‘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.
Kingsbridge Lane in Southampton is a historically important and longstanding pedestrian-only route with no vehicular access. This makes the site significant to Southampton. It is a long surviving link to the western route in and out of Southampton along the coastal strand, which formed the northern shore of the River Test Estuary until the early 20th Century. The footpath runs along a narrow strip of land between the existing railway tunnel and the historic and long abandoned tunnel of the Southampton to Salisbury Canal, which ran along what is now Blechynden Terrace, linking Central Station to the Guildhall Square &Cultural Quarter. My role within this project was to develop a contextual response to the site, which would, hopefully, influence the landscape design and regenerative design process in collaboration Simon Taylor of Balfour Beatty Living Places , Southampton City Council and Hardscape.
The footpath is busy, particularly at peak travel times, but is tired, with aged materials and and unkept vibe, even more striking now that the route connects the two recently completed ‘Quarters’, Cultural & Station – what is does have is brilliant a clear sight lines – with the Civic Centre Clocktower, Wyndham Court, Central Station and Southampton Docks all visible at points along the route.
The proposals for creative public realm interventions at Kingsbridge Lane are a direct response to the following:
Preservation of the historic legacy and contextual significance of the local area –
Topography – there is a 9m fall in height from the top of the route to the bottom –
Kingsbridge Lane as a primary pedestrian route today, linking Southampton Station Quarter to the Cultural Quarter, city centre & east to west pedestrian axis –
A practical need to screen existing Network Rail buildings and car park along the southern and northern boundaries of the site –
My work here is an extension of the ‘Canal Shore’ concepts and research underpinning the Station Quarter North Project completed a couple of years earlier in 2016, which I had been involved with since 2012. The text below set out the background of this work.
‘Inspiration, aspiration & delivery…
As project artist, I undertook a detailed investigation into the neighborhood’s social history, geography, ecology and culture to uncover hidden structures, which inform the area’s current form, identity & reputation. This site-specific & research-led activity assisted in driving the creative concept & rationale, which now underpins the general spatial layout, character and interpretation of the new proposals. I worked as part of an integrated design team including Engineers, Landscape Architects, Designers and specialist contractors. This collaborative process allowed me to work creatively, whilst being fully supported by the wider project team.
‘Southampton’s lost district: A landscape rediscovered’
An understanding of the site’s past physical condition drives the overall theme and character of the landscape & public realm interventions: a wooded valley, a meandering stream, the curve of the historic shoreline & the ill fated Southampton & Salisbury Canal. The primary human activities on the site over time, as evidenced by residential, industrial & cultural histories have been influential in drawing individual & collective ‘voices’ from the locality which will serve to imbue any outcomes with a distinctive & renewed sense of place.
This site, adjacent to the shoreline of the Test Estuary has always been a point of confluence. The main route West in & out of the city ran along the shoreline. In medieval times this route along the shore was known and ‘The Strand’. At a point marked by Achards Bridge, which crossed the Rollesbrook Stream to enter the River Test, the city boundary with Millbrook was established.
Today this point is almost exactly opposite the entrance to Southampton Station. Blechynden Terrace is considered to be built along the line of the filled in canal basin of the Southampton & Salisbury Canal. The historic shoreline and the highest point to which the tide rises was along the line of the road.
‘Canal Shore’ developed as a singular response to this research, which is supported by a broader influence, which has pervaded the whole site.
The artwork ‘Canal Shore’ is a consolidation of all that the site has to offer, both contextually and historically. In part it traced the line of the old shoreline & the only East to West route out of the city along the shingle beach from earliest times. It was the route of an ill-fated 19th Century canal. It is now a busy road and part of the transportation network of the city. Its route forms part of the perimeter of our site, so as a single element it has the capacity to help to unify the site and draw other more disparate elements together. The work represents the confluence of both historic and contemporary transportation routes within the city.
The location of the work dictates that it adds a tangible physical presence & value to the site. However, the materials and design are significant too. The black basalt kerb is deliberately large scale & incredibly robust, but has been engineered and designed with a particular aesthetic to blend well with its dual function. It considers traffic flow & movement through the site by allowing for transport access across its width, with elegant dropped kerb sets and large-scale corner quadrants. We have extended the width of the kerb to emphasize its importance as a marker of the historic shoreline of West Bay and the River Test Estuary, but also as a reference to the former Canal coping stone edge. Its function a physical kerb edge on the highway not only indicates that it is fit for purpose, but it deliberately aligns itself to the East to West axis of this transportation and pedestrian route within the City, extending and connecting to existing routes to the Cultural Quarter, QEII Mile and future Maritime Promenade’.
Southampton Station Quarter North was shortlisted for the 2016 Solent Design Awards, which were awarded in November 2016 – A much needed update on the project. Better late than never !
Although our project was not one of the winners… it was very encouraging that the collaborative approach which delivered the project and the role of our Champions Group, which endured throughout the build programme was recognised via the shortlist process.
‘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 following set of images from the site were produced by Wilson Massie of Balfour Beatty Living Places – thanks Wilson !
The artwork ‘Canal Shore’ runs for almost 200m along the South side of Blechynden Terrace. Bespoke extra wide Black Basalt kerbs are inset with white granite text referencing the site.
With thanks to Hardscapefor their excellent collaboration on the ‘Canal Shore’ artwork.
I have to admit that this is the first time I have been inside the multi storey car park at the junction of West Park Road and Kingsbridge Lane. The first time in over 12 years coming to Southampton. What a good view down Blechynden Terrace !
