‘During the nights of 30 November and 1 December 1940, the Southampton Blitz reached its climax as the city came under sustained attack. Hundreds of tonnes of bombs were dropped during the two nights, whilst on 30th November alone some 634 individual properties were left ablaze –’.Ordnance Survey
Sustained & heavy bombing between 23rd – 30th November 1940, left Southampton City Centre devastated. The destruction at the very heart of the built fabric of the city left seven Churches destroyed, including HolyRood, All Saints, St James’, St Mary’s, St Luke’s & St Paul’s.
Above: ‘Void’. A bespoke black terrazzo platform seat, one of two sexfoil shaped seats commissioned for the London Road scheme, completed in 2008. The public art and interpretation for the public realm and highways improvement project was inspired by the Parish of St Paul’s Church, London Road, a vibrant community and shopping street, which was effectively destroyed on November 30th 1940 during the Southampton Blitz, when the Church was bombed and devastated by fire. London Road was badly damaged and the Church never rebuilt. An evocative image from the time shows the Church interior with the shape of the destroyed Rose Window appearing as a black void. This project evolved around this one powerful image. It evokes a legacy of community, architecture and people, which is explored in the public art seating other found on site today.
This project was commissioned by Elizabeth Smith, Public Art Officer for Southampton City Council in 2005, to work in collaboration with the project team to research, develop and create concept designs and proposals for environmental public artworks integral to the London Road scheme. I was asked to establish an overall concept for the area with particular consideration of pedestrian use and movement across roads and through spaces & placemaking and urban form, hard and soft landscaping, paving details and surfacing treatments, thresholds, markers or ‘gateways’, seating and / or sculpture. My contribution was contextually driven and collaborative.
2 No. 3000mm diameter x 140mm thick pre-cast dark grey/black terrazzo platform seats manufactured in one piece to a Sexfoil pattern, inclusive of a 160mm built up external edge with 100mm radius semi bullnose detail and 10mm pencil round rebate. Grade C40 concrete is to be used. All terrazzo mixes and samples were approved prior to manufacture by Southampton City Council engineers and the project artist (me). The seats are reinforced throughout to A393 with 10mm welded bar mesh. Bottom mesh to full cover. Top mesh localised cover only to ‘hot spots’. All grit polished to a fine 120 honed finish, chemically sealed with anti-graffiti finishes approved by SCC.
5 No. 3000m x 700mm x 140 lozenge shaped benches were also manufactured, each with inset text. Both bench types have stainless steel leg supports, 316 SS spec.
The benches were positioned at relevant site along London Road, which related to past events and distant voices as well as lost buildings.
Above: Ordinary lives and everyday events were recorded in a series of surviving Parish Magazines form St Paul’s Church. These distant voices of a local community and Parish still seem fresh and lively.
‘Naked Street takes National award. Southampton’s new ‘naked street’ in London Road has picked up a national award for the Best Urban Transport Design from the Chartered Institute of Logistics and Transport, regarded as one of the top industry awards 2010.
This is a significant boost for the naked street concept, the principles of which promote a balance of traffic movement and social uses of public spaces. London Road in Southampton was stripped of road signs, given ‘informal’ road signs, and widened footpaths. The scheme has already had a positive impact by decreases in serious injury accidents and a reduction in vehicle speeds. Living Streets believe that schemes which use naked streets principles have great potential to make our streets safer and more people-friendly, by changing the behaviour of all road users for the better. London Road in Southampton is a good example of a scheme that has improved safety and ensured accessibility.
This scheme has also been chosen by the Department of Transport (Dft) as an example of best practice and will be included in the Dft’s national design document ‘Manual for Streets 2.’
Sponsored by PUSH, the Solent Design Awards are all about the encouragement of Quality place-making: schemes that create special places, lift communities, create richer experiences …not just iconic buildings but also the places in-between, the carrier spaces for our daily lives.
In 2001, was commissioned by Elizabeth Smith, the Public Arts Officer for Southampton City Council to collaborate with the project client Barratt Homes, to create an interpretive landscape artwork for the central courtyard of the former Dell Football ground. The Dell was demolished in 2001 by Hughes and Salvidge. I was able to visit the ground to document the site just before this process began and just after the last game had been played.
