Unlike many others, I never learned to hate the exciting ad-hoc geometry of the Queen Elizabeth Hall and Hayward Gallery complex on the South Bank, and consider it scandalous that it has been left to deteriorate while Lottery-inspired vultures circle overhead. Now that the refurbished Royal National Theatre is reaching completion, it is possible to appreciate an alternative strategy for the redevelopment of these buildings.
Architects to the National have created vibrant new spaces, using complementary materials to enhance the fabric and structure of the original buildings. Rather than throwing Richard Rogers' fashionable glass blanket over these 'unloved' buildings, sense could be made of the whole by providing coherent additions, defining clearer boundaries and routes, and creating inviting spaces.
As a paragon for the Millennium, the megastructure antecedents of the glass wave are questionable. As an architectural solution, it's an easy gesture that has been around too long; clinging on to the 'big idea', Rogers conceals problems rather than addressing them. From the evidence so far, the design fails precisely where it needs to excel: at the periphery. Rogers and the South Bank Board should be encouraged to drop the gestural for workable and no less interesting alternative strategies, which engage the existing buildings and those around them.