Landscape architects B|D took a painting by David Bomberg as the inspiration for the design of the public space at South Bank University.
The London South Bank University: Student Centre project represents the first ‘anchor’ within London South Bank University’s Estate Strategy to revitalise the campus with enhanced public realm improving connections and legibility between campus and urban fabric of the area.
At present the site has a cold and unwelcoming feel with a defensive landscape of tall security railings only accessible by card entry. A number of quality London Plane trees line Borough Road and more varied planting of Alder, Sweet Gum & Beech create a strong tree framework but also add to a shady site.
The landscape design strategy aims to create a more attractive public realm with an ‘outward-looking’ campus with a very special sense of place with life and activity to the enhanced Kell Street and Public Square on Borough Road. The design includes a high quality palette of materials inspired by the history and heritage of the site with semi-mature tree planting and rich sensory shrub and herbaceous perennial beds to promote and enhance biodiversity for urban ecology.
Drawing inspiration from history, most notably a painting titled ‘Racehorses’ by audacious English artist David Bomberg, B|D highlighted Bomberg’s bold geometric shapes to which he reduced living forms in the designs for the rejuvenated public realm gateway. This is to be a dynamic ‘carpet’ of quality natural stone that draws out the strong geometry of the undercroft structure into the landscape. This rigidity of structure is fractured and exploded with highlights of lighting, large highlights of contrasting paving and benches that draw pedestrians in from Borough Road but also allow for colonisation and use throughout the day.
Bomberg was a member of the prolific Whitechapel Boys, a group of Anglo-Jewish Artists and writers of the early 20th Century, and he taught at the university in the 1940s and 1950s. David Bomberg House, one of the student halls of residences at the university is named in his honour.