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Friday01 August 2014

Commercial 'not a dirty word' says Southbank architect

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Feilden Clegg Bradley responds to concerns over redevelopment proposals

The architect overseeing plans to redevelop the Southbank Centre has responded to critics by stating that “commercial is not a dirty word”.

Feilden Clegg Bradley was appointed in October last year to redesign the Southbank Centre’s Hayward Gallery and Queen Elizabeth Hall. Concerns have been raised that the proposed redevelopment may involve dramatically increasing the amount of retail in the area.

Clare Hughes, creative producer at the practice, told an audience at an NLA event on conservation and commercial viability that most historic buildings face financial pressures and that the two concepts need not be seen as contradictory ideas.

“That would be like saying eggs and flour are competing pressures – they are both vital ingredients to make a cake,” she said. “In the case of conservation and commercial viability I would argue they are both vital ingredients for a successful scheme.

“Commercial is not a dirty word – most of our historic towns and cities were built on the idea that people came together to exchange goods and services.

“The notion that commerce and culture should be kept apart doesn’t understand how human society works and has evolved.”

Hughes’ comments were echoed by Allies & Morrison director Graham Morrison, who oversaw a project in the mid-2000s which moved much of the site’s retail activity from within the centre to the public spaces outside.

“The place finally had a buzz about it not seen since the Festival of Britain,” said Morrison. “Its lively public realm brings many people who would previously not have come to the building at all.  

“The inclusion of retail has not only brought essential income to the centre it has helped recover the buildings’ original qualities.”

The directors of the Southbank Centre have previously pledged that the area will not become a shopping mall. Artistic director Jude Kelly said the project was about taking advantage of the site’s potential.

“There are huge, huge amounts of unused space,” she said. “I think it’s unacceptable for the public who are paying for that space to have it unused.

“It isn’t really about creating lots of extra components but it is about revealing these two buildings and ensuring that they are here to stay. But they are not here to stay without being flexible and spontaneous. They have never been allowed to realise their full potential.”

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Readers' comments (1)

  • I think the question is over ownership of the public realm, or the erosion of the civitas. Retail is fine but beware the gated streets, controlled balconies, and business associations desire to sterilize and perfume humanity. It is comfortable to accept that retail is the inevitable solution rather than the more difficult mix...i.e life. Of course it is ludicrous to deny retail but it cannot be allowed to reign over us.

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