Culture club embraces public realm

Saturday 29 April 2017

Cultural buildings across the capital are concentrating not just on rejuvenating and extending their own facilities but also on making high quality additions to the public realm surrounding them. But local authorities in some corners of the capital are finding it hard to maintain their surrounding streets owing to austerity and competing demands on their funds.

Those were some of the headline issues arising from a run-through of a number of cultural projects this morning at a breakfast session on transforming London’s Cultural Buildings at the NLA.

Head of architecture at The Royal Academy of Arts Kate Goodwin showed how the David Chipperfield scheme to reinvigorate the Burlington House building and link it to the 6 Burlington Gardens behind will also bear fruit in the way in which it opens up the rear with a new entrance to Cork Street and Bond Street and improved interaction with those street and other local galleries. This will improve a rather ‘abrupt’ relationship at present, said Goodwin. ‘It’s an important part of us being champions for art in the area’.  The scheme, which is on course to open next year in time for the institution’s 250th anniversary, includes a new bridge link space, improved visitor facilities that will prove useful with its blockbuster events such as the current David Hockney show, as well as improved space for the little-known art school (the oldest in the country). It will also include a private garden for the school, new lecture space and a 390m2 space for architecture shows, and figures as part of a wider regeneration of the area prompted by the arrival of the Elizabeth Line.

Feilden Clegg Bradley’s work at the Southbank Centre and Hayward Gallery, said managing partner Ian Taylor, is predominantly about improving building services, but also in allowing more daylight into the building through reworking some original pyramidal rooflights, and improving artists’ back of house spaces, auditoria, and foyers. New public realm improvements include a new high level route from the IMAX to the Southbank, a new stepped space and welcoming entrance for QEH and Haywards, and improving the low-level route from upper to lower ground.

But, said National Theatre director of external relationships and partnerships John Langley, a cautionary note had to be made that although much of the cleaning in the south bank area is looked after through a generous arrangement from the Section 106 from the London Eye, other corners of Lambeth’s land nearby are looking more down at heel. Langley said there was ‘real concern’ from organisations nearby that the standards it set cannot be met by an authority hit by austerity and the budgets required by items like its social care responsibility. He said it was great to see that TfL has plans to upgrade the scheme around the IMAX roundabout, and hoped that this will extend to ancillary streets around the National and further south.

The final speaker was BuckleyGrayYeoman associate Holly Wells, who showed her practice’s designs for Cromwell Place Gallery, a scheme to provide flexible and more affordable spaces for galleries in a co-working model in South Kensington. The scheme refurbishes existing buildings and creates a new gallery space to the rear in a new pavilion building in black steel, plus a new entrance and courtyard from Thurloe Place. ‘It provides an opportunity to reimagine this Royal borough in the 21st century’, she said.

David Taylor
Editor, New London Quarterly 

Part of the NLA Culture Programme

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