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


Memorandum submitted by the Commission for Architecture and the Built Environment


  Please find attached a memorandum from the Commission for Architecture and the Built Environment (CABE) concerning the extent of our involvement in two current projects; the South Bank Centre, which includes proposals for the masterplan, the Royal Festival Hall Extension and the Shell Centre, and the Royal Shakespeare Theatre, the Swan Theatre and The Other Place. I also attach extracts from relevant Design Review Committee meeting relating to the South Bank proposals.

  You will see that while our involvement with projects on the South Bank has been regular and extensive over a considerable period of time, we have had little involvement with the Royal Shakespeare Company to date. Discussions regarding the project with the Arts Council for England have now been initiated.


  The Commission for Architecture and the Built Environment (CABE) is an Executive Non-Departmental Public Body, established by the Government in 1999 to promote high standards in the design of new buildings and the spaces between them. Its remit covers England.

  CABE is a non-statutory consultee in the land use planning system. It is funded by grant-in-aid from the Department for Culture, Media and Sport, with additional resources from the Department for Transport, Local Government and the Regions.

  Commissioners are appointed by the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport. They are drawn from a range of areas of expertise and include architects, planners, an engineer, a quantity surveyor and specialists in the field of housing design and built environment education.

  Some of CABE's day-to-day work is undertaken by committees, including a design review committee and an enabling panel. The Design Review Committee offers advice to planning committees and others on the design of strategic development projects. The Enabling panel offers advice to clients in the public and private sectors who aspire to quality but would welcome technical assistance on matters such as brief development, selection of architects and choice of procurement route.

  As well as offering formal advice on planning applications, CABE is prepared to become involved in schemes more closely, offering advice at all stages including the preparation of a brief and the design process itself.


  CABE has been monitoring developments in and around the South Bank, both formally through Design Review Committee and informally through officer contact with various parties since our formation in 1999. We have sought to establish close links with the South Bank Centre.

  A special Design Review Committee held in the Royal Festival Hall reviewed the masterplan by Rick Mather in February 2000. In general the Committee strongly supported the main elements of the masterplan but with some reservations relating to the relationship between the proposal and the London Eye and County Hall.

  The Design Review Committee also gave a favourable response to the proposals by Allies and Morrison for the Royal Festival Hall Extension. There were some reservations regarding the river end of the proposal and these where subsequently dealt with in a revision to the proposal.

  CABE has had a long and constructive dialogue with the architects for the Shell Centre, examining both the Shell Centre complex itself and the gap site. We have expressed concern that a pedestrian/disabled access link should be established between Waterloo Station and the development of Hungerford Bridge. It can be expected that with the completion of the new footbridge there will be a large increase in pedestrian traffic between Waterloo Station and the north side of the river. In CABE's view this should be an elevated route through the Shell Centre and across Jubilee Gardens car park providing direct and level access from the station to and across the Bridge. We are anxious that this element should be facilitated whatever else may happen.

  Recently CABE has been involved in an informal review of a revised proposal for the "island site" adjacent to County Hall at One Westminster Bridge. We feel this scheme is important in the wider area of the South Bank Centre. CABE opposed the original scheme, but would wish to review and monitor its replacement.

  Other major development proposals may come forward in the area, including the Elizabeth House site and Waterloo Station.

  CABE is willing to play as a constructive role as possible in the development of any future strategies for the Jubilee Gardens or the wider South Bank area.


  CABE first became aware of the proposals for the redevelopment of the Royal Shakespeare Theatre in July 2001. The contact came via the local authority and related to a feasibility study for the Theatre and a complementary public realm scheme.

  CABE has not been consulted yet as a non-statutory consultee to the planning process as a planning application has not yet been submitted.

  For a project of this nature CABE would normally expect to be consulted at an early stage. On previous occasions, the Arts Council for England (ACE) have called upon the enabling function of CABE to assist with large capital projects, partly funded through the Arts Council Lottery Fund.

  In the last few days the ACE has contacted CABE seeking assistance with this project. In this case CABE could call upon expert advice from its own staff, a member of Design Review Committee, a member of the Enabling Panel or a Commissioner to assist the ACE in assessing the impact and viability of the proposals contained within the feasibility report. CABE could assist ACE in identifying the relative strengths and weaknesses of the proposals.

  In addition to this specific advice, CABE's Design Review function would normally expect to be contacted by the design team at an early stage in the development of the detailed design. The intention would be to seek a formal presentation to the Design Review Committee. The outcome of the review would remain confidential until the proposals became public, usually through the submission of a planning application. It is not unusual for large and complex projects to be seen by the Committee at a number of stages in their development.