“a lovely dell with a gurgling stream and lofty aspens” Philip Brannon 1850
“On 19 May 2001, midfielder Matt Le Tissier, (who retired from playing a year later) said goodbye to the stadium that had been host to his entire professional career by scoring a volley in the final minutes of the final league game securing a 3–2 win against. Le Tissier has the distinction of scoring the last competitive goal at The Dell. On 26 May, the club’s fans said goodbye to the Dell by stripping all of its seats, the pitch and even an advertising board after Southampton’s last game at the stadium, a 1-0 victory in a friendly against Brighton & Hove Albion, the first and last opponents at the stadium. The last goal ever scored at the Dell was by Uwe Rosler”. Wikipedia
“The final league goal witnessed by the Dell was Le Tissier’s 89th-minute winner against Arsenal, a fitting tribute from the forward to his home for 16 years and to the fans who could not imagine life without him. Club fortunes fluctuate, players come and go but Le Tissier has infected those who have witnessed his feats on the south coast and their worshipping will go on long after his boots are finally hung up”. The Guardian 21st May 2001
‘The site on which the ground was built was described in Philip Brannon’s Picture of Southampton, published in 1850, as “a lovely dell with a gurgling stream and lofty aspens”. The stream is the Rollsbrook which flows out of Southampton Common, running parallel to Hill Lane before disappearing under Commercial Road and Southampton Central Station, from where it is conduited under Southampton Docks into Southampton Water.
The land had been purchased in the 1880s by the Didcot, Newbury and Southampton Railway to enable them to continue their line from Winchester via Twyford, Chandlers Ford, a tunnel at Chilworth and Shirley where it was to pass to the North East of what is nowSt James’ Park, Southampton and St James’ Church. From here the line would have travelled south across Hill Lane to run through the dell and onto an embankment leading to a viaduct over Commercial Road and the London and South Western Railway line before terminating on the Western Esplanade North of the Royal Pier.
The dell was stripped of vegetation and the stream channelled into a conduit with work started on the embankment, which survives behind property to the North of Commercial Road but was never used, and the viaduct which was part built but later demolished.’ Wikipedia
I wanted to recreate this idea of ‘a lovely dell with a gurgling stream and trees’, as well as represent something important about the history of football and of Southampton FC on this site. It appeared that the centre circle of the pitch was exactly where the stream had originally passed through and was now culverted underground. The radius of the centre circle on a football pitch is 9.15m. My design reflects this. The centre spot is in exactly the same space it would have been on any match day. 11 trees are planted around the circumference to reflect the squad of 11 who would have played each game. The raw cast concrete retaining walls, steps and planting beds retain something of the look and feel of the original football terraces. Several bespoke cast terrazzo benches with white aggregate in a red cement matrix face into the centre. These reflect the club colours.
The most notable detail is the textured low-relief elevation exposed around the centre circle. This is the stud print of Matt Le Tissier’s right football boot – or so I was led to believe. We contacted the club during this project and this was the boot I was sent. I so want to believe it. I wore the boot to make the original mould, by running over a bed of clay. I still have it. The idea was to recreate and remember the raw play and boots on muddy ground which embodies the spirit of play.
I approached Patterns & Moulds Ltd, a fantastic company, I have since worked with on several projects. Established in 1967, Patterns & Moulds remains the largest independent and privately owned mould maker in the UK.
Turf had been stripped off the pitch by fans eager to take a piece of footballing history home with them.
Above: All the concrete works were delivered in-situ, with timber formwork constructed on site. The concrete retaining structures and curving walls created a series of interlinked paths and terraces, which were then backfilled with soil or compacted gravels to create the finished terrace levels. The Matt Le Tissier stud-print concrete feature relief-wall was also cast in-situ on site with bespoke rubber moulds and timber formwork. The raw, unfinished concrete surfaces emulated the original hard terrace construction at the Dell Football ground.
Above: Elizabeth Smith, Public Arts Officer, Southampton City Council 1998 – 2011, talking with the Project Site Manager.
Above & Below: The Rollsbrook Stream was re-imagined as a shallow rill flowing through the courtyard.