South Bank undercroft: reframing the definition and meaning of heritage

We will occasionally highlight related projects. These are projects by one of the core partners in collaboration with others in the field of heritage and planning. “You Can’t Move History. You Can Secure The Future” is such a project.


Blog by: Dave Webb

A new report considers the distinctive nature of heritage claims which have been made by skate boarders and campaigners fighting to save the undercroft area of London’s South Bank. An innovative, award-winning and hard fought campaign led to the use of a section 106 agreement to preserve the use of the undercroft for skateboarding and other urban arts such as graffiti and BMX’ing. The report draws on in-depth engagement with those involved in the campaign to map out precisely what was so different about the way they understood heritage and its value.

The main findings were:

  • Firstly, the ways in which young people conceptualised time differed from the understandings currently embedded in the legislative heritage system.
  • Secondly, there was no distinction between intangible and tangible heritage within the minds of the young people. Rather, the practice of skateboarding was inextricably connected to the physical space in which it was expressed.
  • Thirdly, the young people valued the architecture for what it enabled them to do in terms of physically challenging them, stimulating their minds and facilitating social interaction. This led to a less bounded, site-based interpretation of place and to a more networked understanding.
  • Finally, the report considers how the messages were communicated to conclude that young people developed their own mediums for communication that were often at odds with traditional ways of decision making.

The report is free to access and is available here (PDF)

There is also a website related to the project, with a historical archive detailing campaigning on the South Bank and an interactive guide to some of the key concepts used in the research.


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