The birthplace of British skateboarding & BMX-ing, the legendary Southbank undercroft, might get a complete make over. The London new Southbank will be designed to be skatefriendly but be a part of the surrounding urban space all the same. It will however mean that the current skatespot that has seen more than 40 years of skating will be replaced with a shopping and restaurant area. Europe’s biggest centre for the arts the Southbank Centre was built in 1968 and featured a complex walkway system on different levels. Architects didn’t foresee that by vertically separating pedestrian and vehicle traffic people would experience difficulties navigating through the dark undercroft at ground level below the walkways. Another unforeseen side effect of this design with inclines, banks and stairs was that it gave skaters & BMX-ers the perfect place to ride! This legendary skatespot is sometimes referred to as the temple of British skateboarding and has been a world famous skatespot ever since the skaters started using the neglected area.

This may however change soon! The undercroft area is set to be completely redesigned into a shopping & restaurant area which means the skaters will have to move away and relocate! Once skaters learned of these plans for ‘their’ skating area they started trying to preserve one of the worlds most classic skatespots. Visit Long Live South Bank to learn more about their goals and efforts.

In the meantime the Southbank Centre has been working on new designs for a new £1million skate park 120 meters away from the legendary spot. The Soutbank centre has asked Iain Borden, Professor of Architecture and Urban Culture and Rich Holland, an architectural designer at Floda31 – who are both are skaters – to prepare a draft design brief earlier this summer. They then invited 3 architectural agencies who all have experience in designing skateable spaces to respond.

The architects were asked to design a space which transferred many of the physical aspects of the existing space. The design for this new area called the Hungerford bridge, also referred to as the bird shit banks, lies 120 meters away from the original location and is supposedly 10% bigger. It should be designed so that it 1) doesn’t look like an explicitly-designed or purpose-built skatepark 2) integrates materials commonly found in non-skatepark urban spaces, such as bricks, flagstone paving, granite, stone or rougher concrete surfaces and 3) has a highly visible & welcoming design so that it integrates the public within the space.

For those who aren’t familiar with what the Southbank means to skateboarders please check this short video and you will get an idea of what this area means to the London skaters and british skatescene in general.

southbank seventies

The Southbank Centre is one of the world’s most famous skatespots and is considered to be the starting point of British skateboarding.

So what to make of all of this? Should the London skaters fight these plans for redevelopment and treasure one of the last skateboard icons in the country or should they look forward to skating this new skatefriendly urban space?

soutbank rip tombstone

Will redeveloping the Southbank Centre leave skaters mourning or cheering?

southbank penny

Tom Penny using the undercroft banks in a way no architect could have ever foreseen in 1968.