“first and foremost a space for the local community”

Submitted to the Folkestone Herald

The world’s first purpose-built multi-storey skatepark is set to open in Folkestone in less than a month.

The historic £17million building, which includes three skate parks, a boxing ring and the tallest climbing wall in the South East, opens to the public on Monday April 4.

F51 was commissioned by the Roger De Haan Charitable Trust as part of a major ongoing program to regenerate the Kent seaside town.

Its mission was to provide young people in Folkestone with a place of their own, where they can push physical and mental limits in a safe space away from screens.

It will replace the existing skatepark near the harbor – with heavily reduced membership for those who attend local schools.

Bowl floor | Photo: Matt Rowe

The impressive building was designed by architects Hythe Hollaway Studio, who worked closely with renowned skate park designers Maverick.

Architect Guy Holloway said:

“Folkestone is my backyard. We are local architects and I am so passionate about Folkestone. I would much rather spend my time and energy where I live and where I love.

What has been created is a dynamic structure that grows out of the site, increasing in size as it rises.

Inside, the absence of flat surfaces feels unstable as the geometry plays tricks on your mind; outside, the huge concrete bowls seem suspended in the air, defying gravity.

“We’re going to have skaters skating above your head and you can hear the wheels of the skateboard going into the bowl right above you,” says architect Guy Hollaway.

Under the concrete bowls | Photo: Matt Rowe

The different floors are designed to manage and control activities with three levels of skate parks suitable for all ages and different levels of experience, highlighting how the building will be open to everyone.

The first floor is based around a concrete bowl that takes inspiration from the iconic empty pools of Dogtown, Southern California, which have become synonymous with skateboarding aesthetics.

Flow floor | Photo: Matt Rowe

The second floor is made of plywood like a ‘Street’ park with obstacles such as stairs, ramps and benches to perform increasingly elaborate tricks.

Then, at the very top, is the largest floor, laid out like a “Flow” park with shallow depressions. Skaters can move around the curved walls, which include features like quarter pipes, pump bumps and bowl corners, without removing their feet to push off.

Linking the three floors is the climbing wall, something new for Folkestone. Like skateboarding, sport climbing was also recognized for the first time at the Tokyo Olympics in August.

Looking at the three-story climbing wall| Photo: Matt Rowe

In addition to the activity-led spaces, F51 has commissioned a number of artists, both local and international, to create artwork. These are displayed throughout the space, as large murals and site-specific pieces across the various floors and in the cafe space.

The vast spaces offer the possibility of hosting various cultural events, opening the building to a wider audience during artistic events and during the Triennale.

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F51 will be run by The Sports Trust, Folkestone’s independent not-for-profit sports charity, formerly known as Shepway Sports Trust.

They will use the new facility as a base from which to support local clubs, strengthen their links with primary and secondary schools and encourage people of all ages to adopt a more active lifestyle.

Managing Director Laurence Hickmott said:

“We are counting down the weeks until the highly anticipated opening of the F51. While it has caught the eye of some of the world’s top athletes, the F51 will be first and foremost a space for the local community.

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