The Twentieth Century Society

Campaigning for outstanding buildings

Letter to the Times re. the South Bank

The Editor
The Times

I am really surprised by Edward Smith’s suggestion that the Festival Hall should be demolished (Time to Ditch the Festival Hall 21/6/03). Not only was the Festival Hall listed grade I, as a building of outstanding architectural and historic significance as long ago as 1988, but it is clearly a much loved icon. It was designed as part of the Festival of Britain by a team led by Peter Moro, now widely recognised as one of the leading architects of the post-war period. It is popular with visitors of all ages who flock not just to concerts but to the informal foyer events it hosts so well. The clever “egg in the box” concept, by which the hall itself is enveloped by the circulation spaces and bars forming a buffer zone to outside noise, has proved immensely influential on subsequent auditorium buildings. We don’t need a replacement, for as well as being a symbol of post-war optimism The Festival Hall is a truly great venue; demolition is unthinkable.

And should Mr Smith be casting for alternative sites for his new landmark building, can we also ward him off both the adjacent South Bank Centre and the nearby National Theatre? These too are outstanding buildings of their date (1960s as opposed to 1950s), and although early redevelopment proposals proposed demolition of the Hayward and the QEH, the public made known their appreciation. What the South Bank needs is less big ideas and more clever (and cost effective) updating, such as Howarth Tompkin’s sensitive scheme for an enlarged Hayward foyer now under construction, who can Mr Smith have been talking to?

Yours faithfully

Catherine Croft
Director C20th Society