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Check out the world’s first three-story skate park

The UFO-like building was to become a multi-storey car park. Then the city lost a popular skate park nearby, and the architects were asked to design a new one in the parking lot. Then the cars were considered “boring” and the parking garage became a multi-story skate park.

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[Photo: ©Hufton+Crow/courtesy Hollaway Architects]

The new skate park in Folkestone, a seaside town in Kent on the English Channel, is possibly the most functional architectural folly ever built. The so-called F51 rises from the ground like a nearly windowless spaceship encased in metal mesh and contains not one, not two, but three skate parks, stacked on top of one another like the most elaborate layered cake ever made. There is also a climbing wall that runs the full height of the building and a boxing ring on the ground floor.

The sports center is a £17m gift (that’s just over $22m) from Sir Roger de Haan, a local businessman who bought his Saga Group empire in 2004 for £1.3bn (or around $1 $.75 billion) and has since infused millions into the city’s regeneration. From April 4, when the building opens to the public, F51 will be another step in the transformation of the city, which has already added one port to its port promenade and is about to line the boardwalk with 1,000 houses, shops and restaurants.

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[Photo: ©Hufton+Crow/courtesy Hollaway Architects]

A stack of skate parks

F51 features over 20,000 square feet of ramps and bowls, as well as dips and ledges, spread over three levels. “This is the largest skateable surface we’ve ever created,” says Russ Holbert, director at Maverick Skateparks, which has built 155 skateparks in the UK over the past 14 years

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[Photo: ©Hufton+Crow/courtesy Hollaway Architects]

A distinctive concrete bowl park is located on the ground floor. The star is a 9 foot deep bowl that appears to defy gravity, hanging completely free-standing with no support. You can actually walk right under the bulging bowl if you enter the building one floor down. Guy Hollaway, whose office Hollaway Architects designed the building, says you can even hear the skaters rattling overhead while standing in the lobby café.

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[Photo: ©Hufton+Crow/courtesy Hollaway Architects]

The second floor was designed to function like a street park, complete with urban obstacles such as stairs, railings, and benches. The space is punctuated by a few supports that have been integrated into the design with ramps that curve upwards like inverted funnels. The third floor is set up like a flow park, with few obstacles and shallow drops. “Rather than having pools or basins, the entire space is connected, allowing users to flow seamlessly in an infinite, ever-changing line,” says Ian Jennings, chief designer at Maverick.

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[Photo: ©Hufton+Crow/courtesy Hollaway Architects]

Skatepark Trifecta offers three different types of experiences while also making the sport accessible to more people, regardless of skill level. For example, both the second and third floor skate parks were built from wood by another British company called Cambian. Unlike concrete, wood is much softer in the fall, so it’s considered a more user-friendly option for beginners. Not only is a wooden skate park more sustainable than concrete, but it also means the platform can be disassembled and updated.

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[Photo: ©Hufton+Crow/courtesy Hollaway Architects]

A tool for regeneration

Someone unfamiliar with skating might question the need for three full skate parks when two stories could have been used for, well, everything else. But the sports center is banking on the skate parks becoming a central hub of youth culture. “This is about investing in young people,” says Holwayy. “If we can make their childhood memories positive through skating and climbing, maybe they’ll stay in town, and if they stay, they’ll invest.”

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[Photo: ©Hufton+Crow/courtesy Hollaway Architects]

The sports center is on the edge of one of the most deprived areas in Kent. And yes, it started as a parking lot, but by stacking three skate parks the architects were able to triple the skate space on a lot paralyzed by narrow streets.

F51 offers a £1 membership (about $1.32) to young people under the age of 16 who are enrolled in a local school. According to Holwayy, there are also plans to add skateboarding to the curriculum. This idea that gaming, and skateboarding in particular, can benefit young people’s mental health is not without precedent. In the city of Dorchester, for example Crime and antisocial behavior decreased by 19% since the Dorchester Skatepark opened in 2009 and by 33% around the skatepark itself (which was also designed by Maverick). “A lot of young people don’t have spaces to call their own,” says Sam Reynolds, a director at Maverick. “Having these spaces that have been entrusted to them to feel ownership really nurtures and creates this environment that is so positive.”

Of course, nothing beats an open-air skate park with free entry and no opening times. But three skate parks for the price of one might be the next best thing.

https://www.fastcompany.com/90734807/see-inside-the-worlds-first-three-story-skate-park?partner=feedburner&utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=feedburner+fastcompany&utm_content=feedburner Check out the world’s first three-story skate park

JACLYN DIAZ

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