As the Waterloo local community group celebrated its 30th anniversary recently, thoughts turned to where exactly the South Bank arts centre is going. The answer is, it is going rather well. It has a positive new director, Michael Lynch, a sense of purpose in relation to public realm improvements, and indeed active building work taking place on site, including splendid new external stairs designed by Allies and Morrison, next to the Royal Festival Hall. Jubilee Gardens, for so long a spoil tip, is looking green and fresh.
You could almost be forgiven for thinking that all in the garden is lovely. Alas, that is not the case.
There is still no clear conclusion about the future of the Hungerford car park site owned by the South Bank Centre (SBC), which has ambitions to develop a cultural building on it, probably for the British Film Institute. It appears that there are officials within the Greater London Authority who believe this site is sacrosanct open space, and seem committed to blocking anything happening there. This is unlikely to go down well with mayor Livingstone, who wants things to happen right across the South Bank. There is also the question of the long-term future of the gardens, and indeed the Rick Mather masterplan for the entire South Bank site. Still, the fundamentals of the masterplan approach are intact, and the sequential improvements to various pieces of public realm show what can be achieved by quiet determination. SBC can choose a landscape architect for the gardens from a previously selected shortlist, and could make an application for the car park site using either Foreign Office Architects or Rafael Viñoly as architect.Would Lambeth council play ball?
Probably not, especially given its pathetic performance in refusing the Bovis/Shell/Arup Associates building, now going to appeal.
Heads still need knocking together, and perhaps the mayor can do it.