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Competitions ahead in South Bank rethink

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Another competition, or possibly several, look likely following the demise of the Richard Rogers Partnership's 'glass wave' scheme for London's South Bank. The South Bank Centre's new chairman, developer Elliott Bernerd, is currently working on a new basic plan for the area, using Rogers as a consultant and his research as the basis for fresh thinking. 'We're in the kitchen and we hope to have something to show you soon,' said Bernerd at a press lunch last week.

A personal friend of Lord Rogers, Bernerd is not embarrassed about being critical of the competition-winning scheme which sparked controversy among conservationists because of its impact on the Royal Festival Hall. The Chelsfield chairman says it was an all-or-nothing scheme incapable of being adapted or phased without major difficulty. 'Things have moved on,' he said.

The likely future of the cultural centre, judging by the new chairman's comments, will be based on circulation taken back to ground level between Jubilee Gardens and the National Theatre. Most, though not necessarily all, of the existing buildings would be retained. There would be some retail uses on the site, but only those which relate to the cultural activities of the South Bank.

Once a basic plan has been adopted, the centre will hold further design competitions (one is already under way into the Jubilee Gardens site), and funding approaches will be made to Lottery bodies. Bernerd has kept in close touch with Gerry Robinson, head of the Arts Council (the site's ultimate owner).

Paul Finch

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