Taking inspiration from his West African heritage, British-Nigerian artist Yinka Ilori is known for creating oversized graphic architectural and interior design projects packed with fun, cheerful colors, and patterns. While he’s not new to transforming ordinary spaces into immersive experiences, his latest project might be his most ambitious yet.
“Colorama Skatepark,” set in an old 20th-century warehouse renovated by French architect Patrick Bouchain in 2004, is an installation created as part of Lille’s World Capital of Design 2020. Commissioned by La Condition Publique (the cultural institution currently occupying the warehouse), the indoor skatepark fuses the architecture of the space with new ramps and brightly-colored details.
The brick walls are reinvigorated with shoes of peach and pink, overlaid with bold murals in neon green, orange, red, and yellow. The concrete pillars that punctuate the interiors are also colored, making them feel like a more active part of the design of the space. Ilori’s colors and motifs derive, in part, from the details of the building, while the skateable features were developed in collaboration with local skateboarders and Decathlon skateboarding product manager Jean-Philippe Rode.
Those elements include two corner quarter pipes with banked ends, a volcano ramp, and a central hybrid module. All of these obstacles were made using FSC-certified recycled paper from Skatelite, a renowned manufacturer of premium skate ramp surfaces used by pro skaters. If you’re not familiar with the ins and outs of designing a skatepark, using paper for this purpose might sound odd, but Skatelite’s products are weather-resistant and nearly indestructible, designed to deliver a balance of speed and grip.
As you can probably imagine, the way projects like this are carried out has changed substantially due to the pandemic. Ilori participated remotely in the construction process during the coronavirus lockdown, overseeing La Condition Publique’s staff as they built and papered the new indoor skate park.
“It was important for me and La Condition Publique to design a skatepark that was inclusive and not intimidating but inviting for all ages and all levels of skateboarders,” Ilori says. “They really wanted to celebrate one of the different ways La Condition Publique, a cultural venue, can be used to bring people together, and they felt that I could create this experience.”
Colorama aims to engage the growing skater community in Lilles, France, also inviting BMX riders and other urban sports athletes to partake in the fun. Whether they’re engaging in skating, dance, basketball, or parkour, users get to enjoy a highly unique street art-inspired environment. The park opened in September 2020, and in the future, it’ll also host events and classes, including educational and employment opportunities.
“This project also finds its place in la Condition Publique’s will to forge a bond with its neighborhood,” reads the project’s press release. “By inviting neighbors to a warm and family-friendly space dedicated to sports, it allows them to gather together and get to grips with this cultural place, where they may [otherwise] feel as ‘outsiders/outcasts.'”
“La Condition Publique also shelters not less than 20 organizations from cultural and creative sectors and accompanies its neighbors in realizing their projects. In addition to this, it strives to enhance collaboration with the social, urbanistic, and associative actors in Pile, an underprivileged neighborhood in Roubaix where the venue is located. In that respect, la Condition Publique searches to organize rendezvous in various forms in order to generate new dialogs within this community.”
Ilori, who began his practice in 2011 as an upcycled furniture designer, draws many cultural influences together into his trademark visuals, including traditional Nigerian parables and West African fabrics. He likes each piece to tell a story, often bringing “Nigerian verbal traditions into playful conversation with contemporary design.”