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Penrose refuses to list Southbank Centre and Waterloo Station

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Architecture Minister John Penrose has ignored English Heritage’s advice and refused listing to the Southbank Arts Centre and Waterloo Station

The decision comes as a shock to the Twentieth Century Society which lobbied English Heritage to recommend the buildings for listing.

A spokesperson for the society said: ‘It’s a real shocker and this is really a clear review case for the Twentieth Century Society and we will be pushing for review.

‘If [Penrose] is clearing the backlog one has to question, particularly in light of this decision, how carefully he is looking at English Heritage’s recommendations.’

A letter from the minister announcing the decision said: ‘[There] are aspects of the Southbank Centre which have never functioned as intended, the architecture is poorly resolved, the structures are not unique or groundbreaking and the individuals behind Archigram had limited influence on the building’s design.’

The Twentieth Century Society in 2007 petitioned for listing of the 1968 Southbank Arts Centre. The complex includes the Hayward Gallery (pictured), Purcell Room and Queen Elizabeth Hall.

With regards to Waterloo Train Station the minister’s letter said: ‘[Apart] from Victory Arch (which is already listed, as you know), the rest of Waterloo Station is not of special architectural or historic interest.’

There are no immediate plans to redevelop the station but a spokesperson for Network Rail said: ‘There will come a time when we need to do something to increase capacity.’

The Grimshaw-designed Waterloo International train shed, which is of particular interest to the Twentieth Century Society, is owned by the Department for Transport. It is unknown whether the owner plans to redevelop the site.

English Heritage’s official response to the Waterloo Station decision


We are naturally disappointed that the Minister has declined to list Waterloo station.  We continue to believe that it possesses special architectural and historic interest in a national context, and that listing would have been an appropriate way to recognise and identify exactly what areas of the station are special.

Waterloo station was undoubtedly one of the most ambitious of the great London terminus stations of the early twentieth century – constructed from 1907 – 1922 to the designs of London and South Western Railway (LSWR) Chief Architect, JW Jacomb-Hood, and later AW Szlumper.  The architectural finish was provided by James Robb Scott, Chief Architectural Assistant, who designed the impressive frontage building and concourse elevations.

English Heritage believes it has special interest for its innovative planning and as the sole British example of a modernised station design, pioneered in the USA, with emphasis on the concourse rather than the trainshed.  It possesses an elegant sweeping concourse, devoid of cluttering columns, and the frontage offers a handsome series of ranges in high quality materials with crisp detailing.  Regrettably, many of the grand public rooms have gone, although the former tea room, the Windsor Bar (now the travel centre) remains.  The room retains its ornate Louis Quinze style interior with a beamed coffered ceiling, tall mirrored wall panels enriched with swags, flower garlands, trophies and ribboned drops - it is a rare survival at a railway station.

The already listed Victory Arch (designed by Scott, sculpted Charles Whiffen), was created as an integral part of the station frontage, and continues to exists as a powerful and poignant reminder of the many numbers of war casualties sustained by the LSWR in the Great War and that Waterloo was a principal departure stations for the British Expeditionary Force (1914 and 1915).

Special architectural interest is also contained in Nicholas Grimshaw’s award winning international terminus - the former Eurostar trainshed is a hugely impressive piece of structural engineering, an elegant reinterpretation of the great iron and glass trainsheds of the Victorian era.

Recognising architectural and historic interest through listing and providing modern and flexible facilities for the millions of travellers that use the station every year, are not mutually exclusive aspirations, as the hugely successful conservation-led redevelopment of St Pancras station has shown.  We hope that Network Rail will continue to recognise the long term benefits of investing in the historic environment and will be sensitive to the intrinsic heritage value of Waterloo Station.

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