Friday, 15 February 2013

Lets have another go

There have been a number of projects to deal with the South Bank's useful but unlovely trio of the Queen Elizabeth Hall, the Purcell Room and the Hayward Gallery. These include getting rid of them completely and starting again, and ambitious ideas to cover over the gap between the buildings and the Royal Festival Hall. But in today's economic climate such grandiose ideas are obviously out. Instead, emboldened by their successful refurbishing and re-launching of the Royal Festival Hall, the South Bank Centre is starting on the troublesome trio (what the centre calls the Festival Wing).

The buildings are in a style which is still unloved and no longer function efficiently in terms of what the South Bank Centre is trying to do. The whole area is full of awkward and underutilised spaces and the challenge for the architects will not only be to bring the tired facilities up to scratch again, but to come up with imaginative and realistic usage of space. Plans are being drawn up by Feilden Clegg Bradley Studios, who were appointed as lead architect in October 2012. The project will include a major refurbishment of the 1960s buildings, to bring the performance spaces and galleries up to the standard of the Royal Festival Hall and address current urgent problems including poor access, worn out services and the need to upgrade stages, galleries and back stage areas. Funding has been made possible by a successful first-stage application for £20m from Arts Council England.

I double whether the architects will be able to make the spaces loveable, but we can see more from next month. Draft plans will be exhibited from 7 March at the Royal Festival Hall, and will also be available on-line from that date.  Further information from the South Bank Centre's website.

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