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South Bank remodelling up for grabs in new competitions

The South Bank Centre (SBC) this week launched two major architectural competitions for the overhaul of its prime 4ha site between the London Eye and Waterloo Bridge.

The first area to be redeveloped will be Jubilee Gardens, which is to be doubled in size and will feature new office and arts buildings beside it and underneath it.The site's masterplanner, Rick Mather, and DEGW partner Frank Duffy are overseeing the £60 million competition for a large office building, a new national film theatre complex, a concert hall and a multiplex cinema.

The second competition is for a £15 million landscaping project which includes an expanded Jubilee Gardens and landscaping between the rest of the arts buildings on the SBC site, including the area around the Royal Festival Hall.

The competition launches follow a 250,000-person public consultation exercise. SBC is claiming widespread support for the scheme and all but three of the 2,045 people who responded to the questionnaire gave Mather's draft masterplan a rating higher than 50 per cent.

But the reworking of Jubilee Gardens as a 1.5ha rooftop park remains the most controversial and uncertain element of the plan.

In February, local residents attacked the draft masterplan proposal for an elevated park on top of a three-storey building as 'a forecourt to a developer's dream' and called for a flat park instead. They complained that the park would be inaccessible to local residents and they say, because it slopes down towards the Thames it would effectively 'turn its back' on the hinterland. However, plans for the park are flexible, according to SBC commercial director Mike McCart. He said that 'the height and contours of the park, the form that the edges take and views across the site from the hinterland will all be considered by the architect'.

The other commercial building on the site, the socalled 'blade building', which will mask off Hungerford Bridge, is also in line for a rethink.

'In the consultation 17 per cent of people commented on the 'blade building' and there is a general nervousness about changing the balance of the cultural centre with the commercial use, ' McCart said. 'We need to ask if we could achieve the commercial buildings in a different way.' In the draft masterplan the building is around eight stories high.

The winner of the landscaping competition will also work with the developers of the neighbouring Shell Centre, Eric Kuhne Architects and Lend Lease, McCart said.

'Shell have intimated that they are willing to use our landscape architect for the Shell Centre as well, ' he said.

An integrated masterplan for the two sites is also being explored.

Both competitions will be advertised in the Official Journal of the European Community and appointments will be announced early next year.A panel of international architects is being selected to judge the entries, although the list has yet to be announced.Detailed planning applications will be submitted in mid 2001 with work on the gardens and buildings starting in 2002.

Competitions for the reworking of the Hayward Gallery and the Queen Elizabeth Hall and Purcell Rooms will follow in the next six months.

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