Macgregor Smith Landscape Architects: Located in the centre of the World Heritage City of Bath, the public realm enhancements at SouthGate provide a high-quality flexible space with increased capacity to accommodate the activities of daily civic life as well as larger events.
Extensive public realm enhancement project in the centre of the city, with an annual footfall of 24 million people through the spaces. The proposals focused on a transformation of the main square at SouthGate and Brunel Square outside the busy train station to create meaningful, engaging areas of public realm which encourage people to dwell in a new series of green, vibrant external spaces.
The design forms of elements like the planters, seating and playful mounded landforms take their cues from cultural associations with Bath and the West Country – circular forms of the architecture, high quality handmade bronze work, a celebration of the written word and playful references to the local landscape character of hollows, combes, apple orchards and the legend of the Seven Hills of Bath.
Working alongside the Holburne Museum and a number of local primary schools, Macgregor Smith developed the theme of ‘an A-Z of what Bath means to me’ which culminated in the handcrafted bronze script incorporated into the feature lantern at the heart of the space. In the evening this lantern lights up to illuminate the square and projects the lettering onto the surrounding surfaces.
A seasonal planting palette has been utilised to maximise biodiversity opportunities and interest throughout the year. The summer scheme echos themes of an ‘English Country Garden’, with an eclectic mix of perennials and edibles celebrating the vibrant festival scene of Bath. Vivid colours and forms make for an eye-catching display and plant species are tailored throughout the year ensure that pollinator plants are present over an extended season for bees, hoverflies and other pollinating insects. Espalier apple trees are trained around a handmade bronze framework to create a ‘circle’ of apples, representing the archetypal ‘Circus’ and Crescent’ architecture of Bath and referencing the traditional apple orchards of Somerset and the cultural heritage of wassailing.
SouthGate hosts a series of successful events throughout the year, connecting in with the City’s busy festival programme. The new placemaking designs continue to foster these events by being flexible enough to be moved around during ‘event’ mode whilst also enhancing the space during ‘every day’ mode when there are no events on. The modular, movable design of the bespoke bronze planters allows the space to rapidly transform to host large crowds and outdoor performances.
Public safety and hostile vehicle mitigation formed a key design consideration for the landscape proposals, especially in Brunel Square which is located immediately next to Bath Spa train station. The considered approach to the design and arrangement of furniture within the square provides ‘duck and cover’ refuge and reduces risk without the need for extensive HVM infrastructure such as bollard lines and barriers.
Formerly a hard paved space used more as a thoroughfare, the main square at SouthGate now buzzes with shoppers, students, families and children, mingling and playing amongst the lawn ‘combes’ and relaxing amongst the planting. The scheme champions urban greening and promotes edibles and wildlife habitat within the public realm, all helping to make our cities happier and healthier places in which to live and work.
The SouthGate project was a classic example of the changing face the high street, with our brief focused on a desire to really enliven and enhance the previously bland public realm. The scheme has been an overwhelming success, with the animation and greening of the public spaces encouraging a more diverse range of users and significantly longer dwell times that extend throughout the day and into the evening.” British Land
Landscape Architects: Macgregor Smith Landscape Architects
Location: Bath, UK
Client: British Land / AVIVA
Role of your office in the project: Project Landscape Architects
Design Team: Rowney Sharman (PM), EVOLVE (Structures), TUV-SUD (M&E)
Street Furniture: Woodscape, Inspired Metal
Landscape Contractor: Havercroft
Nurseries: Katharina von Ehren, Robin Tacchi Plants
Design year: 2016-2019
Year Built: 2019
Photography: Macgregor Smith, SouthGate Bath, Inspired Metal