Not all amazing spaces are planned. Great design can sometimes come as much from an uncontrolled element of an urban fabric as it can from meticulous design. The Southbank’s Undercroft skate park is one of London’s finest examples of improvised urban spaces being subsumed by a creative and unique community that enhances the space and character of London’s riverfront.
The London tradition of a weekend stroll down the Southbank has long been embellished by the spectacle of watching skaters perform exceptional feats of athleticism, choreography, acrobatics and balance (and – of course – watching the occasional wipe-out). There are few who view this space and its activities with anything other than awe, admiration and delight whilst skaters perform their daring feats against a backdrop of beautifully executed and ever-changing graffiti. The space provides a public place for skaters to play and for passers by to savour a moment of child-like joy.
A proposal has recently been put forward to redevelop the Undercroft as restaurant space, with the skate park relocated, elsewhere. This would mean the loss of this public space of play, art, dance, athletics, and an iconic space which meliorates the varied fabric of the Southbank.