The public realm around the Royal Festival Hall is to be transformed as part of the refurbishment of the Grade I-listed building by Allies and Morrison.
The Royal Festival Hall is unique in its conception of a building as public open space; accessible from all directions and from different levels. Festival Square will become a strategically positioned urban plaza with cafÚ terraces, public art and performance space, anchoring the Royal Festival Hall within the Borough of Lambeth and allowing for diagonal pedestrian movement. River Link Square will transform the run-down leftover space between the Royal Festival Hall and the Hayward Gallery into an attractive new entrance plaza. Riverside Terrace, the frontage of the Royal Festival Hall towards the River Thames, has already undergone a major transformation as part of the phase one works. The removal of a service road and the installation of an elegant, slightly curved, flight of steps have created a new public open space. The curve of the steps reflects the curved facade of the original 1950s theatre, which itself originated from the curve of the Thames. The steps incorporate a 1:20 ramp and allow for direct pedestrian flow between Queen's Walk and the Royal Festival Hall.
Bright yellow canopies designed by Allies and Morrison demarcate new entrances, while newly introduced shops and cafÚs with outdoor seating animate the space. The steps, ramps and plantingarea walls are constructed from solid-black granite by Marshalls. The noses of the steps are marked with an inset of contrasting light-coloured granite, and the different finishes of the flamed tread and honed riser gives a subtle tonal effect.
The lower terrace adjacent to the Royal Festival Hall consists of a hard Guinet-Derriaz limestone paving laid in a square format diagonal to the building. A drainage grille formed from black Hardscape granite marks the transition between the granite and the limestone surfaces. The handrails, manufactured by Steel Arts Fabrications, are made from bronze with steel uprights, while a series of four angled masts, manufactured by Abacus with lighting by iGuzzini, provide lighting and demarcate the space. Two groups of existing acacia trees are retained and incorporated in planting areas, which form an integral part of the flight of steps. The combination of sculptural acacia trees with under-storey planting of slender grasses provides a lush atmosphere.