Parkour, street football, street basketball and dance. Street sports is a broad concept that covers all kinds of physical activity on asphalt. Since 2018, children and young people in and around the Danish city of Aalborg have been able to cut loose on Aalborg Streetmekka’s more than 2,500 square metres. And the success is unmistakeable. As early as six months after opening, the facility had more than twice as many visitors as expected.
Behind the project is the nonprofit organisation GAME, which works to make street sports accessible to everyone and strengthen social ties between children and young people across all ages, cultures and backgrounds.
With the support of Realdania, the Danish Foundation for Culture and Sports Facilities, TrygFonden and the Nordea Foundation and in cooperation with municipalities across Denmark, GAME has built Streetmekka facilities in a number of Danish cities, including Copenhagen. At the opening of Aalborg Streetmekka, the facility’s chief executive, Anja Lyngsø, told the regional broadcaster TV2 Nord:
“We try to reach those children who do not join sports associations and include them in a community, thereby getting them involved in more physical activity.
The street sports facilities come in the wake of a trend in which Danish young people are increasingly turning their backs on sports associations. Instead, they are seeking out sports activities with looser organisation and more flexible frameworks than traditional associations can offer. This can be seen in reports from the Sports Analysis Institute, among others. Older children in particular are opting out of the sports associations.
A place for everyone – year round
In Aalborg, it is an old factory building that has been converted into an asphalted street sports centre with help from Pallisgaard, a firm of carpenters and contractors, and JAJA Architects. A total of 2,500 square metres has been renovated with facilities for activities including street football and climbing. The young people can also make music, create graffiti art and dance.
“The idea behind GAME Streetmekka is to bring together informal urban activities in a raw industrial environment, and to make street sports and street culture available to everyone throughout the year,” says Kathrin Gimmel, architect and partner at JAJA Architects.
GAME Streetmekka is located in Aalborg’s new Eternitten district, which has gone from being a large industrial area to a dynamic urban area situated just outside Aalborg city centre. To create coherence with the surrounding area, the renovation was carried out with respect for the building’s existing architecture.
“It was very important for us to make the most of the rawness of the building. In its heyday, the building housed a variety of functions, and therefore has a wide range of rooms and spaces. Facilities for activities requiring a lot of space and height, such as parkour, basketball and football, have been created in the large hall, which already had a high ceiling, while a dance room and workshops have been established in a number of smaller rooms in the adjoining laboratory wing,” says Kathrin Gimmel.
Room for activity and relaxation
In street sports, activity and relaxation go hand in hand. In the design of the interior, this aspect has clearly been factored in, as several of the facilities in the hall can be used for many different purposes.
“Street sports are very sociable activities. The architecture should therefore encourage social interaction. For example, we have built a huge staircase from plywood, which is designed in equal measure for relaxation and various types of exercise,” says Kathrin Gimmel.
The raw concrete and high activity levels require good acoustics. Troldtekt acoustic panels have therefore been installed on all the ceilings. The choice fell on the unpainted panels in natural grey.
“The acoustic panels harmonise extremely well with the other materials. They have been installed between the original concrete beams for an extremely cool look and to ensure effective sound absorption, which is essential in a street sports centre like this,” explains Kathrin Gimmel.