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Cabe reins in FCBS’s Southbank overhaul

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Cabe has said Feilden Clegg Bradley Studios (FCBS) needs more time to fix a range of ‘unresolved aspects’ on its £120 million Southbank overhaul

The architecture watchdog said the high-profile project required further refining to ‘create a scheme that fully lives up to the significance of the Southbank Centre’.

It argued the proposal – submitted for planning in May and planned to start in 2014 – would have benefited from an ‘extended pre-planning phase’ to further develop plans for the London County Council (LCC)-designed landmark and scrutinise outcomes.

It said: ‘The design team should be given more time to deal with the unresolved aspects of the proposal before planning.’

Dubbed Festival Wing, the 28,000m² overhaul creates a new glazed ‘liner’ building and semi-transparent sky pavilion on the Brutalist concrete complex.

In a report published following design review, the organisation said it supported the composition of the two additions but warned the raised auditorium was ‘less convincing’ than the ‘compelling’ liner.

It said the existing concrete structures should ‘have more space to breathe’ and suggested reducing the extension’s footprints ‘particularly where the Liner Building juts out over the roof of the Queen Elizabeth Hall.’

Commenting on the pavilion, Cabe added: ‘We still feel that there may be a structural solution that contributes more to the intended floating character, perhaps a light steel structure that would contrast the earthbound horizontal layering of the existing buildings in a more delicate and sensitive way.’

Turning to design approach, the report warned the sky pavilion’s elevations were ‘yet to match the admirable ambition for this significant project’ adding itsproposed subtle variations could be ‘too fine to be perceived from a distance.’

It said: ‘The quality of detailing and materials is crucial for the success of the scheme and we urge the design team, the client and the local authority to ensure that the intended quality will be delivered and not diluted through value-engineering and the construction process.’

Despite the criticism, Cabe praised the scheme’s permeability and accessibility upgrades which include creating a new grand staircase and single foyer serving the Queen Elizabeth Hall, Purcell Room and Hayward Gallery venues.

It said: ‘We are impressed by the benefits of the project and commend the intelligent transformation of the site.’

Plans to reorganise the 1960 icon’s ‘forbidding undercroft spaces’ were also supported despite a petition featuring more than 58,000 signatures opposing  plans to relocate a subterranean skate park to nearby Hungerford Bridge.

In May, the Twentieth Century (C20) said it was ‘extremely concerned’ by the redevelopment, arguing the liner building could impact on views from Waterloo bridge of the Royal Festival Hall and the National Theatre.

Former architecture minister John Penrose twice refused to list the angular complex against the recommendation of English Heritage which supports the current plans. Previously called the Southbank Concert Halls, the complex opened in 1968 as part of an LCC masterplan for the post-industrial area’s transformation.


The festival Wing

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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