The Future Of The Southbank Centre

Images of a planned revamp of the Southbank Centre emerged earlier today.

The Sixties-era complex, which comprises the Hayward Gallery, Purcell Rooms and Queen Elizabeth Hall, is the subject of a £120 million refurb. The scheme, by Fielden Clegg Bradley Studios, is dominated by a large new glazed pavilion, while much of the existing Brutalist architecture is disguised with glazing and greenery. There’s also a new glass block that extends along the side of Waterloo bridge, which will house cultural programmes, while around 20% of the new space will be given to retail units..

While conservative groups may kvetch at the update, the Southbank Centre is in need of it. Sandwiched between Royal Festival Hall (itself sensitively redeveloped a few years ago) and the National Theatre, which is getting a refurb of its own, the Southbank has long seemed a complex lacking in an identity of its own; the director, Jude Kelly, called it a “Cinderella space”. The revamp, which will see it dubbed Festival Way, should make it a more significant cultural destination. But there will be casualties: the skateboard and graffiti park will be moved to beneath the Hungerford Bridge, with shops and restaurants filling the space, while all three buildings would close for three years during construction work.

The proposal will go out for consultation in the spring. A public exhibition of the plans will go on display at Royal Festival Hall later this week.

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  • Dave H

    “But there will be casualties: the skateboard and graffiti park will be moved to beneath the Hungerford Bridge, with shops and restaurants filling the space”

    This is a mild shame. While the skaters’/painters’ abode is itself a bit clichéd now, I’m not sure the area needs any more soulless chain restaurants or tourist-trap retail (which are almost certainly destined for this space).

    • http://londonist.com/ Dean Nicholas

      Hopefully not, and if we judge by previous or existing restaurants on the site as it is today, such as the Wahaca Southbank Experiment and the pop-up Yalla Yalla that sat outside the Hayward last summer, the owners are aware of the need to allow less obvious businesses to get established.

    • http://twitter.com/andybrice Andy Brice

      More retail and restaurants may not necessarily add to the area’s cultural capital; but they will fund the centre, keeping it alive and healthy.

      It’s perhaps a slight shame to relocate the skate park, but I’m heartened that they now recognise it, and its graffiti, as an important part of the centre’s culture, and something to be conserved.

  • http://www.facebook.com/rob.s.smith Rob Smith

    Im worried we will lose all our 60s 70s concrete architecture because its unfashionable now. Hard to imagine but we may come to love these bold aggresive buildings in 20-30 years time. An era when the public purse could afford to build uncompromising structures without having to worry about creating restaurants and retail spaces. Why not keep the buildings as they are but refurbish them. Things like making sure you dont get huge puddles would be nice, and putting some money aside for cleaning would be good. The garden on top of Queen Elizabeth Hall was an excellent example of what can be done to debrutalise the building without resorting to glass cladding everywhere.

    • http://twitter.com/andybrice Andy Brice

      As Brutalism goes, the Southbank Centre is particularly elegant. But it’s important to conserve the buildings’ functional purpose, rather than just preserve their physical appearance.

      From the visuals, it looks like they’ll be extending them quite sensitively. I can’t help thinking the original architects would wholeheartedly approve of this kind of structural glasswork if they’d had the technology originally. It’s generally in-keeping with the principles of Modernism.

    • http://londonist.com/ Dean Nicholas

      Given the number of listed Brutalist buildings in London (Centre Point and the Barbican are Grade II, as are both Royal Festival Hall and the National Gallery) I don’t think we’re in any danger of losing them just yet.