Latraac Skate Cafe
Studio: Zachos Varfis
Authors: Zachos Varfis
Location: Athens, Greece
Video: Zachos Varfis
General aspects: Latraac Skate Cafe is a skateboarding, design and social initiative in the historical Keramikos area of Athens. A 300 sq m courtyard with remains from 19th century housing was converted into a garden space and cafe as well as a plywood bowl for transition skateboarding..
Keramikos is a 10 minute walk from the heart of Athens and has been part of the city since classical times. Today, archeological sites sit next to ageing neoclassical mansions and drab 1970’s apartment buildings. A self organised community effort has managed to imbue what is a feeling of neglect with a creative spirit which has created a positive identity template for a new Athens, incorporating multiculturalism and successfully connecting the traditional and local with the contemporary.
The organic forms of the skate-bowl which is the dominant feature you encounter as you enter, were digitally fabricated generating a CNC cut framework whose digital aesthetic is set against the existing stone walls, ceramic tiles and marble slab flooring. The cafe and boundary fences use corrugated sheeting, construction timber and plywood, resulting in a functional undecorated finish. Low-cost, low-tech materials are combined with high end CNC cut marine grade birch plywood as well as 19th century features making for a light footprint optimising impact over intervention.
Latraac celebrates learning as creativity and play through transition skateboarding inside a lush green space re-wilding a part of the inner city, re-prioritising leisure as an integral aspect of the urban environment.
Why did you choose this category?: Latraac is frequently referred to as a dream. Considering it is a space which prioritises learning and creativity though the spontaneous play of transition skateboarding, then by implication creativity and learning are seen as luxuries which are delegated to the status of dreams in the context of cities. Latraac has been created on the premise that imaginative environments are basic human necessities and should be prioritised instead of seen as dreams.
Latraac took what was an abandoned inner city space in a neglected neighborhood in a bankrupt city with some very intense inner city phenomena such as highly visible drug use and prostitution and used this chaotic energy to fuel a counter proposal celebrating the areas history and diversity through the dynamic architectural medium of the transition.
“initially, there is the sudden compression of the body hitting the bottom curve of the transition,in which the terrain is felt to press back on the skater,translating momentum into a forced acceleration of her/his trajectory up the wall; and at this point the second stage of the movement arrives, tense compression is released, and the skater feels the enclosed concave curvature of the transition give way to vertical flatness, and to a corresponding sense of speed and expansivity of space.”