The main pedestrian routes on the north and south sides have been re-surfaced and the public artwork “Canal Shore’, a 205m long wide basalt kerb detail with inlaid granite text, forms a strong and robust visual desire line on the south side of Blechynden Terrace all the way to the Station Forecourt.
The footpath just visible at the bottom left corner of this image is the start of Kingsbridge Lane, which is the main pedestrian route from the Station to the City Centre and Cultural Quarter. This route is very well trafficked and very busy at peak times, with a flow of people at all times of day. The visual and physical connection to the Station Quarter Project is currently poor and we are now scoping this route to consider an approach to regenerating the site and improving connectivity and user experience.
I was invited to attend what was possibly the final Champions Group meeting to review the regeneration work coming to a close at Southampton Station Quarter North. This group of people, representing every walk of life in the local area and community, have been responsible for championing, challenging and keeping the project on its toes since the dawn of the scheme way back in 2012. They have been an invaluable part of the project and I hope that they collectively approve of the work done thus far. Pete Boustred – Transport Policy and Sustainable Travel Team Leader at Southampton City Council, led the walk around site, assisted by Antony Cutajar, Site Manager for Balfour Beatty Services & Wilson Massie, Stakeholder Engagement for Balfour Beatty Living Places.
The landscape forms – bespoke cast concrete seating, amphitheatre steps, ramp and retaining walls are now all installed. Some snagging was still to be completed and soft landscaping was still in progress. As this was February, there was not much to see in terms of greenery ! Meadow seed planting has been carried out – & hopefully the impact of this will be seen later in the year.
This is a simple photo essay of the walk around the site looking at what has been completed.
Monday 28th September 2015 – Station Quarter Visit –
The kerbside artwork ‘Canal Shore‘, which is a vital part of the Station Quarter programme, is very nearly completed. Only a short section remains to be finished, once the Station Forecourt area is completed. ‘Canal Shore’ is a 205m long black basalt kerb with inset granite text, which traces the route of the former Southampton to Salisbury Canal and also happens to be the line of the historic shoreline of the River Test Estuary.
The narrative refers to places, people and events which have marked the development of this landscape. Importantly, the work is also a strategic part of the wayfinding and placemaking ambitions for the Station Quarter project, as it makes an emphatic statement along the main east to west pedestrian route to the Station from the Above Bar area of the city and the Cultural Quarter.
It’s been a while since I posted an update on the Station Quarter Project –
I met up on site with Simon Taylor – Urban Design Manager, Balfour Beatty Living Placesand Pete Boustred – Transport Policy & Sustainable Travel Team Leader at Southampton City Council. I was first commissioned to work on the interpretive and site responsive elements of the project by Simon at BBLP in 2012. We have worked together several times previously in the City. BBLP are delivering the project for Southampton City Council.
Massive changes since my last visit if you look at earlier posts, but brilliant to see the project coming together so well. The amphitheatre steps, part of the Phase 2 works on Wyndham Place have arrived and have been lifted into place. There are a number of other structures still with the manufacturer and these are expected to arrive over the coming weeks. The installation of the large-scale bespoke cast concrete benches, amphitheatre steps and retaining structures manufactured by CCPwill continue over the coming weeks. Hopefully I will get down to Southampton again soon to record more progress.
What was a real pain was that although it was a brilliant blue day – this part of the site was in deep shadow, so the images are a bit too dark to do the work justice !
Other cast concrete works are also on site –
These benches are on the Station Forecourt, immediately as you enter or exit the Station building. This is one section of a large curving two tier bench and way-finding feature within the scheme.
‘Outside Wyndham Court a great deal of the footpath and landscaping is down and this gives a glimpse of how the scheme is going to look. Block paving of the public car park has started, trees are in and yesterday the first of the new bespoke stone benches was crane lifted into place.’Taken from the Southampton Station Quarter update bulletin, 18th March 2015, Balfour Beatty Living Places.
Bespoke benches during installation. Unfortunately, one of the 6 units has a lighter finish than the others. This can be remedied post installation on site by the manufacturer CPP Ltd.
I left Ramsgate on High Speed 1 for London, St Pancras, then by Tube to Victoria to pick up the Gatwick Express & Gatwick to Newquay by Twin Prop and from there by car to Bissoe – easy ! A great day – but one delay along the way could have been a disaster – fortunately it was brilliant.
The units below are the first to be manufactured and are, as such the sample test for the project. We will be looking to iron out any issues presenting at this stage and develop a methodology for ensuring quality control through the production period. The Type C unit – is only one of several bespoke profiles being developed – with each profile there are accompanying bespoke ends and specials to be made.
This is a single unit, part of a six unit seating set for the landscape works. The seating forms part of the interpretation and public art created for the project. The units as seen here have yet to have the etching treatment to expose the surface aggregates, so appear quite light in colour. The finished colour and aggregate mix reflect the multi blend granite paving used throughout the site and is informed by the geology of the site – alluvial gravels – which were at one time quarried nearby in the area now occupied by the Civic Centre. These gravels would have formed the beach of the River Test Estuary, which was – until 175 years ago – to be found where Blechynden Terrace now stands.
We have selected the Blackhill Aggregate – White Cement – Heavy Etch sample to work with –
The composite image below, illustrate the evolution of the Type C Bench. The basic section is added to with bespoke and varying ‘ends’, with some units being further cast with lighting recesses.
I particularly like to see the timber joinery and craftsmanship which goes into the moulds. No-one else really sees this – and the general public generally have no idea of the work that goes on behind the scenes to achieve the objects they see in the public realm.