Weaving art and programming into an active, safe, and fun space for teens in Richmond Hill
What does place making look like for teens? The Lake Wilcox Park Youth Area in Richmond Hill is a unique community space designed to entertain young adults, an age group that has historically been left out of discussions about public space and recreation. The multiple uses and varied programming create an animated, lively, and safe place throughout the year, becoming the go-to gathering space for youth in the neighbourhood.
Central to the park’s concept was an approach of embedded culture, integrating public art throughout built elements. The theme – “A Journey of Self Discovery” – was developed through workshops and consultation with local youth, facilitated by the design team’s graffiti artist partners Shalak Attack and Bruno Smoky. Art links the experience of place to cultural touchstones including original graffiti murals, inspirational quotes and dynamic images that reflect the “Journey of Self Discovery” teens go through to discover their own identities.
The Youth Area’s 1,500 square metre skatepark, designed in collaboration with Newline Skateparks, is now one of Ontario’s largest outdoor facilities, and has one of Canada’s largest over-vertical bowl features. The park also features four beach volleyball courts, two multi-use sport courts, a huge rope climber, fitness equipment, a central gathering and event space, free Wi-Fi, and a variety of social spaces to hang out, study and gather. The park was also designed to address the climate emergency. Bioswales eliminate the need for installation of stormwater infrastructure and naturalized planting will sequester carbon over the park’s lifetime, and will provide a habitat for the endangered Jefferson Salamander and other wildlife.
The Lake Wilcox Park Youth Area has been enthusiastically received as it provides youth with a true sense of community and belonging in a vibrant and positive atmosphere.