The Southbank Centre has withdrawn proposals to build a pop-up bar on the roof of London’s Royal Festival Hall after a torrent of objections
The centre, together with hospitality venue operator Incipio Group, applied to the Lambeth Council to create a 686m² pavilion to serve as a bar and restaurant.
But the proposals drew criticism from heritage groups including a strongly worded objection from Historic England, which described it as a ‘major insensitive intervention’ to one of the UK’s best-loved post-war buildings.
The Southbank Centre said it had withdrawn its application for the rooftop bar because the feasibility of the retail proposition developed by the operator had proved ‘more challenging than anticipated’.
A spokesperson said: ‘It is with regret therefore that we have decided to withdraw the current planning application and will consider further options for the space to help secure new income streams in order to help us maintain our estate and the fabric of the Grade I-listed Royal Festival Hall, and to deliver on our charitable objective to provide “Art for All” at a time of falling public funding.’
Under the submitted proposals, the bar – Pergola on the River – would have been removed after three years to make way for an outdoor performance space.
The application stated the pergola would be an ‘enabling development’ with money generated by the bar and restaurant helping to pay for improvements to the Royal Festival Hall.
A heritage statement produced on behalf of the applicants said the pergola, designed by interior design firm Tibbatts Abel, would lead to some harm to the Royal Festival Hall, but that Lambeth should ‘should take into account the quality of the proposals, and the temporary nature’.
It said the permanent performance space would have a ‘very minor visual effect’ on the river-facing elevation.
But Historic England said while it welcomed the Southbank Centre’s intention to open up the riverside roof as a performance space it had ‘serious concerns’ about the designs for the pavilion.
‘The pavilion would largely obscure the iconic “Royal Festival Hall” signage and much of the curved roof for three years,’ it said, adding: ‘We are sympathetic to the Southbank Centre’s needs to fund its important cultural work but we are not convinced that alternative locations on the Southbank Centre site have been fully explored, alongside other means of income generation.’
Royal festival hall tep pergola massing
The Twentieth Century Society, which also objected to the pop-up, welcomed the withdrawal of the application.
Case officer Grace Etherington said: ’We are happy to see the harmful plans have been withdrawn. We are hopeful that the Southbank Centre have come to realise the significance and popularity of the Royal Festival Hall, and we see this decision as a footing for a celebratory and sympathetic approach to preserving the jewel in the South Bank’s crown.’
The Royal Festival Hall was designed by a team from London County Council’s Architect’s Department, led by Leslie Martin and built between 1949 and 1951.
It was one of the most important Modernist buildings built in Britain and was Grade I listed in 1988.
In 2007 the building reopened following a refurbishment by Allies and Morrison and an extensive acoustic upgrade by US consultancy Kirkegaard.
Incipio Group declined to comment.
Happy weekend everyone! Looks like this terrible idea was run up the flagpole and hastily pulled back down in a hailstorm of rightful complaints and justified objections from people who love the Royal Festival Hall. https://t.co/1qJbS4xW1c— C20 Society (@C20Society) October 12, 2018
Royal festival hall temp pergola sketch