The Twentieth Century Society

Campaigning for outstanding buildings

Royal Albert Hall

Press release: Would we treat other iconic buildings like this? Twentieth Century Society deplores “arrogant disdain” of Southbank Centre proposals


The proposed massive extensions to The Southbank Centre will overwhelm one of the best groups of Brutalist buildings in the UK, if not the world.   The Twentieth Century  Society has objected strongly, and published drawings of a modest alternative scheme that would tackle the current access issues, and allow more space for both arts uses and income generating rentals.

Catherine Croft, Director of Twentieth Century Society said “We would never consider treating an iconic building of any previous century with the arrogant disdain of the current scheme for the Southbank Centre.”

“Attempts to justify such desecration with spurious arguments about financial viability and wider public benefit are just ridiculous”, she added.

We would never consider treating an iconic building of any previous century in this way… or would we…. ? C20 has been sent the following…..

Royal Albert Hall, London

Royal Albert Hall

Heritage justification: “The refined and elegant design aesthetic of the new elements contrasts with the red brick, and buff terracotta of the Italian Renaissance style Victorian design (1867-1871 Captain Fowke; completed by Major-General H Y D Scott) The ceiling has been altered in the past, so the proposals will not result in the loss of any significant historic fabric.”

Tower of London

140110 tower-of-london edit high res

Heritage Justification: “The current proposed additions to the Tower of London are no more drastic than those carried out in the C19th by Anthony Salvin and John Taylor at the behest of Prince Albert.     But whilst these confuse the viewer with their mock-medievalism the new scheme clearly differentiates old from new.  

Like SBC, the Tower has a prominent Thames side location, but its presence is being overwhelmed by the growth of the city behind it.  What it needs is a new profile to allow it to stand out in the 21st century.   (And anyway how great really is the Tower of London?   After all—architectural historian and author Ian Nairn mocked its “stage set or comic opera character” and called it a “full-blown farce” Nairn’s London, 1966 p 35-36)

Photoshop maestro Orlando Hill is a member of C20 Society and has recently completed BA in architecture at the University of Manchester.

Note to editors:

1. The Southbank Centre has recently submitted amendments to their proposals for two major extensions to the Hayward Gallery, Queen Elizabeth Hall and Purcell Room on the south bank of the Thames. Under their revised scheme the liner building, which would line Waterloo Bridge will be set back 3m from the river. The scale and mass of the pavilion building, which would be raised above the new foyer space between the Queen Elizabeth Hall and the Hayward remains unchanged. This does not address our fundamental concerns with the sheer size of the new build elements which we believe overwhelm the existing buildings.

2. Along with English Heritage, The Twentieth Century Society has repeatedly called for the listing of this ensemble, constructed by the LCC’s / GLC’s Architect’s Department between 1963 and ‘68. The South Bank Centre sits in the Southbank Conservation Area, between the National Theatre (Grade II * listed) and Royal Festival Hall (Grade I listed). The complex showcases some of the best and most important architecture from this period in the country

3. The Twentieth Century Society alternative scheme published in the winter 2013 edition of the Twentieth Century Magazine shows that the SBC buildings can accommodate change, without compromising the existing buildings. Our plans show how you can incorporate the best elements of the South Bank Centre’s current proposals – like the new piazza, circulation routes and central steps – while at the same time preserving the scale and character of this important cultural hub.

4. Our alternative scheme, drawn up for us by architect and illustrator Sally Rendel, also retains the historic former director’s office of the Hayward Gallery (now the Concrete Bar), and a scaled down central foyer. There is also no ‘liner building’ – which this means that key views into the site from Waterloo Bridge as well as visual links with the National Theatre are maintained. For further information on our alternative plans please see www.

For more information please contact Henrietta Billings or Catherine Croft at Twentieth Century Society. Tel 020 7250 3857 or