£100 million revamp of Southbank Centre hailed as 'biggest step forward since the ‘60s'
Thursday, March 7, 2013
ISPA member organization the Southbank Centre has announced a major overhaul of their Festival Wing. The Southbank Centre is is a complex of artistic venues in London, on the South Bank of the River Thames between County Hall and Waterloo Bridge, and is the largest single-run arts centre in the world. The article below was published on Wednesday, March 13th, 2013 in The Independent. You can read the original article on The Independent's website here.
London’s Southbank Centre is to bring its Festival Wing out of the
1960s and into the 21st century with a £100m overhaul that marks the
"final piece in the jigsaw” in the transformation of the cultural venue.
Artistic director (and ISPA member) Jude Kelly and chief executive Alan Bishop today
unveiled the tentative plans to redesign the Queen Elizabeth Hall, the
Purcell Room and the Hayward Gallery, which he described as the centre’s
"biggest step forward since the ‘60s”.
The designs include a
string of proposals including a "floating” glass pavilion, two more roof
gardens, spaces for riverside arts and service roads turned into
Mr Bishop called it a "transformative
project” for the cultural venue which hosts hundreds of events from art
exhibitions to concerts, theatrical performances and installations.
move comes after the refurbishment of the Royal Festival Hall was
completed in 2007, which brought many more visitors flocking not just to
the cultural events, but the bars, restaurants and outside spaces.
25 million people pass through the riverside venue a year and while the
management does not expect a huge rise in visitors, it may change where
Mr Bishop said: "We want to make use of the whole site,
there is too much concentration around the Festival Hall; we’ll be able
to spread it over the whole site.”
On the other side of the
Festival Wing, the National Theatre is also undergoing a £70m revamp of
its buildings. Mr Bishop said: "We see ourselves in some ways as the
final piece in the jigsaw for the entire area,” adding that it was a "no
brainer” after the success of the Festival Hall.
Further down the
river, plans to redevelop the Shell Centre were unveiled in December,
while several years earlier propsals were drawn up to plan a development
on the derelict Doon Street site adjacent to the National Theatre,
where the Ballet Rambert is moving. Elizabeth House is also being
developed next to Waterloo."
It’s important for us, but also
important for the wider area, there’s an extraordinary array of
developments around here,” Mr Bishop said.
The Festival Wing project will reshape the existing site, including building a new central foyer connecting the three venues.
glass pavilion will sit above, designed for orchestra rehearsals, which
audiences will be able to see. "We wanted a place where new classical
music could develop and find a new voice in the 21st century, as well as
a space to work in,” Ms Kelly said.
Alongside Waterloo Bridge a
new glass building will be put up to provide educational programmes and
house the Saison Poetry Library.
The project will be completed in
late 2016 at the earliest, Mr Bishop said, adding: "We’ve been moving
towards this day for a long time,” he said.
Ms Kelly said: "If we
get this right, we’re not just doing it for now but we have to be
thinking what will this site mean in 25 years” adding it "could be a
space of profound change, culturally”.
The Southbank Centre was
built 1951 as not only a "tonic for the nation” but "deep social
transformation; recognising that after a barbarous war that had to be
some way of culture playing a significant role in what peace looked
like,” Ms Kelly said. The Hayward Gallery was built in 1968.
management also pointed out it would be a chance to refurbish the
Festival Wing "and address current urgent problems including poor
access, worn out services and the need to upgrade stages, galleries and
back stage areas”.
There are 68 buildings across the 21 acre site
had a strong commitment to what society would look like in the future,
Ms Kelly said.
The Arts Council has approved first stage funding
of £20m, and Mr Bishop said private backers who have been sounded out
have shown willingness to back the project. "We have high hopes, even
in these difficult times that because of the vision of the project it
will be supported.”
If all goes to schedule building will start in
2014, with it taking two to three years. So far no objections have been
raised in the planning stage
.Ed Vaizey MP, Minister for Culture,
Communications and Creative Industries, said: "This ambitious
regeneration project will be the final step in the triumphant
transformation of London's South Bank."