Each of the principal cities of the Central South region – Southampton, Portsmouth, Bournemouth/Christchurch/Poole – offer distinctly different urban experiences. Whilst they are all, naturally, in competition, to a degree, their particular components, assets, relationships, settings, stories, economies and communities mean each is attractive to a vastly and subtly alternative clientele.
Southampton could be the rhythm section of a blues band – solidly reliable, deeply rooted, and the foundation at the heart of the region. Bournemouth, in contrast, has the swing and sweep of a pop-soul orchestra – a place in the business of Show. Portsmouth, meanwhile, with its waterfront attractions, offers a series of outstanding soloists to accent the overall ensemble.
Part of their DNA derives from the unique pattern of their streets, parks and neighbourhoods. And to the manner in which each city relates to the ocean. All three grew because they offered access to the sea, albeit for different reasons and in distinctive ways.
Southampton and Portsmouth are commercial and military ports respectively, each built around the demands of ocean-going ships for servicing, crew, freight, supplies and rest-and-recuperation. The historic cores of both cities remain, whilst both were successively amended to make access to the ports easier, and the cities themselves were expanded in to the water to allow expansion of their ports.
Bournemouth’s origins as a spa town are much more recent and its genteel modernity quite at odds with its robust older cousins to the east. A planned town of pavilions and villas its seafront beaches are the draw, and its central Gardens the route to them. Whilst the ports are launchpads for voyages long or short, this seaside town’s existence is based around the desire to paddle.
The evolution of each city continues, with an increase in pace reflecting their buoyant local economies and the growing appetite for urban living, working and leisure. More than ever in living memory, each is the focus for their communities, their centres embracing sustainable urbanity, with high quality architecture and public realm alongside historic quarters in the best european tradition.