Art and Skating? Take Us to Church

Inside La Iglesia Skate—a new kind of skatepark in Llanera, Spain.

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Inside La Iglesia Skate.
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When it comes to skateboarding, Spain lays claim to some of the best destination cities in the world. Madrid offers a near-endless supply of hidden skate spots and Barcelona is famous for its accommodating weather and easy navigation—which translates to more time skating and exploring the city, and less time looking for spots. The small municipality of Llanera, in Northern Spain, offers by no means as expansive a scene, but it does hold one notable advantage over its metropolitan counterparts, if not the world: "La Iglesia Skate," a skateable church.

The ceiling of La Iglesia Skate being painted in 2015.
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From otherwise unused marble ledges in Philadelphia's Love Park to civilian-made concrete ramps underneath Portland's Burnside Bridge, skateboarders have historically co-opted neglected urban spaces, and La Iglesia Skate is the latest shining example. The building, built on a complex that housed and served the workers of a nearby explosives factory, was originally called La Iglesia de Santa Barbara.

After the factory's closure in the 1940s, the church was abandoned. With Llanera averaging about 200 days of rain annually, its skate community needed an indoor solution. Local organizer Ernesto Fernàndez Rey and his D.I.Y. collective, Church Brigade, recognized the abandoned church as the perfect spot. After bringing the idea to Spanish design company Iniciativas Habitat (who purchased the building in 2007), the parties collaborated to build out the church's interior as a haven for skateboarding in Llanera. The ramps were built using funds raised from barbecues, concerts, and skate jams—all of which helped to unify the local community. In 2010, Fernàndez Rey and Church Brigade opened the park to local skaters in the area, maintaining and adding to the space over the following few years.

The painted vaults imitate the spectrum of light.

In late 2014, Madrid-based artist Okuda San Miguel volunteered to put a fresh coat of paint on the space. San Miguel had already seen some success as a muralist that year, having been commissioned to bring his bright, geometric painting style to Bonnaroo Music Festival, and Converse-sponsored walls in Madrid, but La Iglesia Skate presented a unique (and massive) challenge. In November 2015, San Miguel began painting his project, "Kaos Temple," on the vaults of La Iglesia Skate, composed of images emulating the spectrum of light filtering in through stained-glass windows. He worked so quickly that they were able to reopen the space the following month as an even bolder, more creative space than before—it's now a global destination for art connoisseurs and skaters. Heavenly.

Skaters can now catch some much-needed air—indoors.

For more on La Iglesia Skate, see laiglesiaskate.com.

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