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Flexible Public Space: ‘Youth Factory’ in Spain

Posted in Models by Kate Archdeacon on August 5th, 2011

Source: Fast Company‘s Co.Design

Photo © Iwan Baan

From “Simple Genius: The World’s Coolest Skate Park Doubles As A Counseling Center” by Alissa Walker:

How about a playground that’s not really a playground at all, instead it’s a vibrant, flexible space that acknowledges the wide variety of activities that kids actually want to participate in? The firm Selgas Cano has designed just the space in Merida, Spain.

The Factoría Joven (“youth factory” in Spanish) is less a junky jungle gym and more like a creative community center, equipped for activities as wide-ranging as rock climbing and hip-hop dancing. There’s a skatepark, of course, which essentially winds through the plazas connecting the buildings (almost all the ground is actually skateable), but also a concert stage for performing arts. Plus a place to learn graffiti and street art, and a section of the complex that’s set up for circus training. Yes, tightrope walking at the park.

There’s also plenty of indoor space for learning music and dance. And wireless Internet, of course. Selgas Cano chose to huddle all the activities under a single canopy, which is supported by oval-shaped cylinders for indoor activities (with white cylinders and an orange lid, it looks kind of like a series of mushrooms clustered together with a shared cap).

To keep costs down, there’s no heating or cooling, instead the canopy is a meter thick to shield kids from hot sun or rain. The bright orange and white cladding is made from corrugated plastic and has a level of translucence to it, allowing some sun through and interior light to filter out at night, turning the building into a glowing beacon for the community that can be used well into the night.

By creating a public space that’s so visually exciting, it’s hard to imagine that kids (or their parents) will want to hang out anywhere else. And that’s partly the point: The skatepark’s structure actually hides meeting rooms where kids can get group counseling. So the activities get them in, but that also creates an unparalleled opportunity to reach them.

Read the full article by Alissa Walker.

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