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C20 Society demands ‘new thinking’ over FCBS' Southbank plans

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The Twentieth Century Society has written to Lambeth Council criticising Feilden Clegg Bradley’s £120m overhaul of the Southbank Centre and asking for ‘a fresh approach and new thinking’

Henrietta Billings, senior conservation advisor at the society, said the organisation was ‘very concerned about the visual impact’ of the development and its impact on the neighbouring Hayward gallery and Royal Festival Hall.

Dubbed Festival Wing, the 28,000m² overhaul is currently in for planning and, if approved, would create a new glazed ‘liner’ building and semi-transparent sky pavilion on top of the Brutalist concrete complex.

In a letter sent to the south London authority, the society warned it had particular concerns about the proposed liner block: ‘We still have major concerns about the size and projection of the liner building and its effect on the setting of the National Theatre and views of the theatre from Hungerford Bridge.

‘We are also concerned that the vast scale of the liner building and its siting will result in an obstructive visual ‘book end’ that cuts off the South Bank Centre from the National Theatre.’

‘In addition, one of the principle failings of this element of the design of the scheme is that it treats the Waterloo Bridge elevation of the Southbank Centre as a ‘back’ and does not appreciate the 3D composition value of this elevation.’

Billings also cited concerns over how the new foyer space would impact on the existing foyer of the Queen Elizabeth Hall, and on the proposed relocation of the skateboarding park from the undercroft.

She stated: ‘We feel that the skateboarding use brings a unique visual and cultural interest to this part of the South Bank that draws in a large audience to the site in its own right. This allows a diverse audience to appreciate the sculptural form of the concrete mushroom columns of this undercroft space. We do not feel the communal value of this aspect site has been fully appreciated by the Southbank Centre.’

The criticism by the Twentieth Century Society is only the latest blow to the scheme.

Opposition to the relocation of the skateboarding park from the undercroft has gathered momentum, and Lambeth Council has confirmed that it has received an application to register the park as a Town/Village Green. The council will meet to decide the application on Thursday 11 July, and supporters hope this will prevent the skateboard park from relocation.

Meanwhile, last month Nicholas Hytner, director of the National Theatre, wrote to Lambeth Council raising his concerns over how the proposals would impact the site.

‘We consider that the proposed development, in particular the Liner Building, by virtue of its siting and scale contravenes relevant national, regional and local planning policies relating to the setting of the National Theatre, a grade II* structure; that the proposed building will abrogate the public perception of a unified cultural quarter; and that the wall effect it creates will undermine the amenity value of the National’s largest public open spaces,’ wrote Hytner.

The Liner Building was further described as an ‘overarching metaphor for the further segmentation of the most dynamic arts complex in the country, if not the world.’

Hytner also raised concerns over the impact on views of the South Bank, the potential loss of sunlight to public spaces and the proposed privatisation of the public terrace outside the Hayward Gallery.

Feilden Clegg Bradley’s £120million design was unveiled in March and includes plans for the glazed Liner Building and a semi-transparent, box-like sky pavilion, sitting on top of the 1967 Brutalist landmark. The plans will add 28,000m2 of space and will house new educational facilities, restaurants and shops.




Previous story

C20 Society snipes at FCBS’ Southbank overhaul

Merlin Fulcher, 1 May 2013

The Twentieth Century (C20) Society has warned it is ‘extremely concerned’ over parts of Feilden Clegg Bradley Studios’ Southbank Centre redevelopment

The conservation body questioned the visual impact of a proposed ‘liner building’, arguing the structure could impact on views from Waterloo bridge of the Royal Festival Hall and the National Theatre.

Unveiled last month, the £120 million Festival Wing project doubles the size of the Thameside Brutalist concrete complex by introducing a glazed ‘liner’ building and a semi-transparent, box-like sky pavilion.

In a statement, the C20 Society said: ‘We have specific concerns regarding the projecting end of the liner building, and its overhang on Queens Walk, and the visual impact of that projection – it appears that it would exceed the current building line of the Southbank Centre and the Royal Festival Hall.

‘This overhang would also obstruct important views of the National Theatre from Hungerford Bridge.’

The society however welcomed the proposal’s ‘light touch’ approach to refurbishing the Queen Elizabeth Hall, Purcell Room and Hayward Gallery.

An online petition calling for Lambeth Council, the Southbank Centre, Boris Johnson, Arts Council England to halt plans to relocate the complex’s skatepark has meanwhile amassed 25,400 signatures.  

The project is expected to be submitted for planning later this month.


FCBS’s festival Wing project

The Southbank Concert Halls opened in 1968 as part of a London County Council-backed masterplan for the post-industrial area’s transformation. The complex's redevelopment has been masterplanned by Rick Mather since 1999


The Southbank Concert Halls opened in 1968 as part of a London County Council-backed masterplan for the post-industrial area’s transformation. The complex’s redevelopment has been masterplanned by Rick Mather since 1999


Queen Elizabeth Hall
The auditorium will be refurbished with the width of the stage expanded to create wing space with less impact on sightlines. Artistic and technical facilities will be upgraded along with back of house and disability access. New access will be provided to central foyer.

Purcell Room
Auditorium and back of house will be refurbished to improved stage access. technical facilities and disability access are to be upgraded. A new entrance will create access from the central foyer.

Hayward Gallery
Galleries to be refurbishing with improved access through spaces to enable free exhibitions. The iconic pyramid roof will be replicated to improve lighting and be made watertight. Access to the central foyer and a new secure loading bay will be created.

New Central Foyer
A glazed atrium between the Queen Elizabeth Hall and Purcell Room and Hayward Gallery is planned as an ‘artistic and social hub’ linking the complex to the British Film Institute and National Theatre.

Glass Pavilion
A floating venue designed to hold a 150-strong orchestra and a choir of up to 250 people with a small audience. It will also host corporate events

The ‘liner’ building
Between the Queen Elizabeth Hall and Waterloo Bridge, the glazed ‘liner’ building will provide space for educational, artistic and commercial cultural uses. Designed as a large flexible space, the flexible space will host a broader, year-round education programme for all age groups and abilities. The Saison Poetry Library will move from Level 5 in the Royal Festival Hall to join a literature and spoken word space in a new literature centre, and two new restaurants will overlook the river.

Undercrofts will be reclaimed for artistic and cultural uses; including a new venue for gigs, dance, cabaret, music and spoken word events and a space for young people.

Heritage and Archive Space
Occupying the undercoft, the public facility will explore the site’s history and include hands-on installations.

Kid’s area
Designed for children and families, the undercroft facility will feature storytelling and interactive activities alongside exhibitions and a family restaurant. It will also be home to the childrens’ collection of the Poetry Library.

Green spaces
New public spaces include a square and two new roof gardens.

Urban arts
New riverside area for skateboarders, BMX and graffiti located under Hungerford Bridge and visible to the public from Queen’s Walk

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