3.1  Lambeth: Shell Centre

Architects:Arup Associates
Submitted by:local authority
refer:DRC minutes item 2.1, 29 November 2000
3.1, 2 May 2001
Planning status:detailed planning application submitted
Status of design review
committee views:
Present at meeting:
Nick Suslak
David McCrackenLend Lease
David MargasonLend Lease
Peter HopsonLend Lease
Richard ColemanRichard Coleman Consultancy
Matthew GibbMontagu Evans
Peter HollandLambeth
Richard SaundersLambeth
Edmund BirdLambeth
Malcolm WoodsEH
David HemansGLA

Scheme details

  Further work has been carried out on the planning and architecture of this scheme, last seen by the Design Review Committee in May this year.

  The principal revision is the removal of the first floor pedestrian access route across the courtyard. Instead, the bridge from Waterloo Station crossing York Road terminates in front of the Shell Centre, where lifts deliver pedestrians down to ground level routes through the courtyard. The primary route is open, with a covered route by its side, with restaurant and retail activities lining the way. The architects state that the removal of the first floor access route does not preclude it from being reintroduced in response to future developments—this flexibility will be a requirement of the planning authority.

  Further changes have also been made to the podium building, including its redesign to allow for a widening of the pavement width in front of it on York Road. Resolving the change in streetline between the County Hall building and the Shell Centre is now addressed through an overhanging of the building line. The office entrance to the podium building has been reconfigured to relate more strongly to York Road, where most people will arrive at the site on foot. To contrast with the largely linear buildings which already exist along York Road, vertical elements responding to the internal planning are introduced, with major bays clad in stone and minor bays clad in glass.

  Landscaping proposals for York Road combine the widening of the pavement with the planting of lines of trees, with the aim of creating a boulevard. Retail frontage will stretch along York Road, including along the base of the existing Shell Centre, to animate the street at ground level.

  On Chicheley Street, the ramps to the existing car park are to be removed and the entrance and exit for the car park are to be located more closely together, with service access for the podium building pushed deep into the building, in response to concern that the previous proposals would leave much of the Chicheley Street area with an inactive and traffic dominated frontage. The rest of the street is lined with retail units and cafes.

  A series of pavilion buildings containing retail and restaurant activities continue to front Belvedere Road and it is proposed that the base of the Shell Tower will also form part of that active frontage.

  The listed fountain is to be removed from the courtyard, where wind conditions created by the development would render it unusable. It is proposed that it will be relocated as part of a new landscaping solution for the north-eastern corner of the site, on York Road.

  In terms of signage, it is hoped that the developer will have a measure of control over the retail signage and canopies of tenants within the scheme. It is proposed that the existing signage of the South Bank will be incorporated within the scheme, to help with its integration with the surrounding area.

  The current proposals show the Tube station entrance remaining as it exists at present. However, it is still an aim of the project is to secure the removal of the kiosk separating the station forecourt from the Shell site, and the redefinition of the frontage of the station area, to better integrate the station entrance with the scheme. It is hoped that the station could be rebranded as Waterloo South Bank Station, rather than being identified as an outpost of Waterloo station as at present.

  The London Borough of Lambeth wishes to take this scheme forward but will need to be satisfied that flexibility has been built in so that the scheme can respond appropriately if other developments in the area take place. Issues that will be considered when examining the planning application will include the principle of the building on the podium site; whether high quality and appropriate connections have been made to the Jubilee Gardens site; and whether the current proposals for the York Road frontage offer an appropriate architectural and urban design solution. The authority's view on the ground and first floor routes through the site has been that the primary aim should be to achieve a secure route with an active frontage. It is not considered that a first floor level route is necessary to achieve this and Lambeth consider that the proposals for lifts to take people down to ground level on York Road will be a welcome help to those leaving Waterloo Station who wish to access the South Bank area at ground level. However, the authority considers that the crossing of Belvedere Road is still not resolved satisfactorily.

  The scheme was considered by the London Advisory Committee (LAC) of English Heritage for the second time, and for the first in considerable detail, last month. While English Heritage have no objection in principle to development on the podium site, the LAC regarded the proposed podium building as being too big for its site. They were also concerned about the bulk and design of the building compared to the simple lines and Portland Stone construction of the existing Shell Centre. The York Road frontage of the building was considered to have too many levels and planes and was not felt to achieve a satisfactory resolution of the building line across York Road. There was concern at the proposed loss of the first level route across the site, which at the time of the LAC meeting was understood to be a final decision. English Heritage are pleased that the retention of the fountain on the site is being actively considered.

