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BFI scraps Ole Scheeren-designed Film Centre on London’s South Bank

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The British Film Institute (BFI) has dropped plans by former OMA star Ole Scheeren to build a new £130 million headquarters building on London’s South Bank 

Early last year the BFI chose project partner Bangkok-based Pace Development, with Scheeren, as its preferred bidder to fund, design and construct the Film Centre scheme on the Hungerford car park site, overlooking the River Thames. It was originally aiming to open the new central London building in 2022.

However, it is understood the institute concluded it would now be unable to secure full planning for the proposals before the end of next year (2019) – a deadline linked to the lease requirements of the plot – and has therefore scrapped the proposals.

The scheme, designed in collaboration with Haworth Tompkins, would have been Scheeren’s first in the UK.

The BFI said it was instead looking to upgrade its existing facilities. A spokesperson said: ‘The BFI has taken the decision to withdraw its current development plans for a Film Centre on the Hungerford Car Park site at South Bank, London.

‘[We are] steadfastly committed to the culture of film and the future of the moving image, and we remain focused on the urgent and much-needed investment in our current home, BFI Southbank, planning to start in early 2018 with a major refurbishment project of BFI Southbank’s Riverfront.

‘We also continue to explore additional places where audiences, filmmakers, artists and storytellers can learn and experiment with this dynamic art form and where creativity, technology and innovation can flourish.’

The BFI has wanted to build a new home on the site of the Hungerford car park for nearly a decade, but has never been able to secure funding for the scheme. 

In October 2009, prime minister Gordon Brown pledged £45 million to the BFI to build a centre on the site of the Hungerford car park. However, following a change of government, the then culture secretary, Jeremy Hunt, removed the funding in 2010 as part of deficit reduction measures.

Pace Developments subsequently offered to provide £87 million for the Film Centre project, as well as providing full design, build and partial fit-out. In return, it is understood, the company wanted full naming rights for the building, exclusivity of food and beverage sales in the venue, and partial repayment of the funding over a period of time.

It is believed that New York-based food brand Dean & DeLuca had also been working on the bid. Scheeren, whose Interlace housing scheme in Singapore was named World Building of the Year at the 2015 World Architecture Festival, had worked with Dean & DeLuca previously on a fast-food concept, a prototype of which was showcased at Design Miami 2016.

In early 2016 it emerged that the British Film Institute had received an £87 million funding proposal from a mystery investor to support the South Bank project. 

At the time the BFI said the potential investor could not be named because of laws around public procurement and the fact that there could be another investor. But, according to the OJEU documentation, Pace Developments’ bid was the only one formally considered by the BFI.

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