The City is a Playground
Thanks to YouTube’s love for sensationalism, acrobatic leaps and Hollywood stunts have brought parkour to public spotlight. While mass media disseminates a version of parkour that feeds our cultures’ appetite for spectacle, this representation is faultily narrow. For those of us who seek a deeper connection to our environment, parkour offers valuable lessons to better understand the world around us through haptic dialogue with the public realm.
In the eyes of the traceur and traceuse (the official terms for those who engage in parkour), neglected architecture and urban objects are given new life. Parkour calls on participants to explore the metropolis from a place of curiosity, by communicating with the physical environment through play and tactile interaction. Participants are forced to think differently about space, to feel the surfaces beneath their hands, and to actively engage with the city as a playground rather than a backdrop for life.
At a time when physical activity is viewed as more important than ever, parkour also serves as a fun and low-barrier form of exercise. The only equipment you need to participate is a pair of sneakers! Beyond this, it’s up to you to decide what’s next. This is one of the key messages that architect and parkour-enthusiast Caitlyn Pontranella has advocated for through her work with Parkour Visions. She promotes the activity as a catalyst for physical, social, and mental well-being that doesn’t need to be a complicated as YouTube makes it seem. Whether you want to focus on technical moves that stay close to the ground, or practice taking risks higher up, these decisions are up to you alone. So what are you waiting for? Go play!