exterior skatepark building.

Take a Look Inside the World’s First Purpose-Built Multi-Story Skatepark

Designed by UK-based Hollaway Studio, F51 features three floors for skating plus a boxing club and a climbing wall.

In the British seaside town of Folkestone, a proposed multi-story parking garage has turned into F51, the world’s first purpose-built, multi-story skatepark. Comprised of three floors for skating, a boxing club, and a climbing wall, the innovative four-story building, designed by local architecture and interior design practice Hollaway Studio, is part of a much wider, long-term regeneration of Folkestone. Funded by business tycoon Sir Roger de Haan, projects so far have focused on reviving culture in the town center, particularly for young people, including the creation of a theater and “Creative Quarter,” as well as the Folkestone Triennial arts festival.

“We wanted something really urban,” says lead architect Guy Hollaway. Surrounded by roads, one could mistake it for an unusual parking garage––and that’s what it was intended to be, serving the town’s new visitors and residents. But de Haan saw the designs and reportedly asked to integrate a skatepark into it before deciding to make the whole structure into a skating facility. Hollaway Studio promptly transformed the designs accordingly and worked with specialist designers Maverick Skateparks and Cambian Action Sports to get the design just right. The result is a monolithic presence in the town center, clad in a visually impermeable metal mesh. 

the entrance of a building with a metal facade
the interior of an indoor skatepark with bright orange beams and a scorpion mural painted on a black wall

Each level of F51 has its own layout and purpose, though the raw and robust aesthetic is tied together by bright, orange-painted steel structural elements throughout. Above the first floor, which accommodates the boxing club and the café, the second floor hosts two massive concrete bowls, one of which is inspired by the iconic empty swimming pools of Dogtown, California. Due to the bowls’ extreme thickness, they curve down into the cafe below, creating an unexpectedly undulating ceiling. The second floor is also where the climbing and bouldering facilities are accessed, with the 49-foot-high climbing wall rising through the rest of the building.

The third floor is the beginner-friendly “Street Park” level, with a much gentler skating topography designed to emulate a normal streetscape. The entire floor surface is made from engineered timber, accompanied by metal railings for tricks. The top floor, the “Flow Park”, boasts a shallow bowl with various special features, again all in plywood timber.

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an image of a ground floor interior cafe in an indoor skatepark with large glass wall looking out to the street and an undulating concrete ceiling.

The project, which officially opens on April 4, is undoubtedly a great resource, and an innovative architectural typology. But it’s not without its issues: it was created in part because de Haan demolished the town’s existing beachfront skatepark to develop new housing. F51 is broadly inclusive, but charges do apply and it’s not as accessible as most open-air skateparks.

Environmentally, the feat of raising up thick concrete bowls in the air, and stacking yet more skate parks on top, requires a building that uses a huge amount of steel and concrete. Supportive concrete columns on the first floor are the size you’d expect for a 30-story building, the architects say. Oh, and that multi-story parking garage it was originally intended to be? That will still be built, but elsewhere.

However, with a focus on giving young people a place to go and develop their skills and hobbies, the hope is that at least socially, F51 will have a positive impact. “Maybe one building can make a difference,” says Hollaway. He’s hoping it will stand the test of time.

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