069. Colin MacDonald: Parkour design, dream builds, and inspiration

Episode summary

Colin MacDonald discusses his experience designing parkour parks, and what he’s learned from the process. He shares thoughts on his creative process and inspirations before explaining more about Landscape Architecture and the program he is in. Colin unpacks some of his personal design and build dreams, along with the realities that affect them, and explores the connection between sculpture and parkour design.

Public space projects

Rhodes park in Boise, IH – location, distinction in design of different parts, parkour park vs plaza. Measuring success of a space, factors to look at, activating a space. Penzer Park in British Columbia – location, materials, community, part of a larger project. Audience, people who use it vs design, parkour community within the larger community. Viewing use after it’s been in use to see how reality works with your design, what you planned for vs how people use it. Visual and tactile appeal of materials and how that affects space. Planning for the effects of time.

Creative process and inspiration

Constantly evolving. Changing with new experiences (Grad program, working with Caitlin Pontrella). How his overall thinking has evolved since the first park, variety, density, material, how they interact. Parkour design and art, beauty, the importance of those ideas together. Street Movement’s designs, success of restraint. Viewing the space as a whole concept, how people experience it, how it visually draws you in. Sketching to digital (SketchUp).

Building considerations

How the builders feel about a parkour park, understanding it, meshing experience. Desire to work with different materials; metal, round pipe, square pipe, sea channel, rhino-liner, wanting to experiment. Keep working with wood, joinery. Favorite climbable textures, angled edges.

Landscape Architecture

Relatively new field, new to the program… About making places, spaces for living. Wider scale of working; from small details to big picture of a space. Requires licensing, can work in a firm. Very diverse in opportunities for what the create. Process and timeline oriented; may take years to see your design come to fruition with trees growing, planning for that evolution. Frederick Olmsted (Central park architect), creating a changing system. Golden gate park, seeing parks old enough to have grown into their full potential, feeling of organic growth through intentional design.

Dream builds vs reality

Trying to design for a differing gravity coefficient… what would you do? Swinging, flexible bars, vertical style of build. Personal ideal site: Anywhere in Seattle. Long time goal, struggle to get anything accomplished (quickly or otherwise). Setting a precedent, selling the idea, liability limitations, defining spaces. Working with organizations, playground standards and how they affect parkour builds. Multi-use spaces, actually harder, but adult play slowly being normalized. Creating play spaces, ‘found’ parkour spots

Someone you admire

Mikkel Ruugard, Street Movement – pushing the area of parkour design. Trace Space, ParkourONE, creating pocket parks. Admire many different parks, but not sure who was behind them. Diversity of ideas from different groups

Catching the building bug

Early (first?) parkour parks inspired him to think about it. Simple idea of a regular park, but with certain elements exciting to parkour people, now years later returning to that concept


Sketchbook, occasionally reflective, but not specific. Should make it a daily practice, but recognizes the benefit. Personal sketchbook, separate from school stuff

Orthogonal Inspirations

Large scale public sculpture. Sculpture in Amsterdam of crashed plane (Gut Landschlaft?). Sculpture in Berlin, upside down semi circle, a ‘movement’ sculpture. Finding inspiration in art pieces to allow for unique movement opportunities, thinking about how to invite movement in a piece

Personal Movement

“Setting up shop on his plateau” No longer feeling the need to push movement practice further the way he used to. Content with where he is, happy to progress but accepting of his movement level. Enjoying his own practice more since he isn’t coaching, moving for himself

3 words

Craig: That’s fine. All right. I don’t know if you’ve listened to any episodes but there’s a question I always ask at the end, which is the three words to describe your practice.

Colin: Practice in every broad sense, huh?

Craig: That’s the first thing.

Colin: Material. Yeah. Since, when I hear practice, I’m like, how I built or how I design, which is …

Craig: That’s part of the power of the question is what does practice mean to you …

Colin: Yeah. We’re moving right back around. I think this is where we started. I want to put this in a correct order, which I’m not sure.

Craig: You’re also welcome to talk about it.

Colin: It’s variety, density and material. I’m not sure if it’s material, density and variety. How that order is. I think it’s material first. I think it’s material, variety, density, yeah three words that describe my practice, material, variety, density.

3-words visualized


To learn more about our data visualization, see "3 words…" visualized

Contact and further info

If you’d like to get in touch with Colin, you can find him on Instagram (@cm.jumps) and on Facebook. To hear more of Colin’s thoughts on parkour, play, and design, you can listen to his TEDxSeattle talk, or his Ignite Seattle talk.