Skateboarding has been a passion for Evan Eden SEBS’20 since he was in grammar school. Through his education in landscape architecture, Evan is finding ways to apply his knowledge and creativity to his passion and is currently working toward getting a permanent skate park built in his hometown of Montclair. He recently shared with us his thoughts on his education and passion and how they can be practically fused for real world change.
When and how did you become interested in skating?
Skateboarding came to my attention when I was in the 7th grade. I had a couple of friends that were into it, so me and my neighbor were too. I saw him doing flip tricks on our street and thought, “that’s magic, I have to learn how to do that!”
Why did you choose SEBS for college?
I’ve always been interested in science and the backend of how things work, so that definitely influenced me.
What were your favorite skating locations on the Cook/Douglas Campus?
I enjoyed skating down the asphalt path from Neilson Dining Hall, and I really enjoyed cruising down Red Oak Lane towards the student center.
What was your favorite landscape architecture (LA) class?
I really enjoyed all the design studios. The studio is a place where you can be artistic and thoroughly explore your ideas to make them functional. It lets you be creative first, then scientific, which I feel is unique to the discipline of landscape architecture.
After touring plazas in Europe on the DeBoer Travel Prize, what are your thoughts on how plaza design in Europe compares to the USA?
While in Europe, I got to visit a few places that were functional in different respects. I felt that the culture of those spaces encouraged interpreting open space and objects in any way an individual saw fit, with no external opposition. This ranged from groups of people skateboarding in a town square, break dancing in a plaza, or even eating lunch on obscure elevated surfaces.
How did you feel when the pandemic severely restricted human interaction on campus and relegated instruction to remote learning?
It was surreal. For a few weeks, I couldn’t believe it was happening. It was hard to stay in the flow of things, but having come so far through Rutgers, I knew I had to deal with the reality and push to the finish.
How has your instruction in landscape architecture prepared you for your life and career?
It has given me a lot of technical skills and has definitely shaped my approach to problem solving. I think the most valuable thing I got from the program was learning to evaluate an issue from as many angles as possible, then work them out one by one, while understanding that they are all interconnected.
What would you tell a prospective student about the LA program and SEBS?
Focus and take advantage of all the opportunities that are presented to you. Professors are incredible resources to learn from, so try to take away as much as you can. The professors in LA show you how many avenues and opportunities there are in the field and will help you nurture your interests.
What was the best thing you took away from your education in LA?
You have to learn as much as possible about an area and the people in it before offering a solution. We have to work for each other and not for our egos. Before altering an open lot or community space like a park, you have to learn about their values and how the neighborhood operates. This will lead you to determine what activities will happen, how much space will be needed, and what would be something the community would appreciate.
What compelled you to become an activist for skateboarding?
As I got older, I saw how many different types of people skateboarding brought together that otherwise wouldn’t have met or had anything in common. Over the summer, when social activism was on the rise, skateboarding was a medium to bring people together and raise awareness about injustice. Many cities around the country had skateboarders riding in solidarity with the Black community, and we did the same here in Montclair.
Please describe the skating park project in Montclair. What is the plan and where are you in the process? Who are you working with to make this happen?
Since I was a kid, there have been people petitioning for a skatepark in Montclair. For now, it is a “Do-It-Yourself” (D.I.Y.) skatepark located on a tennis court, which has received contributions from local skateboarders and artists. Recently, the local skate community lobbied the township to pass a resolution supporting a permanent skate park in Montclair. This passed unanimously. Now, we can begin applying for grants and start fundraising for the park. We can also begin engaging with skatepark builders to start the design process. Skate Essex, BoardRoom Skate, M.H.S. Skate Club, Shred Co., Unofficial Skate, and other parties have been working together to envision the best possible park. We hope to create a skatepark that is designed for all skill levels, while being a space for several forms of programming, which could include vegetable gardens, arts and crafts, and a performance area for comedy and music shows. This space is intended to ultimately be 24,000 to 30,000 square feet, which would make it one of the largest parks on the East Coast.
What does the future hold for you? What are your career goals/long-term plans?
I plan to continue supporting ideas that can contribute to humanity and the Earth to some degree. Right now, it looks like that will be through design and skateboarding; but, eventually, I want to contribute to infrastructure plans that can help fight the battle against climate change.