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  3. Controversy Reigns Over Southbank Centre

Controversy Reigns Over Southbank Centre

Controversy Reigns Over Southbank Centre
Controversy Reigns Over Southbank Centre, © Feilden Clegg Bradley
© Feilden Clegg Bradley

The Southbank Centre and Feilden Clegg Bradley have taken their designs back to the drawing board, deciding to delay their planning application in order to resolve the mounting issues surrounding the proposal.

The designs to update the brutalist cultural centre have divided people from the start; however, the tide of opinion seems to have definitively shifted away from the design due to a sustained campaign by skateboarders (who make use of the undercroft) and now criticism from the neighboring National Theatre and the UK design council CABE.

Read more about the controversy surrounding the Southbank Centre after the break...

According to the Southbank Centre, the decision to delay the planning application is directly in response to the actions of the skating community, who from the start have made it clear that the proposal to relocate the skate park will destroy the centre's skating heritage. This protest has taken a number of forms - a 50,000 signature petition, a letter from skating legend Tony Hawk, and even an attempt to get the undercroft classified as a village green to prevent alterations.

Now this prolonged protest seems to have worked, with the Southbank Centre conceding that it may have to find a way of sharing the undercroft with its existing occupants.

However, skateboarding and the undercroft were the least of CABE's concerns over the design. While they praised the way the spaces had been reorganized, they also recommended that the architects take more time to develop the design, saying that some aspects of the redesign "fail to live up to the significance" of the existing buildings, as reported by BD. In particular, CABE was critical of the elevations for the cantilevered glass extension which "show subtle variations that may be too fine to be perceived from a distance".

However, yet more objection was raised by the Southbank's neighbor, the National Theatre. Their director Nicholas Hytner submitted a 2,600-word planning objection to Lambeth Council, which raised concerns over the way in which the new designs would affect views from the National Theatre, and the way in which the new 'Liner' building will separate the Theatre and the Southbank Centre - compromising the link between the two institutions that the public often consider as a single cultural complex.

This objection in turn drove Paul Finch, deputy chair of CABE, to challenge Hytner's 'nimbyism' in an article for the Architects' Journal, reiterating that CABE "has supported the proposal in the round" and calling the National Theatre's objections a "foolish sideswipe".

Despite all the controversy, and the decision to review the planning application, the Southbank Centre remains resolute in their aim to regenerate the complex in a way that everyone is happy with. “Over the next few weeks we will work with our communities to find the best way of balancing everyone’s needs in demanding financial times so we can achieve this ambitious project”, explained their official statement.

About this author
Rory Stott
Cite: Rory Stott. "Controversy Reigns Over Southbank Centre" 11 Jul 2013. ArchDaily. Accessed . <> ISSN 0719-8884
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