Southbank announces major £24m maintenance scheme for QEH, Purcell and Hayward

- 29 May 2014

The Southbank Centre has announced a £24m scheme to repair and maintain the Queen Elizabeth Hall, Purcell Room and Hayward Gallery, backed by a £16.7m grant from Arts Council England. The work will improve ‘essential services, environmental performance, infrastructure such as workshops and backstage areas, and disabled access for audiences and artists’ as well as restoring the buildings, inside and out.

The Queen Elizabeth Hall,  Southbank Centre's second-largest performance space. Photo:

Queen Elizabeth Hall, Southbank Centre’s second-largest performance space.

However, the idea of a ‘Festival Wing’, the initial plan which was scotched after mayoral intervention earlier this year, has not been abandoned by Southbank management: the centre is ‘still working to resolve the funding of a wider scheme’ to add new performance, rehearsal and public spaces.

‘This is an important step for Southbank Centre following the delay to our Festival Wing scheme in February,’ said Southbank chairman Rick Haythornthwaite.

The project recognises the need for a significant interim solution for the Southbank’s secondary complex of buildings, after the explosion in footfall which followed the Festival Hall’s 2007 renovation. English Heritage said that repair and maintenance ‘could not be further delayed’.

The project will also ‘replicate’ the Hayward Gallery’s distinctive pyramid roof, which has suffered structural problems since its construction. It will be redesigned and rebuilt, to look the same but allow controlled light into the gallery as originally conceived by the architects.

Opponents of the Festival Wing scheme are expected to welcome a project which aims to restore the buildings to their original state.

Full statement below.


Arts Council England is to fund the repair and maintenance of Southbank Centre’s Queen Elizabeth Hall, Purcell Room and Hayward Gallery with a £16.7m grant. Starting in late 2015, the building conservation project will address a £24m backlog of repairs. The Arts Council grant will meet 70% of the budget, with the remainder to be raised from trusts, philanthropists and audiences.

Southbank Centre is still working to resolve the funding of a wider scheme for the Festival Wing, which will deliver new space for art and culture, alongside major public realm and service improvements. It expects to make recommendations on this scheme in late 2014.

Rick Haythornthwaite, Chairman of Southbank Centre, said: “We are very grateful to Arts Council England for so generously supporting the urgent repair and maintenance of these iconic 60s buildings. This is an important step for Southbank Centre following the delay to our Festival Wing scheme in February.

“We still aim to create new space for our artistic and cultural programmes, once we have found a way through the substantial remaining funding challenge. This will enable us to meet the huge demand for our work following the refurbishment of Royal Festival Hall.”

Alan Davey, Chief Executive of Arts Council England said: “The Arts Council is pleased to be able to safeguard the future of this vital part of London’s artistic and tourist infrastructure through this capital grant. This grant will enable the Southbank to carry out essential work to enhance its existing space, giving them the right buildings to deliver their fantastic artistic and cultural programme and to bring multiple benefits to the millions of visitors the centre attracts each year.”

Simon Hickman, Inspector of Historic Buildings and Areas at English Heritage, said: “These uncompromising brutalist buildings reflect radical changes in British society and culture during the era of their design and creation. Their conservation could not be further delayed and we are delighted that Southbank Centre and Arts Council England are prepared to invest in them. This will enable the public to appreciate the buildings and their significance. English Heritage looks forward to working with Southbank Centre and sharing our expertise in the detailed development of the proposal.”

The new building conservation project will improve essential services, environmental performance, infrastructure such as workshops and backstage areas, and disabled access for audiences and artists. It will restore the buildings’ interiors to their original appearance and repair exterior terraces to maintain a key part of the site’s outdoor landscape. It will also replicate the iconic Hayward Gallery Pyramid Roof to allow controlled natural light into the galleries as originally conceived.

The project will include an extensive, permanent programme of learning and participation. This will allow people of all ages and backgrounds to engage with the history of these important buildings, helping to change attitudes to 20th century architecture.

Southbank Centre continues to work on its Festival Wing plans with neighbours including the BFI and National Theatre, the GLA and Lambeth Council. It will be making every effort with skateboard groups to resolve their future in the Queen Elizabeth Hall undercroft, which is the subject of ongoing legal challenge.

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