Competing Pressures: Balancing conservation and commercial viability

Thursday 23 January 2014

Conservation is not the polar opposite to commercial viability it is often portrayed as in regeneration projects, however convenient that might be to the development community.

That was one of the key views to emerge in a discussion at NLA last Friday calledCompeting pressures – balancing conservation and commercial viability, and drawing on lessons learned from plans for Smithfield Market and the Southbank Centre. Clare Hughes, Creative Producer, Feilden Clegg Bradley Studios said it was ‘slightly churlish to suggest that financial viability and conservation are competing pressures’ – rather that they were both ‘vital’ ingredients in making schemes work. But it was hardest when a building no longer does what it once did or is now obsolete. ‘The notion that commerce is a terrible thing or should be kept to one side while culture is a noble thing that we should all value…I think that doesn’t understand how human society has worked and how human society has developed’, she said.

Now working on the redevelopment of the complex’s Queen Elizabeth Hall, Purcell Room and Hayward Gallery, FCB Studios  is aiming to get the balance right at the South Bank Centre, a ‘lovely vibrant site, but which has to respond to changes of time’, she said.

Southbank Centre Artistic Director Jude Kelly said that it was important to make sure the site is ‘always an experience’, adding to a recent run of architectural interventions and pop-ups and continued experimentation with the landscape. It will also continue to draw on the South Bank Centre’s founding principles as a platform for peacekeeping and status as a unique space, rather than a mere series of buildings. ‘It’s incredibly important that the SBC does not belong to one tribe’, she said.

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