This Nike playground is constructed with 20,000 upcycled sneakers!

Nike is one of my favorite brands for several reasons – they always make the user the hero in all that they do, capture emotion effortlessly, and inspire millions with simple words apart from making really good products! This September, they unveiled a basketball court that was made with 20,000 upcycled sneakers that were donated by the local community which showed their commitment to a zero-carbon and zero-waste future. Nike is truly a trendsetter when it comes to brands giving corporate responsibility the same weight they give to their design and community!

The brand has moved towards sustainability and corporate responsibility one project at a time which sets an example for other large companies to protect the environment. Nike’s community playground and basketball area are located in New Belgrade, Serbia. This latest move showcases the company’s mission to encourage physical activity, foster community, and develop infrastructure in less sustainable ways. London-based creative agency Accept & Proceed designed MTZ Blok 70 – the basketball court – has previously worked with Nike’s “Move to Zero” initiative too.

Accept & Proceed is a certified B Corporation studio, they designed the renewal of Block 70 carefully because it is a historical area that saw the rise of several basketball pros. Community pride in this connection is seen in the “BLOK 70,” printed in original typeface, on the surface of the courtyard. They came up with the plans for the court design, children’s playground, bleacher benches, chain link fence, outdoor gym, collection bins, in-store campaign presence, and restoration of existing elements.

“With Nike Belgrade, we evolved the visual language we had developed for Nike’s ‘Move to Zero’ identity by incorporating bespoke Serbian lettering in the court markings to celebrate New Belgrade’s local community. We had an interesting exercise that challenged our thinking of spaces for sport: what if we break down the essential ingredients of a basketball court and reimagine the traditional court layout? How can we create a fun and unexpected space, whilst retaining legibility and playability? It was fascinating to come up with the different elements of lettering that can inform another function, like a free throw or half-court line, and even more exciting to think that the design will not only inform the players’ movements but influence the community spirit and energy of Block 70,” said Nigel Cottier, Accept & Proceed’s principal designer.

The court’s focus is on community and activity, but it also reflects the need to be environmentally conscious in everything we do. It uses 20,000 upcycled sneakers in its construction. In fact, the community was involved in the program all along with collection spaces for people to drop used shoes which gives them a stronger emotional tie to the court. At the drop sites, people could see the steps involved in transforming the shoes into a material that could be used for the surface of the resulting basketball court and playground – this immersive educational experience made the community trust the brand and the process which made sustainable construction possible!

“It’s no understatement that helping the world’s best sports brand with its sustainability initiative makes me feel immensely proud of the work we’re doing at Accept & Proceed. Our visual identity for Nike’s ‘Move to Zero’ brand came to life within our court and playground design in New Belgrade and I feel incredibly inspired to know that design, community, and responsibility towards our planet were all integral elements in this project. Moreover, to witness and be part of the meaningful connections between Nike and local communities shows a new way forward, especially for the role of designers — sowing of the seeds for an active future and better tomorrow,” said Matthew Jones, Accept & Proceed’s creative director.

‘Move To Zero’ is Nike’s broader initiative to protect the future – of the planet and of sports through zero-carbon and zero-waste practices integrated into everything they do. This court repurposes shoes that were headed for the landfill, they were all transformed from manufacturing scrap and end-of-life products into recycled materials. Once again, Nike has touched my heart and inspired me to be conscious about practicing sustainable habits, no matter how small, because it’s the right thing to do!

Designer: Accept & Proceed