Client: City of Bath
Sector: Public Realm
How do you remodel the streets and public spaces of a heritage city like Bath? This was the question set to PearsonLloyd, when it was asked to design the city’s wayfinding system, bus shelters and street furniture. It proved to be a tough challenge: Bath’s preservation lobby – and a vocal group of protective residents – have a tendency to view changes made to the city as an act of cultural vandalism.
The project sprung from a wider Public Realm and Movement Strategy entitled ‘Creating the Canvas for Public Life in Bath’. Following a 30-year gap in Bath’s development, this 15-20 year project aims to transform the streets and public spaces of the city, to help re-vitalise its economy, identity, and stamp its relevance as a 21st-century city.
To develop a contemporary design aesthetic that would sit harmoniously in the city and appease the opposition, PearsonLloyd looked to the geometric forms of the city’s predominantly 18th century architecture; particularly its grid of broad streets and renowned Palladian buildings, squares and crescents. The studio also drew on Bath’s status as a model city of the Age of Enlightenment, and the scientific instruments associated with this period.
PearsonLloyd embodied this research in its proposal of a circular, vitreous enamel map, referencing the compass, lens and sundial. The circular shape proved a convenient form – the city sits in a bowl in the landscape, where the Avon Valley widens out, encircled by hills. The circular map is set within a rectangular, bronze, monolith. This bold, geometric aesthetic is shared by the studio’s bus shelters, composed of a series of bronze blocks. Collectively the products have a powerful, modern presence in Bath’s streetscape, all the while referencing the typology of the surrounding 18th century architecture.
While the aesthetic of the studio’s proposals nod to the city’s heritage, the integrated wayfinding graphics have been described as “wholly innovative” and “the first of its kind”. Collaborating with CityID and FWDesign, PearsonLloyd developed wayfinding graphics that successfully merge pedestrian and transport routes. Congestion at key stations is eased by encouraging movement between transport hubs and delivering whole journey times.
Besides designing the bus shelters and wayfinding system the studio is also developing benches, bins, bollards, water fountains, street trading units and bike stands. Bronze is used throughout, and the use of this material is key to the success of the products. Not only is it locally manufactured, it has an authenticity that complements Bath’s local stone and slate roofs; is easy (and therefore cheap) to maintain; and acquires a beautiful, rich patina over time.