Of all the skatepark plans we've shared online in the past year or so, none has had more of a reaction than the Kent Urban Sports Park. This project is for a multi-storey skatepark, featuring indoor concrete bowls and an interestingly-shaped bespoke building to house it all.
With some pretty wacky original visualisations at first, many of us weren't betting on it ever actually coming to fruition. But, since those first images, the design has been carefully refined and is now finally taking shape in the real world down in Folkestone, Kent.
We spoke to Kay Whitehead, Project Officer about the build, how they designed it, when we can expect it to be ready and how it's all going so far.
Q&A with Kay Whitehead about Kent Urban Sports Park:
– Many people saw the design for Kent Urban Sports Park and doubted it would ever get built. How does it feel to be building something so different?
"It is challenging but very exciting to be building something so different. Shepway Sports Trust are fortunate to have the support of a visionary man, Sir Roger De Haan, in this ambitious project. Instead of building a skatepark that is limited by the size of the site, we’ve decided to make it multi-storey meaning that we’ll have three different floors that feature concrete bowls and a timber street section.
"One of the major challenges from the outset has been the balance between style and substance."
The ‘flow’ floor will be timber and has over 500sqm of skate surface including waterfalls, volcanoes, blends and hips. When you’re building something that hasn’t been done before there are lots of challenges so it helps to have a great team around us who understand what we are aiming for and are committed to using their expertise to help us achieve it. We recognise that this is a fantastic opportunity for the charity to deliver something spectacular in Folkestone."
– What have been some of the major challenges so far?
"One of the major challenges from the outset has been the balance between style and substance. We want cutting edge design that doesn’t compromise on the offer inside. This building has to deliver a quality experience for anyone who walks through the doors.
In terms of construction, and especially engineering, that means a lot of creative thinking in how best to deliver certain aspects including the façade. The building gets bigger as you go up and finding solutions for the floor plates and the façade has required quite a lot of revision and fine tuning. We’re suspending two large concrete bowls from the ceiling – it’s a lot of fun."
– A lot of UK park designs look great on paper but end up being a bit on the small side. Could you share some dimensions with us, such as the depth of the bowls?
"The sheer scale of this park didn’t hit home for me until I was stood looking down at the formwork for the concrete bowls. The first floor of the building is currently under construction; it features two concrete bowls, the traditional pool style and a more modern counterpart. At the deepest around 2.5m/8ft and 1.65m/5ft respectively. Head room above the bowls is 4m. The park is more than the bowl floor though, the flow floor and street floor offer more than 1100sqm to ride."
– How many different areas / zones will there be?
"As well as the three skate floors, bowl, flow and street, the park includes a café, function room, boxing gym, bouldering room, and a climbing wall over three floors."
"We’re suspending two large concrete bowls from the ceiling – it’s a lot of fun."
– Is there any one thing that you're particularly proud of?
"We’re not there yet, but if this comes off the way we want it to then we’ll be proud of creating something that gives people a great experience; a world class park that pushes people to be better and test their limits.
The place has the potential to encourage newcomers to the sports, for those that have already had their first taste get them to come down and see what they can really do, and for the experts, we want this to be a home for the best of the best."
– Who designed the Kent Urban Sports Park? Did you have a user committee of local riders / skaters too?
"Guy Hollaway Architects have designed the park and the skate floors were designed by Maverick; it has been an organic process – the brief was to work together to create a world class skate park.
Right from the start we talked to local riders who will make Kent Urban Sports Park their home. We’ve had input from riders and skaters along the way, including a series of focus groups with riders at other parks. It helped us to realise that a mix of concrete and timber would mean we could meet a variety of needs and leave us room to adapt the park in the future.
"We’re looking at summer 2019 for completion and an opening jam is definitely on the cards..."
We’re still talking to riders, climbers and boxers to get their input. We appreciate people taking the time to reach out. It’s impossible to include everything but it all shapes how the park is set up and how it will run."
– Apart from it being a multi storey skatepark, what else makes the park different to others?
"Being multi-storey is just one of the unique features of this park. The indoor concrete bowls are pretty special; there isn’t anything like them in the UK. The benefits of being multi-storey are that we can provide variety and huge skate spaces, which will provide an experience like no other. That means we’re not limiting the potential on the things that riders can attempt and perfect in this park. Plus the opportunities for jams, events, and competitions are massive."
– When is it due for completion, and will there be any kind of opening jam?
"We’re looking at summer 2019 for completion and an opening jam is definitely on the cards. Best way to find out will be to check socials and our website which is coming soon."