AT 7 ST
SW1 ON WEDNESDAY
6 SEPTEMBER 2000
1.2 LAMBETH: ROYAL FESTIVAL HALL, EXTENSION
Architects: Allies & Morrison
Submitted by: Lambeth LBC
Planning status: Detailed planning application
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.
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
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 thisit 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 itit 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
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
OF CABE DESIGN
MONDAY 2 FEBRUARY
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, Chairman||Karsten Witt (South Bank Board)
|Sophie Andreae||Rick Mather (Rich Mather Architects)
|Ian Davidson||Mike McCourt (South Bank Board)
|Piers Gough||Tim Stanton (Space Systems)
|Francis Golding||Geoff 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
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
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
(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 latterand Festival Squarefrom
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
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