Catherine Croft recently took part in a panel discussion organised by the New London Architecture forum, at which the competing pressures of heritage and development were debated. Also on the panel were representatives from the South Bank Centre, architects Feilden Clegg Bradley and SAVE Britain’s Heritage.
We are about to see proposals for the refurbishment and ‘upgrade’ of the South Bank’s Queen Elizabeth Hall, Purcell Room and Hayward Gallery. The complex, like Birmingham Central Library, is one of the most important pieces of Brutalist architecture in the country (both are on the WMF Watch List) and provides a coherent visual link between other listed buildings – the National Theatre (Grade II*) and Royal Festival Hall (Grade I), and we have repeatedly called for the listing of this ensemble.
We have been extensively consulted by the South Bank Centre on the development of their Conservation Management Plan. We are still waiting to see the plans for the centre, which are rumoured to include increasing the amount of retail space by inserting shops and restaurants in the undercrofts (where the skateboarders have made themselves at home). Large scale permanent development on the terraces and roofs above could obscure much of their wonderful sculptural form and we hope that this will not be deemed necessary.
We need to take a long term view and understand – as at Birmingham – that future generations will appreciate these 1960s buildings as some of the most important in the country. We are looking forward to continuing our dialogue with recently appointed architects Feilden Clegg Bradley and continuing our dialogue with the South Bank Centre.