The Twentieth Century Society

100 Buildings 100 Years

Royal Festival Hall, London, R Matthew & J L Martin, 1951, listed Grade I

1951: Royal Festival Hall, London

Type: Entertainment
Architect: Robert Matthew and J L Martin with Peter Moro and the London County Council
Owners: Southbank Centre
Location: Belvedere Road, London, SE1 8XX

It is hard now to believe how disdainful many architects once were about the design style of the Festival Hall. The Thirties Society first lobbied for listing it in 1983, and once it was included in the first batch of post-war listings in 1988, its stock with the wider public began to rise.  The decorative Festival style acted as a soft way in for non-architects to understand and appreciate other kinds of Modernism, a trend that helped C20 mature and reach a wider public. One of the best things about the Festival Hall is its function as a people’s palace, or free clubhouse for anyone and everyone.

During the 1990s, however, the foyer spaces became increasingly cluttered with retail and cafés. The best part of Allies and Morrison’s refurbishment of 2004-07 was to return some clarity, but the concert hall interior lost some of its authenticity in the search for better acoustics.

by Alan Powers

Listing description