Opinion

Architecture and Parkour – Interview with Andy Day

Andy Day has been photographing parkour and people since 2003. His job allows him travel the world and adventure on the edge of anything from buildings to abandoned ships. He is also a researcher and location manager. He helps to run Buildering.net and works closely with Parkour Generations.

For those who don’t know buildering is the climbing on buildings, or more generally any architecture not designed specifically for climbing. The term is a portmanteau of bouldering and building — bouldering being low-level climbing without ropes, often focusing on shorter, harder routes free from equipment. Buildering pre-dates parkour by about 90 years: whilst the term was not coined until recently, the first buildering guidebook was published in 1895. Climbing man-made structures existed before the popularity of parkour in the 1990’s.

From Urban to suburban, rural to coastal, his mesmerizing photography features amazing people within the built and natural environment.

Below is an interview with Andy.

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LB: What is your definition of parkour?

AD: This answer has two parts:

1. I don’t really have a definition of parkour. Any attempt to define parkour is, in some ways, an attempt to exert control over its meaning. The arguments over what is and what isn’t parkour have persisted since its conception and any cohesive understanding is always fracturing as well as unifying. Definitions can also be reductive; parkour’s slipperiness is part of its charm. I think this is why I love buildering so much – no one knows what it is, and no one really cares what it means. Is it buildering? Maybe. Does it matter if it’s not? No.
2. Jumping around.

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LB: Did architecture or parkour come first?

AD: I found photography through parkour, and my understanding of parkour developed as a result of photography. One very much informs the other. And me because I had the time and energy to give to it, I guess.

Parkour has grown massively, become institutionalised and has become recognisable around the world. By contrast, buildering is much more interesting as it’s less mainstream, unknown, far more anarchic and unregulated, doesn’t really have an identity associated with and through it. As a result it’s much more marginal, ephemeral and unstable. And more fun as a result.

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LB: How does parkour change your experience of the city? How is this different to a regular pedestrian?

AD: Parkour is transformative; the discipline, the physicality and the engagement with challenge and fear change the person. As a result, many things shift within the practitioner. In addition, you spend a lot more time in the ‘now’ as opposed to your mind being elsewhere. We spend a lot of our time with our minds absorbed by matters that are not immediately in front of us, whether its relationships, money, emails, tv screens. Parkour doesn’t allow this; it forces us to be in our bodies in the present, focused only on our physical engagement. It’s fascinating for this process to occur in the city, in public.

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LB: How does parkour change the way you perceive and design architecture?

AD: The typical response from the practitioner is that the city becomes a site of opportunity and exploration. Paths slide in and out of existence as they are perceived, practised and then left empty again. A degree of permanence is granted provisionally by photographs and video. One becomes finely attuned to atrophy and renewal and there’s a vastly different appreciation of textures and surfaces.

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LB: Does parkour have a political and/or social agenda? If so what is it and how does it affect your role in architecture? 

AD: It’s definitely not an overt agenda but there are always political and social implications to any unregulated activity, especially in the public sphere of the city. Presently, my main concerns are about conveying the power of these acts without it becoming overshadowed by the narcissism and egotism of the athlete. Sometimes that is achieved, sometimes not. And sometimes the narcissism itself can be quite interesting.

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I’d like to thank Any Day for participating in the interview, it was an absolute pleasure. If you’re interested in getting in touch or finding out more about Andy, visit his website. (kiell.com)

If you are interested in being interviewed or featured on archi-ninja, please contact me.

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