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FIRST LOOK

FCBS completes revamp of ‘timeless’ Southbank Centre venues

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The Queen Elizabeth Hall and Purcell Room reopen today following two years of refurbishment with environmentally improved facilities 

Led by Feilden Clegg Bradley Studios with Max Fordham, Arup and BAM Construction, the project sought to emphasise the Brutalist detailing of the buildings.

The main elements of the restoration include refurbished auditoria, a redesigned back-of-house with new artists’ entrance, and a revamped Queen Elizabeth Hall foyer with an expanded 1,000-capacity space. Throughout, access has been improved and new ventilation, lighting systems and production infrastructure installed.

In the auditoria, the timber-lined and concrete performance spaces have been cleaned, with the timber panelling French polished and the board-marked concrete restored, using Arte Mundit, a latex poultice usually used on classical sculpture.

Detail of refurbished queen elizabeth hall. photo credit morley von sternberg

A new timber lining to the Queen Elizabeth Hall stage improves acoustics. The two fixed lighting bridges have been replaced by a retractable flown bridge, while the original aluminium and leather seats have been reupholstered, with new wooden ventilation grills installed below as part of a strategy of energy efficient climate control.

The shared foyer has been revitalised by reintroducing natural light and views of the Thames. Its original aesthetic has been emphasised by relocating equipment away from the distinctive mushroom-headed columns and by recreating 19 pyramid lighting features with sound-absorbing timber linings. The 1,000 capacity venue gives the space a new versatility as a performance venue. There is a larger redesigned café and bars, with interior design by Archer Humphryes Architects intended to chime with the building’s heritage with Ercol butterfly chairs, Louis Weisdorf pendant lights, Aram tables and handmade tiles. 

Detail of queen elizabeth hall foyer. photo credit morley von sternberg (4).jpg

A new fern garden has also been created in the Queen Elizabeth Hall conservatory, set around a sculptural obelisk by artist Cyprien Galliard made from the crushed concrete of a demolished Glasgow housing estate. 

Backstage, artists and performers have new accessible dressing rooms, each with its own mushroom-head column as a centrepiece, and a brand new artists’ entrance and backstage bar, with large rooflights that bring in daylight for the first time.

Detail of queen elizabeth hall new artist bar (backstage) photo credit morley von sternberg(1)

Architect’s view 

It has been a great privilege to work on such radically significant buildings as the Queen Elizabeth Hall and Hayward Gallery. The more we have uncovered them, the more we have come to respect them as 1960s icons. With the refurbishment complete they have now achieved a sense of timelessness.

Peter Clegg, senior partner, Feilden Clegg Bradley Studios

New queen elizabeth hall accessible artist dressing room. photo credit morley von sternberg

Project data

Architect Feilden Clegg Bradley Studios
Funding Arts Council England, Heritage Lottery Fund, public & private donations and corporate partners
Project manager and structural engineer Arup
Services engineer and environmental consultant Max Fordham
Cost consultant and CDM co-ordinator Gardiner & Theobald
Acoustic consultant Ramboll UK
Theatre consultant Charcoal Blue / Southbank Centre
Fire engineering The Fire Surgery
Planning consultant Gerald Eve
Building regulations Approved Inspector Services
Commissioning engineers Banyards
Asbestos consultant Adams Environmental
Foyer fit-out interior design Archer Humphryes Architects
Main contractor BAM Construction
Enabling works contractor Keltbray

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