Janne Saario, 'the skating architect', is a full-time skatepark designer. This makes him an international rarity.
He designed his first park, Helsinki’s Micropolis skatepark, when just 22 and has since created another 23: one in the Netherlands, three in Sweden, and the rest in Finland.
Skating since the age of six
When a six-year-old Saario got to try a skateboard his father had made from chipboard and a television stand’s castor wheels, he caught a bad case of the skating bug. He’s skated ever since.
He signed his first sponsorship agreement while still in high school and went professional before sitting his A Levels.
After a few years of travelling the world for competitions, he swapped a professional career for landscape architecture, then gradually moved on to full-time skatepark design.
On a roll, around the world
Saario has toured the globe for both work and skating. Whatever the purpose of the trip, he always sees the environment from a skater's point of view.
'Things like the captivating and timeless atmosphere of the Saihō-ji moss temple’s park in Kyoto have left a mark on me,' he explains.
Of his own creations, Saario mentions the Luleå skating park in Sweden: 'In Luleå, landscape architecture and functionality fuse into a beautiful single entity.'
Old elements from a steel plant visible from the park have been incorporated into the park's structure – visitors can skate inside unusual pieces such as a huge old rusty casting vat.
Saario considers Helsinki Airport too a great environment.
He says: 'The Match Made in HEL skating event at the airport this October allowed me to get acquainted with both the outdoor and the indoor areas of the airport. With a film crew, we explored the airport landscape, looking for shapes and spaces suitable for skating. And found many!'
Saario reflects that the architecture of the airport buildings and the open landscape adapted to the scale of the planes come together to create a feeling that is downright poetic in all its rationality: 'We do have a great airport here in Finland!'
The more the merrier
As do most enthusiasts of this 'community individual sport', Saario likes to spend time with a bunch of friends, both in Finland and abroad.
'In the winter season, skaters often go somewhere warm, such as Spain. Barcelona is indeed a great destination: full of skatable plazas and interconnected lanes forming a huge skatepark maze,' he says.
But Finland too has many destinations worth visiting. One example, the Olari skatepark, in Espoo, has been created by combining concrete with natural rock formations. The result, says Saario, is shapes that are smooth, deep, and surprising. Likewise, the landscape architecture employed in many new urban open areas incorporates several smooth and stone-paved surfaces and unexpected, sculpted-feel shapes.