Select Committee on Culture, Media and Sport Appendices to the Minutes of Evidence




  Architects: Allies & Morrison

  Submitted by: Lambeth LBC

  Planning status: Detailed planning application submitted

  Status of design review committee views: Public

  Graham Morrison, as the architect of the project, explained it to the committee and then withdrew, taking no part in the forming of the committee's views of the project.

Scheme details

  This scheme for the Royal Festival Hall proposes a new building between the existing RFH building and the railway viaduct leading to Hungerford Bridge. This will provide office accommodation for the RFH, allowing it to free up space within the original building which has been "colonised" by office and ancillary space in an ad-hoc way since it was built.

  The new four-storey linear building is in a location suggested in Rick Mather's masterplan, filling an existing slot between the viaduct and the pedestrian terrace next to the RFH, parallel to the side of the hall. At ground (Belvedere Road) level this connects the existing RFH accommodation with the spaces under the viaduct, and allows servicing to the hall from the other side of the viaduct. At terrace level, the next level up, the new building contains a row of retail units facing the RFH. Above this are two floors of office accommodation serviced from a core at each end; rising above this level is a glazed pavilion at the Belvedere Road end.

  The elevation facing the viaduct is an acoustic wall of metal panels with triple glazed slot windows in a chequerboard pattern, referring to elements of the RFH elevations. To the other side the elevation is largely glazed in storey-height panels; between every pair of glass panels is a vertical solid element containing external up and down lighters, with a projecting light reflector; these form part of a light installation by the artist James Turrell.


  We welcome the idea of a new building in this location, as suggested in Rick Mather's masterplan. We admire the ingenuity with which this idea has been developed to provide facilities for the RFH, taking advantage of the viaduct arches and rationalising the service arrangement while at the same delivering improvements to the public realm.

  We admire too the quality of the facades, and the idea of integrating public art, although we think care needs to be with the tone of this—it should complement rather than compete with the RFH.

  The image of the glazed top-floor pavilion at the Belvedere Road end is an attractive one, but it will only be successful if a considerable degree of control is exerted over what goes in it—it would be depressing to see it fall prey to the usual evidence of ad-hoc office occupation.

  With improvements to the route along the side of the RFH, we think that the RFH side entrance opposite the new building needs to be made more visible, particularly as it will have to compete with an enhanced level of activity and visual interest opposite.

  Our one significant reservation about the scheme concerns the river end, where it seems clear that the design is unresolved in itself and in its relation to the ramp and lift for the new footbridge; the designs for both projects are in need of further work in this area in order to live up to the quality of the remainder. It seems to us that a number of possibilities should be investigated:

    —  The building might benefit from being extended towards the river to achieve a more significant relationship with terrace and river.

    —  It would be of benefit to all users of the bridge to have two or more lifts, perhaps glazed, stopping at bridge, terrace and grade levels.

    —  If the lifts were integrated with the building, they might be easier to manage and less likely to be mistreated.


  Note of a Special Meeting of the CABE design review committee to discuss the South Bank Master-plan, held in the Royal Festival Hall on Monday 2 February 2000.

Paul Finch, ChairmanKarsten Witt (South Bank Board)
Sophie AndreaeRick Mather (Rich Mather Architects)
Ian DavidsonMike McCourt (South Bank Board)
Piers GoughTim Stanton (Space Systems)
Graham Morrison
Cedric Price
Ian Ritchie
Alan Stanton
Francis GoldingGeoff Nobel (English Heritage)

  After thirty years without significant investment the South Bank Centre is in serious need of improvement. There is pressure for more space from existing occupiers, demand to move to the site from other appropriate tenants and the fact that the Arts Lottery Fund has only allocated £25 million to the whole project means that the master-plan must provide for commercial enabling development.

  The plan is based on a small number of simple principles: to take buildings down to ground level and give them active frontages; to rationalise service access and keep it away from pedestrian routes; to provide pedestrian routes which meet the needs of commuters who want to cross the site, of tourists and of people visiting the different facilities, whilst enabling them to mix rather than segregating them.

  To achieve the movement strategy a new pedestrian square is created to the south of the Festival Hall, providing visual links and views across and out of the whole site. There is also a new east/west pedestrian route giving access to Waterloo Bridge, as well as improved variants of the existing north/south routes. Belvedere Road becomes the vehicular route across the site, with service roads leaving it at the eastern edge of the site and the west of the Festival Hall and running towards the river.

  The accommodation strategy involves:

    (i)  Raising the level of the Jubilee Gardens, doubling its size to include the present car-park and providing beneath it the "blind" accommodation needed for the NFT, Theatre Museum and other public uses.

    (ii)  Retaining and re-furbishing the Hayward Gallery. Technical studies have shown that this, and the other 60s buildings, are structurally sound and robust.

    (iii)  Building a new 1,100 seat concert hall on the Hungerford site.

    (iv)  Holding a competition for the refurbishment/partial rebuilding of the Queen Elizabeth Hall.

    (v)  Constructing a building between the railway and the Royal Festival Hall, to shield the latter—and Festival Square—from the railway noise.

    (vi)  To build two new commercial buildings of "blade" form, about 10 storeys high, one to the west of Waterloo Bridge and one to the west of the railway. The bridge-side building might be an hotel. There would be competitions for these, as for the other new buildings.

  In general, the committee strongly supports the main elements of the master-plan. We welcome the decision to undertake technical studies in respect of the 1960s buildings and the pedestrian movements across the site and to consult widely amongst the public and interested parties. We believe that this had led to soundly-based sensible proposals.

  We particularly welcome the proposal to raise Jubilee Gardens and double it in size. As well as providing space for much-needed extra accommodation this provides a genuine benefit in that it gives a view of the river from the park. There is no reason at all in our view why a park of the form indicated should be in any way compromised by the development beneath.

  The movement strategy is also welcomed both as it affects vehicles and pedestrians. At the same time, we wish to point out that the problem of access from Waterloo Bridge for the important east-west pedestrian route does not appear to have been solved satisfactorily so far: it needs to be made accessible and inviting.

  Where the proposed buildings are concerned, we welcome the proposal for the new concert hall, and note that this will enable the whole project to be phased in a sensible and practical way. We also endorse the idea of the building to screen Festival Square and the Royal Festival Hall from the railway, and applaud the decision to save the Hayward Gallery.

  The two "blade" buildings will clearly be a controversial aspect of the proposals. In launching competitions for these buildings we believe that the briefs should contain technical studies of their potential impact in all the important views they will affect but should not be highly prescriptive about the form they should take. We think that entrants should be free to exercise their imaginations in considering how to provide the accommodation required on the site. A similar approach should be taken to that envisaged for the Queen Elizabeth Hall competition.

  A point about which the Committee had some reservations was the way in which the plan meets the Wheel and County Hall, which seems to us to be unduly unemphatic. Might there be scope for a marker building here?

  Finally, although we were impressed by the aspiration for appropriate retail uses on the site, we think that this may be difficult to achieve to the extent envisaged and believe that this aspect of the proposals will need very careful consideration as the plan develops; having as it does profound implications for the success of the aim to produce a lively public realm at ground level throughout the site. A particular aspect of this question involves the relationship with the Shell Centre in its new guise and the nature of Belvedere Road as a shopping street.

7 February 2002

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