South Bank Redevelopment Proposals by Fielden Clegg Bradley Studios.

( 4th July 2013. After some serious criticisms from National Theatre, the client/architects has agreed to withdraw the current planning application to carry out further work before resubmitting it. Sensible move for all concerned and us.)

You may have gathered from my recent contributions on Flickr that I have virtually grown with the South Bank and have been a frequent user of all the venues in this area from early 60s to now.

I have also admired Fielden Clegg Bradley Studios work for some time. With this background, I would like to express some of my initial views concerning the proposals which are based on fairly sketchy information released to the press.

I was of the view that this complex should not be listed, however appointment of an intelligent architectural practice and a sensible brief was essential to do justice to the site and it was a relief to see FCB appointed.

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It is obvious that the client is desperate to cram  maximum accommodation on this site to meet their expectations after leading a frustrated existence without having many ‘bells and whistles’ similar recently built projects have in major cities.

Architects seem to be performing a difficult ‘tight-rope’ trick and their initial offerings seem quite an outstanding achievement. This is not a bad time to raise concerns by observers who know this area and its history of growth and have some constructive criticism to offer.

The architectural pedigrees of the original 60s buildings and RFH are well known and ‘over-reverential’ architectural approach to alterations sometime expected by conservationists would be inappropriate in this instance.

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The proposals for central raised block facing RFH may appear large but I see this as a good location to gain badly needed accommodation.

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My only observation (not a criticism) is that the existing pedestrian route under Waterloo Bridge connecting this main space to the terraces of National Theatre is extremely restricted and arrival at the side of NT from under the bridge is a disappointing experience and is a bit of an anti climax. Some improvements around here, with blessings of NT, would be hugely beneficial to all concerned.

My main concerns relate to the long glass block running parallel to the bridge housing Poetry Library, Literature Centre and Restaurants.

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The building works  and fits well when seen from Hungerford Bridge side as it acts as another ‘book-end’ (the other one being the new building between RFH and railway track) and neatly contains the activities on this side of the Waterloo Bridge.

However, in my opinion all the negative factors come into play from Waterloo Bridge and NT side. Let me share some of these negative aspects and its impact on the surrounding area.

  • The pedestrians and drivers when crossing the bridge are able to see concrete structures of NT on one and QEH, Hayward on the other side with their distinct ‘idiosyncratic approaches’ almost having a dialogue with each other.

      This would be interrupted by the new block at least at QEH end.

  • The end elevation of this block as seen by people on the bridge approaching Waterloo Station would be out of character and far from satisfactory in its scale and appearance. Although the views from inside this building can be very exciting.
  • The views from the roof terraces of National Theatre currently enjoying the side elevations of QEH would be lost for ever depriving the witty bouncing of a concrete banter between these dissimilar but contemporary icons.
  • Walking at the bottom of a fairly long sheer wall of this block close to the Bridge pavement is alien in to the local urban context. A similar situation is only experienced where the pavement abuts the building line in Lancaster Place which directly relates to context of Strand and well before the bridge starts. Once you are on the bridge the ability to look down from pavements on both sides exists throughout the length of the bridge which will be disrupted by this block.

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An important architectural location without listed status puts even more onerous responsibility on a caring and gifted architect and the client. This is a good scheme to prove that excellent results are possible to obtain without ‘crutches’ of listing status.SerpentinePavilionJune13 048

The end of the linear block would rise on the left of QEH. Lower floor is probably Cafe or Restaurant.

The views from the footpaths of Waterloo Bridge give you glimpses of a busy riverside walk and various terraces of NT.

All sketches and perspectives from Architects press release and photos by Iqbal Aalam.

More photographs of this and other GLC projects see  

Hayward Gallery, Under construction.

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The recently opened entrance/ticket Hall building at Kings Cross by John McAslan Partners deservedly impresses the users of London transport system as the long overdue functional improvements are so obviously noticeable.

I have been observing the structure rise and my instincts were beginning to cause concern the way the ‘1/2 flying saucer’ roof landed in between two of the greatest railway sheds and Great Victorian extravaganza of Midland Grand Hotel.

My first visit to the building was indeed rewarded by a very impressive looking solution for users of both railway stations and the Underground system. My doubts about roof and the footprint of the building failed to subside and an extra concern about the new visual language added discomfort to my personal impressions of this building by a very gifted architect, next to some of the best buildings of last two centuries in London.

Easiest way to summarise these concerns will be to compare Henry Barlow’s and Cubitt’s sheds as two huge whales somehow arrived from northerly direction and got beached on Euston Road. Barlow’s whale hade an elaborate Venetian Mask made by Gilbert Scott (a work of art in its own right) and Cubitt’s whale displayed its honest face in its rugged beauty.

All of a sudden a truncated ‘jelly fish’ like creatures is found between the two sheds attached to one side of Cubitt’s shed. It goes without saying that the public admired their huge rib cages as a wonder of creation and natural selection (Darwin 1809-1882) and acquired a special status putting even ‘mediocre’ work by Cubitt on a pedestal labelled ‘Do not touch’. I feel that the accident of history trapped the curved Great Northern Hotel by Cubitt in a position which obstructed any sensible additions to meet functions which have drastically altered over last few decades. This also led architects in architectural directions which I am certain he would not have followed under different circumstances.

The new building’s half circular shape is generated by Cubitt’s hotel, an uncomfortable fit; evolving an alien/new language with references to Gaudi (Parc Guell), Eero Saarinen, Pier Lugi Nervi and Calatrava. The visible new roofscape in this urban context is an unfortunate judgement. McAslan was robbed of producing a notable building of 21st Century to stand next to masterpieces of 19th century, all because someone wanted to preserve a building without any meaningful significance for future generations.