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
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
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
|DRC minutes item 2.1, 29 November 2000
3.1, 2 May 2001
|detailed planning application submitted
|Status of design review
|Present at meeting:
|Richard Coleman Consultancy
Further work has been carried out on the planning and architecture
of this scheme, last seen by the Design Review Committee in May
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 developmentsthis 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
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
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 developmentthe
latest version involving a fundamental shift in the design in
the form of removal of the first floor access through the siteand
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 nowour 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 dayat 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.