concrete skatepark seamlessly blends into its surroundings, and for the 38 children living at the Centre Fiers et Forts orphanage, is most definitely the reason why homework’s getting neglected for the foreseeable future.
Since it first started back in 2016, Concrete Jungle Foundation has built six skateparks across the world, and gotten almost 1,000 kids in underserved communities into youth programmes. It’s a huge effort, and one that we want to celebrate, so we got in touch with co-founder Clément Taquet now that the dust has settled on the latest skatepark to ask him how he does it.
Aside from the obvious difficulty of building a skatepark from scratch, what were some of the biggest challenges you faced in making this project a reality?
One of the biggest challenges we faced was linked to the general worldwide inflation and the current geopolitical situation in Eastern Europe. The prices of steel and concrete doubled from our original budget made in November 2021, so keeping the quality in construction and remaining within our budgetary constraints was a real challenge. Luckily, we managed to secure some generous in-kind donations for both steel and concrete, and we could actually do the project within the original budget.
Another one we faced in this project was Covid, Morocco had some pretty tough restrictions and closed the entire country to the outside world a few times during Covid. Originally, we had planned to build the skatepark in January until February of 2022, but had to move everything from March to April. It might not sound like a big change, but when you have 20 people coming from all around the world to volunteer their time and most of them taking a month off work, moving the planned dates by a month has big repercussions.
You’ve built skateparks in countries all across the world now with your organisation Concrete Jungle Foundation. How did the experience in Morocco differ?
Right! We did indeed cross a few continents and countries. With skateparks built in Angola, Peru, and Jamaica, we felt quite ready and excited to take on the Morocco build. The main difference between our previous builds and the Fiers et Forts Skatepark was that it was the first time bringing skateboarding to an exclusive group of children with a largely non-existent skate scene.
We usually respond to a local scene that is in need of a skatepark but this time, the project was brought up to us by our longtime partner THE SKATEROOM, a certified B Corp that works closely with the world’s most influential artists to support international skate and education nonprofit organisations. When we first heard about the idea of starting a project at a children’s safe sanctuary, we felt quite honoured. Working in such an environment is not something that everyone gets the chance to take on, and it requires acting with the utmost respect for the rules and culture in place.
Our involvement in the project as a whole is more than just the design and conception of the skatepark, we directly work in line with the Centre Fiers et Forts’ vision towards building a strong future for the 38 children living at the centre.
Bringing the Fiers et Forts’ skatepark was the first step, then implementing the Edu-Skate programme, a life-skills-based skateboarding curriculum that aims to develop soft skills that can be transferred to your daily life. Finally, we actively work hand in hand with the young adults of the centre in management, teaching, photography, and so on. After a month of programming activity, we already have two hired local staff to help our international project manager and two youth leaders from the centre to assist in the daily classes. Our aim is to have a fully locally run structure a few years from now.
The design is beautiful, and it really pays homage to Morocco’s unique culture. What are some of your personal favourite aspects of the skatepark?
The design itself is the result of a collaboration between Bog Skateramps from Colombia, Concrete Jungle Foundation, and Centre Fiers et Forts. We previously worked with the Bogota crew in our construction of Cerrito and Lobitos, in Peru—we were amazed by their professionalism and creativity design-wise.
It took us months of back and forth in order to get to a final result that was approved by all parties involved. The skatepark had to be designed in such a way that it can be used outside of skateboarding and that it blends in with its environment. You have sitting areas, palm trees, and different concrete colours, all mixed together to create a visually pleasing environment so that anyone can interact with the space, with or without a skateboard.
Another important aspect of it was that we were bringing skateboarding to a new scene and that it needed to be accessible by all. So we traded a deep end for an olive kicker and got all sizes of ledges, curbs, banks, rails, and quarter pipe. In my opinion, it is a perfect blend to progress fast while keeping it fun. It is one of the best skateparks I’ve ever skated.
It was quite interesting and challenging to build the 740 sqm skate plaza—a lot of steelwork and small details were involved. There are seven free fill obstacles, a nine-metre free fill china bank, a multi-level manual pad, a slappy curb, an olive leaf kicker, three Moroccan patterned rails, and a small Moroccan doorway. You don’t get the chance to build such a skatepark every day.
But my favourite aspect of the park is its overall beauty. We succeeded in the challenges we placed on ourselves, the skatepark is a welcoming open space, it doesn’t block the jaw-dropping view of the Toubkal mountain peak, and it’s accessible to all. I can’t wait to see the Maison Fiers et Forts be completed!
What was one of your proudest moments during this project?
Definitely the opening day. That day was special on every level. For the children of the centre, while we had run introductory skateboarding classes during the whole construction month on a nearby football field, it was their first time on an actual skatepark. Most of them only saw the early stage of the construction and the excitement of being on the newly built concrete skatepark could be felt miles away.
For the apprentices, the volunteers, and CJF, it was the pinnacle of a month and a half of hard work and a year and a half of planning. Seeing the smiles on the children’s faces has absolutely no price and is worth the countless hours we spent working on this amazing project. Finally, on a personal level, I had the chance to have my wife by my side on that special day and I couldn’t have been prouder to show her what my work is all about. After all, she mainly sees me overworked in front of a computer screen.
Where next for Concrete Jungle, and how can people get involved in the amazing work you do?
We’ve just launched a new project called Edu-Skate Worldwide Network (ESWN), a multilateral initiative working on the continuous development of the pedagogically structured Edu-Skate programme with social skateboarding projects worldwide. Our aim is to connect social skate projects and exchange knowledge and ideas on the implementation of life-skills-focused skateboarding classes, in order to support each other in delivering high-quality skateboarding sessions for our beneficiaries.
2022 and 2023 will be focused on programming, strengthening our impact in our current locations (Peru, Jamaica, and Morocco), and securing a long-lasting impact through financial stability. Being in the social sector, funding is one of the toughest parts of the job.
The best way to get involved on a personal level is to support CJFamily, our global community of monthly supporters that share our mission to empower individuals and communities across the world. We’re currently searching for outstanding new partners for the year 2023 and beyond! If you or anyone else you know is interested in supporting our work, please get in touch at firstname.lastname@example.org and visit our website for more information on what our charity has been doing these past five years!