F51 skatepark in Folkestone
The world’s first multilevel skatepark could easily have come across as architectural dad-dancing, but it’s just right for its target audience
F51 bills itself as the world’s first multilevel skatepark, a place where skaters, cyclists, scooters, rollerskaters and rollerbladers can try out different surfaces, designed to suit skills from beginner to Olympic. There’s also a climbing wall, rising up the inside of the building, and a ground-floor boxing club. All of which has been achieved without any public funding, as the capital costs come from a charitable trust set up by Sir Roger de Haan, whose Saga Group made billions out of selling holidays, insurance and the like to the over-50s. The facility is expected to cover its running costs, while also being available in off-peak hours, for a membership fee of only £1 a month to school-age locals.
The design of the building as a whole is by Hollaway Studio, a practice based in Kent and London. It makes the right calls in giving the parks matter-of-fact spaces where they and their users are the stars. Its exterior, of a kind that might once have been called “iconic”, does an effective job of telling Folkestone that something new has landed in its midst...