The Twentieth Century Society

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Southbank centre black and white image showing the Hayward Gallery Southbank Centre, photography by Laurence Mackman

Southbank Centre plans: major re-think urgently needed

The Twentieth Century Society welcomes the Southbank Centre’s enthusiasm for the existing Hayward Gallery, Queen Elizabeth Hall and Purcell Room, and their intention to retain and not demolish major elements of them. However, We are disappointed that following several pre-application meetings with the Southbank Centre and their architects, none of our concerns regarding the overwhelming bulk of the proposed new pavilion building or the liner building have been addressed.

Catherine Croft, Director of Twentieth century society said “We feel deeply disappointed that we can’t support the Southbank Centre scheme. We want to see a vibrant future for the complex, but the current proposals are just too big and over ambitious. We are delighted that Southbank Centre has made a huge u-turn in its underlying attitude to these buildings, now seeing them as an asset and expressing a desire to work to their strengths rather than contemplate demotion. However, whilst the current Howarth Tomkins scheme for the neighbouring National Theatre is fundamentally a conservation led scheme, focused on preserving the significance of Lasdun’s fantastic building, Feilden Clegg Bradley’s proposals dwarf the Southbank Centre. A major rethink is urgently needed.”

Henrietta Billings, Senior Conservation Adviser of Twentieth Century Society said “The development project requires a fresh approach and new thinking. We queried the size of the brief from an early stage, and we are very concerned that the sheer scale of the new build will overwhelm the existing historic fabric, and risks harming the significance not only these highly important twentieth century buildings, but the setting of their listed neighbours and the character of the Conservation Area. The project brief appears drawn so tightly there is little if no scope for alteration or change, and this is a mistake. We believe the project requires a fresh look.”

The Twentieth Century Society is still very concerned about the visual impact of the overall bulk of the glass pavilion in terms of its relationship with the Hayward Gallery as well as the Royal Festival Hall. And we still have major concerns about the size and projection of the Liner Building and its effect on the setting of the National Theatre and views of the theatre from Hungerford Bridge. We are also concerned that the vast scale of the Liner Building and its siting will result in an obstructive visual ‘book end’ that cuts off the Southbank Centre from the National Theatre

We also note that immense interest and opposition generated by the proposals to re-locate the skateboarders from their current site in the undercroft space facing the River Thames. We feel that the skateboarding use brings a unique visual and cultural interest to this part of the South Bank that draws in a large audience to the site in its own right. This allows a diverse audience to appreciate the sculptural form of the concrete mushroom columns of this undercroft space. We do not feel that the communal value of this aspect site has been fully appreciated by the Southbank Centre.
For further information please contact Henrietta Billings or Catherine Croft on 020 72503857 or henrietta@c20society.org.uk or Catherine@c20society.org.uk

About The Twentieth Century Society

The Twentieth Century Society is a membership organisation which campaigns for the conservation of the best C20th architecture. It was founded in 1976 as the Thirties Society and is now recognised by government and has a statutory role in the planning process. For more details, see our website, www.c20society.org.uk.

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