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Thursday24 July 2014

Original Southbank architects praise new proposals

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Feilden Clegg Bradley Studios’ £120m scheme gets thumbs-up from 1960s design team

Surviving members of the Southbank Centre’s original design team have given their blessing to Feilden Clegg Bradley’s £120 million plans to transform the arts complex.

Lead designer Norman Engleback and Hayward Gallery project architect Dennis Crompton both praised the radical proposals which have drawn criticism from some quarters.

Crompton was speaking at a public debate held in the Purcell Room this week to discuss the vision behind the original buildings.

He said: “The brief we had at the beginning of the 1960s is now re-written to some extent. There are elements of it I would argue with but the main point is it ought to provide facilities for all sorts of people to come and enjoy themselves. If the drawings and the resulting buildings are the same it will be fantastic.”

Engleback’s son, Luke, delivered a message from his 86-year-old father who was too frail to attend.

“He was delighted to see what was going on. He’s tremendously excited and very pleased by the gradual transformation that started with the Festival Hall,” said Luke Engleback.

“He thought it was a very refreshing idea to put something lightweight on the building,” he added referring to the imposing glass rehearsal box that will tower over the complex.

The debate, chaired by Peter Clegg from Feilden Clegg, was later hijacked by objectors who repeatedly asked questions about the skate park, aerial walkways and the public consultation.

One skater declared, to applause: “You are an arts and cultural centre. For skateboarding to exist as an art it must exist in a space that wasn’t built for it or it becomes a performance space.”

The Long Live Southbank campaign has applied to Lambeth council to have the skaters’ undercroft listed as a community asset under the Localism Act and Community Right to Bid. This would give them the chance to buy it if it were put up for sale.

Under Feilden Clegg’s plans the skateboarders would be moved to Hungerford Bridge to make way for a riverside entrance and a parade of shops and galleries, including one devoted to the history of the Southbank Centre.

Southbank Centre by Fielden Clegg Bradley Studios

Source: Fielden Clegg Bradley Studios

Design Study of the Festival Wing at the revamped Southbank Centre with new steps, central foyer and glass pavilion

A number of critics have raised concerns about the commercialisation of the arts centre but Luke Engleback revealed the original architects wanted retail booths but were blocked by bureaucrats.

“The architects wanted that kind of life happening,” he said. “But people running the LCC at the time seemed to be putting barriers in the way.”

Southbank artistic director Jude Kelly said: “There was a lot of snobbery around the idea of trade which didn’t take into account that most people’s experience of enjoying themselves would include having a drink and buying things.”

As the audience became increasingly critical she pledged not to “kill life” with corporate tenants.

“We want to show how imagination develops things, which is not quite the same as having any shops or any restaurants,” she said. “It has to have a particular, individual flavour.”

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Readers' comments (8)

  • Self-serving hogwash Peter : and you know it???

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  • Quote 'most people’s experience of enjoying themselves would include having a drink and buying things.”

    So that's the cat out of the bag. Now we know what the agenda is. Culture? Only a way of getting people to buy stuff.

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  • There must be a reason why the "LCC at the time seemed to be putting barriers in the way”. It sounds like the Southbank Centre will be transformed in a shopping mall... and what will happen to Concrete Bar? Judging by the images a glazed tower will be covering the open terrace in front of it.

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  • Jude Kelly has 'pledged not to “kill life” with corporate tenants'. How will she go about that, and how will it be different from the existing Festival Hall/Southbank lot: every one a corporate, unless you don't count Foyles, in which case I hope no-one saw Archie Foyle in Planners on BBCtv recently, busily blocking a really good scheme by Richard Murphy.

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  • Ah - so that's who the "lord of the manor" was? Interesting to know!

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  • Seymour Alexander

    I guess it is going to become like much of the City: privately owned so-called "public spaces", cctv everywhere, no photography allowed, no leafleting, no demonstrations, G4S making sure everybody obeys the rules, Israeli "students" selling dead-sea-mud, stink of Cornish pasties.. in short the one place in London to avoid.

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  • Yes, but have no fear: we're all safe, because the University of East London has appointed Anna Minton, who is famous for having written a book telling us what we know: that public space is being privatised and that there's absolutely nothing we can do about that.

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  • jon5465

    What's with the Schindler's List style front perspective anyway... a solitary red jacketed child to draw the attention away from the monolithic form precariously perched above... Barf

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