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News: Smith urged to intervene in South Bank demolition plans

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The Twentieth Century Society has written to culture secretary Chris Smith slamming Elliott Bernerd's proposals for large-scale demolition at London's South Bank. It takes particular exception to proposals to knock down the Hayward Gallery and the building containing the Queen Elizabeth Hall and Purcell Room. Kenneth Powell, consultant director of the Twentieth Century Society, wrote: 'Though still unlisted, these buildings have twice been recommended for listing by English Heritage, and the complex is generally recognised as a significant example of the architecture of the 1960s.' He added: 'We believe . . . that the merits of the existing buildings and their potential for future use should form part of brief of the forthcoming masterplan.'

Bernerd, a property developer who became chairman of the South Bank Centre earlier this year, proposes the demolitions as part of a plan to extend the range of the South Bank Centre beyond its current limits of Hungerford and Waterloo Bridges. It would stretch through Jubilee Gardens to the Millennium Wheel and the edge of the old County Hall site in one direction, and by demolishing the National Film Theatre and the Museum of the Moving Image, it would extend through to the National Theatre. A new art gallery and concert halls would be built on the current car park to the west of Hungerford Bridge. A new National Film Theatre, momi and offices for the British Film Institute would then go on the vacated land. Jubilee Gardens is already to be redeveloped to designs by Dutch landscape practice West 8.

All this would evidently cost much more than the £25 million set aside by the Arts Council for redevelopment but, Bernerd said, 'the Arts Council has told me that the phasing is relevant. It is £25 million now. It's a question of what we need and when we need it'.

He added: 'Our cost, for two new auditoria and a Hayward Gallery, may be less than we were trying to do before.' The bfi, he said, would make a separate lottery application, and a private donor is willing to make a 'substantial donation'. The total cost of the slimmed-down Rogers scheme was £135 million, including £20 million for the refurbishment of the Royal Festival Hall by Allies & Morrison (the South Bank will reapply to the hlf for money to do this).

The current masterplan was drawn up internally, with advice from Frank Duffy from degw and Diana May from Jones Lang Wootton, but Bernerd plans to interview prospective masterplanners in January, then hold competitions for the architects of the individual buildings. 'The buildings must be of immensely high quality,' he said, 'to sit with the Grade I-listed Royal Festival Hall.'

Zaha Hadid has added her voice to those wanting to maintain the Hayward Gallery. Speaking in the gallery, where she designed the 'Addressing the Century' exhibition, at the launch of her Contemporary Arts Center for Cincinnati (aj 3/10.12.98), she said: 'The Hayward is a very interesting volumetric space. They should think twice about knocking it down.'

One person who should be delighted with Bernerd's proposal is architect and Twentieth Century Society stalwart James Dunnett, who produced a broadly similar proposal some months ago, including the demolition and relocation to the car-park site of the Hayward Gallery and Queen Elizabeth Hall.

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