On the 7th May 2013 Peter Clegg chaired a debate at the Purcell Room, Southbank Centre. On the panel were Jude Kelly, Artistic Director of Southbank Centre, architect Sarah Wigglesworth, Dennis Crompton of Archigram, who worked on the sixties Southbank Centre buildings and Edwin Heathcote, writer and leading architecture critic.
The Southbank has for 60 years been the locus of radical, forward looking architecture. Originally the site of the Festival of Britain in 1951, the area has continued to see radical change with the construction of the Brutalist concrete buildings of the Hayward Gallery and Queen Elizabeth Hall. With the new proposals for the Festival Wing recently announced, the panel discussed the ideas which gave life to these unusual buildings.
Dennis Crompton, one of the team of architects responsible for the design of the Hayward Gallery, spoke of the long history of the South Bank as a place for experimentation and delight with the Pleasure Gardens and entrepreneurial industries cheek by jowl. Sarah Wigglesworth talked of the importance of civic space and civic buildings and reminded us of the collaborative, social agenda of the LCC during the late 1960s which was the place to be for bright young architects. Jude Kelly described just such an agenda for the Southbank today which aims to be a place for the collective imagination to thrive. Edwin Heathcote admired the unfinished quality of the site and urged the Southbank to retain some spaces which are unprogrammed and which can enable unexpected and spontaneous things to happen in an urban environement.