"Londoners can, at last, have the impression that something is being done to address the problem of the South Bank and Mather's trademark rational, cool, modern approach seems the perfect antidote to the centre's drab squalor."
London's Southbank Centre is the largest arts complex in the world. Rick Mather Architects were unanimously chosen from over 70 international practice's submissions to masterplan the 12 hectares (30 acre) site bounded by the River Thames to the north-west, Waterloo Bridge to the north-east, Belvedere Road to the south-east, and the London Eye to the south-west.
The masterplan provides a framework for the improvement and extension of existing cultural facilities and public realm at this important central London site, including the Royal Festival Hall, the Hayward Gallery, the Queen Elizabeth Hall, the Purcell Room, and the British Film Institute (comprising the National Film Theatre, the Museum of the Moving Image and the BFI library). After continuing development and refinement of the masterplan, many of the proposals have been agreed or implemented with Phase One completed in 2007.
A series of principles were established as a first step, forming the Southbank Urban Design Strategy. These include Improving accessibility, legibility and the public realm - there were major conflicts between pedestrian movement and vehicular servicing traffic, isolating the cultural institutions and creating general confusion for visitors. All entrances to all destinations are to be brought to ground level - the arts venues currently have much of their main access from indirect high-level routes with dark, dead space beneath. The strategy also sought a greater mix of use aimed at bringing a richer blend of visitors to the site over longer periods of the day. All building frontages throughout the site are activated with foyers, cafes and arts related retail. Linkages are improved between public open space, cultural facilities, public transport, highway networks, and other key destinations looking beyond the limits of the Southbank Centre site.
The masterplan, incorporating these principles, forms a coherent framework for incremental development over time by individual architect and landscape teams as planning decisions, funding and sites for development become known or available. This approach provides for flexibility of programme and operational continuity of the arts facilities. After one of the most extensive public consultation exercises ever undertaken for a project of this type, the masterplan has evolved to take into account the requirements of Southbank Centre, local landowners, the community, planning and heritage bodies, funding groups and urban design needs.
The first phase, concentrated on the site defined by the Royal Festival Hall (RFH), the Hayward Gallery, the Queen Elizabeth Hall and the Purcell Room, creates three new major public spaces - 'Southbank Centre Square' to the Belvedere Road side of the RFH, 'Festival Riverside' to the Thames side of the RFH and 'River Link Square' that connects the two, developed in detail by Gross:Max Landscape Architects. A new 'liner' building alongside the Hungerford Railway Bridge to the south of the RFH defines a grand new route up to the Golden Jubilee Hungerford Pedestrian Bridges and shields the public and the RFH from the high-level railway. The building conceals existing service routes and decants existing office space from the RFH, allowing it to turn more space over to public use. Additional arts-related commercial space is interspersed at peripheral positions at all levels to increase the mix of use and activity. New cafes are incorporated on street and river frontages of the RFH. Service routes are removed from the public realm and are discreetly relocated behind major building blocks, releasing significant areas of public space while linking and reinforcing key destinations. Phase One was completed in September 2007.
The second phase includes new and upgraded accommodation for the Queen Elizabeth Hall, Hayward Gallery and the British Film Institute, and develops the Hungerford car park in parallel with Jubilee Gardens to maximise public open space while extending the current Southbank facilities in line with the client's arts brief. Foyers and cafes for existing arts venues are relocated to ground level, animating public space and allowing for expansion of arts facilities in underused areas above. A new connection from River Link Square to the deck level of Waterloo Bridge provides further activity, clarity of movement and activated frontages. West 8 landscape architects have developed detailed designs for Jubilee Gardens in accordance with the principles of the Urban Design Strategy. The park is elevated to organise movement of people along more defined existing streets and allows views of the Thames and beyond, while reinforcing its own identity. There is potential for a wide range of activities and spaces within the gardens, including outdoor performance of differing scales, quiet relaxation and children's play areas.
RIBA Award (Royal Festival Hall)
The Evening Standard
Fay Sweet - 23 May 07
A bit of rough
William Cook - 24 Jun 02
Mather's plan adds human touch to brutal Southbank
Laura Iloniemi - Nov 00
Tales from the Capital's riverbank
Nonie Niesewand - 21 Feb 00
The Sunday Times
Squaring the Southbank Circle
Hugh Pearman - 20 Feb 00
Stephen Moss - 18 Feb 00
The Daily Telegraph
Mather may have come up with a winner
Giles Worsley - 18 Feb 00
Southbank to have $150m facelift
Dalya Alberge - 18 Feb 00
The Evening Standard
The Southbank sails into the future
Simon Jenkins - 17 Feb 00
The Wall Street Journal
London's bankside development project seeks to revice dormant arts centre
Ogale Iduhu - 18 Feb 00
Mather unveils Southbank
Lia Hattersley - 18 Feb 00
Rick Mather's Southbank plan wins early plaudits
Robert Booth - 17 Feb 00
The New York Times
A concrete art bunker on the Thames awaits the kiss of life
Warren Hoge - 3 June 99
7.7 hectares (19 acres)
Due to be Completed