Nietzsche said that the real man wants two things: danger and play. And in fact, it is undeniable that taking on the challenge of overcoming one's own limits generates for many an adrenalinic sensation that is satisfied only with experiences that are out of the ordinary. Adolescents, by their very nature but even more so today after two tribulated years of pandemic, are the first to adapt to this social imperative of testing their possibilities and sometimes for them sport is a useful tool to find their own identity.
After skateboarding and sport climbing were recognized in Tokyo as Olympic sports and in view of Paris 2024, the world’s first multi-storey skatepark was conceived in Folkestone in the UK: a work that is not simply a sports arena but an instrument for urban and “generational” regeneration.
The building, which stands on the edge of one of the most degraded neighbourhoods in the region, is an iconic presence in the urban landscape: a dense and massive volume with soft and fluctuating shapes that grows in size with height, suspended on a translucent glass enclosure on the ground floor, and that already seems to defy the laws of gravity.
The complex houses, distributed over four floors, a café and a community space, a boxing gym, a 600 sqm climbing wall and several skateboard bowls, differentiated according to skill level: on the first floor, two exposed concrete bowls evoke the empty reservoir of a swimming pool, inspired by the Southern California model of Dogtown where skaters in the 1970s began practicing in drained pools; on the upper floors, wood-floored bowls host depressions and obstacles to simulate paths similar to urban scenarios.
While the lack of flat surfaces gives a feeling of instability, but is much appreciated by sensation seekers (as defined by M. Zuckerman), the display of artwork and the organization of cultural events help broaden the scope of interest making the work a hub not only for young people but for the community at large.
“It sounds dangerous doesn’t it?” says architect Guy Hollaway. “We’re shrouding our children in what feels like cotton wool to protect them all the time, but I think – as the world becomes safer – a controlled adrenaline facility is what young people need.”
- Architectural project:
- Hollaway Studio
- Roger De Haan Charitable Trust/The Sports Trust
- Local authority:
- Folkestone & Hythe District Council
- Tontine St, Folkestone CT20 1JP
- Jenner Group
- Concrete Skatepark Design:
- Maverick Skateparks
- Timber Skatepark Design:
- Cambian Action