  The GLA are still considering the scheme in detail but offer general support for the principle of the development and in particular welcome the increased office space and employment benefits associated with the scheme. The GLA will be particularly interested to examine the impact of the scheme on public transport and the public realm. They are encouraged by the stated intent of linking the scheme in with other developments nearby and are anxious that the project should not be a piece-meal development which could prejudice other long term plans for the area. The GLA will be looking for a balance to be struck between addressing the York Road and Belvedere Road frontages.

Design review committee's views

  In considering the latest version of this scheme, we wish to reiterate our support in principle for the key aspects of the development. We support the proposal for a building on the podium site, provided that as a whole the public realm is enhanced by the development; we support attempts to provide more animation along Belvedere Road, York Road and Chicheley Street; and we welcome the proposed increase in permeability across the site.

  We regard a number of the most recent changes as significant improvements. The steps taken to reduce the amount of inactive frontage on Chicheley Street have addressed our concern that more vitality will be needed along this important pedestrian link. The widening of the pavement in front of the podium building, and the reorientation of the office entrance, are to be supported. We very much support the aspiration to secure improved arrangements for access to the underground, and to tie the identity of the station more closely in with that of the South Bank. The evidence of careful consideration of signage issues is encouraging.

  However, a number of other recent revisions are, in our opinion, unhelpful and at worst represent backward steps. Having seen this scheme at three different stages of its development—the latest version involving a fundamental shift in the design in the form of removal of the first floor access through the site—and having considered the proposals in the round, we feel bound to express a more general concern that the project still does not feel like a coherent whole. In the process of development, changes have been made which are in places understandable and justifiable, and some of which have successfully addressed our previous reservations about specific aspects of the project. We are concerned, however, that taken in the round, the changes have not resulted in a project which is coherent and legible in its own terms; nor do we feel that it successfully addresses the complex puzzle of the wider South Bank area.

  This site is important in the context of central London as a whole, because of its relation to Jubilee Gardens, the London Eye, the South Bank Centre and the pedestrian route across Hungerford Bridge. It is prominent in views across the river and will be more so when the new pedestrian bridge is opened. Any new buildings here need to be of a quality appropriate to this prominence. They also need to respond to the powerful massing and architecture of existing Shell Centre buildings. Considered in the light of this demanding context, we feel that the present scheme has too much clutter to succeed as a whole.

  It is the decision to limit the pedestrian crossing of the courtyard to a ground level route that causes us the greatest unease with the latest version of the scheme. While we do not object to the option of crossing the site at ground level, we think that the option of crossing at first floor level should also be retained, and plans prepared for linking the route to the new pedestrian routes across Hungerford Bridge. We are convinced that pedestrians, particularly commuters, will find it convenient and enjoyable to complete a walk entirely at first floor level from Waterloo station across to the other side of the river, and vice versa. We think it will be undesirable and inconvenient to have no choice but to be forced down to ground level for part of that journey. We are certain of the necessity of preparing a properly designed link to Hungerford Bridge now—our fear is that if it is left for some future date, the link will never be built. We note that a stated aspiration of the scheme is to link in with surrounding projects, and we believe that the removal of the raised route would be viewed by most people as inconsistent with such an aim. We urge the local authority to insist strongly that it be retained, and we suggest that this might be a suitable issue to be addressed through any Section 106 agreement.

  We have a number of other detailed reservations about this latest version of the scheme. In revisiting the design of the podium building, we would have preferred to have seen the opportunity taken to move the architecture in the direction of greater calmness and simplicity. As the design stands, we feel that the number of different levels, and use of lateral and vertical elements, makes for an overly busy elevation onto York Road. We also think that clutter is a problem along Belvedere Road and that the whole of this frontage would benefit from a calmer and clearer approach. Careful detailing of the Chicheley Street Fac"ade, with attention paid to detail and the quality of the materials used, will be important in determining the success of this aspect of the scheme.

  We think it will be important for the area where the lifts deliver people down to ground level on York Road to be carefully considered, and the light of the large numbers of people likely to be using it at certain times of day—at the moment this space strikes us as too small and cluttered, with an attendant risk of producing congestion problems which would detract from any enjoyment of the proposed tree-lined boulevard. We think that if there are to be routes at both upper and lower levels within the site itself, then it would make sense to enclose both levels and connect them by escalators within this volume, to provide a convenient opportunity to change levels for people passing straight through one site.

  The local authority will, we suggest, need to satisfy themselves that adequate wind studies have been done and any problems satisfactorily addressed. There may be potential in the arcade between the Shell and podium buildings, and in the courtyard where wind conditions make the placing of the fountain impossible, for wind problems to detract from the pleasurable use of these spaces.

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