Last night's public meeting on the future of London's South Bank, and more particularly the Jubilee Gardens site in front of the Shell Centre, promised to be a lively affair. Recent changes to Lambeth council have resulted in a council leader who is also a ward councillor for the area in question.
He is bitterly opposed to any building on the so-called Hungerford Car Park site, designated as metropolitan open land; the main local action group wants Jubilee Gardens extended over this site up as far as the bridge itself. This is a problem for the South Bank Centre, which controls both sites, since it wishes to see a cultural building located on the car park site, though not occupying all of it. Can a compromise be found?
The ambition to put any sort of commercial building on the site seems to have evaporated, as has the likelihood of buildings being inserted into a raised mound as originally envisaged. On the plus side, the SBS has a shortlist of five landscape architects selected using OJEC procedures, from which it could choose a designer for the gardens, and indeed other discrete landscape projects around the wider site.West 8, which won the original competition for the site, is still on the list. As far as the cultural building is concerned, Foreign Office Architects and Rafael Viñoly are still in there, though since the brief has changed, it might be appropriate to reconsider the shortlist from which they emerged, which included Zaha Hadid among others. Meanwhile, what of Shell's scheme by Arup Associates to place an office and retail complex to the west of its existing premises on the 'podium' site? Lambeth is apparently rushing round trying to find reasons to oppose it, even though the site is certainly not open space in a technical planning sense. Since the scheme incorporates the possibility of a high-level link between Waterloo Station and Lifschutz Davidson's new Hungerford Bridge pedestrian walkway, there is a lot to be said for it.More on the event next week.