Southbank plans face major rethink after Boris backs skatepark
The Southbank Centre is to review its proposed £120 million redevelopment yet again after the London mayor ‘unexpectedly’ backed bids to save the skatepark beneath it
Yesterday Boris Johnson surprised the project team by saying he would only support Feilden Clegg Bradley’s (FCBS) overhaul of the riverside complex if controversial plans to relocate the skatepark from under the Brutalist landmark were ditched.
The Southbank Centre wants to redevelop the undercroft, which has been used by skaters since 1976, to build new commercial units which would help finance the rest of the 28,000m² Festival Wing project.
The scheme, with its glazed ‘liner’ building and semi-transparent sky pavilion, has already been redesigned once following criticism from Cabe, The Twentieth Century Society and the neighbouring National Theatre.
A spokeswoman for the Southbank Centre said: ‘The mayor’s statement was unexpected. And as a result the board will have to review the future of the project, as keeping the skate space where it is leaves us with a funding gap.’
We must consider the implications for the future of the project
‘We look forward to hearing how [Boris Johnson] intends to fill this financial gap [which] stands between us and our ability to provide free art and culture to millions of Londoners. In the meantime, [we] must consider the implications for the future of the project if he fails to do so.’
Skater and professor of architecture at the Bartlett School of Architecture Iain Borden, who helped draw up the brief for a replacement skatepark under the Hungerford Bridge (see AJ 10.10.13), was also critical of the Mayor’s decision (AJ 15.01.14).
He said: ‘It is a shame that Johnson seems to be recognising only half of the situation. While, many people, including myself, feel that in an ideal world it would be great if skateboarding could stay in its original location, the new skate space is just 120m away and is also undercover, larger and better to skate.
‘It gives skateboarding and other urban arts a permanent home at the Southbank Centre, where they will continue to flourish. This is in fact an incredibly generous offer by the Southbank Centre, unmatched by any other ever made in the world of skateboarding.’
However Henrietta Billings, senior conservation adviser at the Twentieth Century Society, welcomed the mayor’s comments: ‘Skateboarding activity brings a unique visual and cultural interest to this part of the South Bank and allows a large audience to appreciate the sculptural form of the concrete mushroom columns of the space.’
The Society has been campaigning against the FCBS plans, claiming the ‘proposed massive extensions’ would ‘overwhelm one of the best groups of brutalist buildings in the UK, if not the world’.