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No makeshift solution for South Bank . . .

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Letters

I may be a 'Twentieth Century Society stalwart' (aj 17/24.12.98), but I should make it clear that my suggestion that the Hayward and Queen Elizabeth Hall be rebuilt on the Hungerford car-park site is not society policy; like English Heritage, the society has proposed that they be listed.

But I believe the society is due credit for having asked in 1995 for a report (which I produced) on the competition that threw up the Rogers proposal, and for any alternative suggestions. In the context of the Rogers scheme, which was hugely expensive and would have left little of the Hayward and Queen Elizabeth Gallery in recognisable form, it was legitimate to suggest as one alternative that they be rebuilt in a better location, with potential urbanistic and conservation benefits to the Grade I-listed Festival Hall. It has yet to be demonstrated that 'their shortcomings as workplaces can be remedied without demolition', as you claim in your editorial (aj 7.1.99), at least in a way that would be compatible with listed building status; if they can, that might well be the best use of resources. Though we are familiar by now with the demolition of buildings of comparable age in the housing, office, and industrial fields, a very good case has clearly to be made in the case of public buildings with undoubted cultural significance and some hold on public affection, that adaptation is not possible. That case has yet clearly to be made in a way that would win acceptance for the huge expense involved in rebuilding.

But whatever action is taken, large sums should not be spent on an adaptation that undermines the architectural concept of what is there without putting anything coherent in its place: we should expect an entity and not a makeshift. I personally believe that there would be the potential by rebuilding on the Hungerford car park site to create a more humane and civilised environment on the South Bank, with a fine sequence of civic spaces. Whether that is what is in the mind of the South Bank Centre remains to be seen.

JAMES DUNNETT

London N1

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