Transforming Southbank Centre


Royal Festival Hall was created as part of the 1951 Festival of Britain, but Southbank Centre’s Queen Elizabeth Hall, Purcell Room and Hayward Gallery first opened their doors in 1967 and 1968, onto a rapidly changing world.

These buildings are important examples of the architecture of the decade, and are often associated with the British Brutalist movement. Now after five decades of intense artistic activity, the doors of Queen Elizabeth Hall, Purcell Room and Hayward Gallery are closed on Monday 21 September 2015 for two years.

The buildings have, quite simply, been loved to death and this project will breathe new life into them. The plans for Queen Elizabeth Hall, Purcell Room and Hayward Gallery include restoring interiors, refurbishing the Hayward Gallery’s pyramid roof lights, improvements to the Queen Elizabeth Hall foyers, making the buildings more accessible and installing state-of-the-art technology.

Read about our refurbishment project and find out how you could support us through the Let The Light In campaign.

Royal Festival Hall Refurbishment

The main refurbishment of the Royal Festival Hall began in June 2005 and it reopened on 8 June 2007.

The Redevelopment of Southbank Centre site

Work is underway on the modernisation of the whole Southbank Centre site, which extends from County Hall to Waterloo Bridge and along the Queen's Walk by the river Thames. The New Extension Building is the latest in a number of improvements completed in the last three years. All have been designed within the framework of the Rick Mather Masterplan which emphasises the importance of easier and more direct access; active frontages and clear, more direct pedestrian access at ground level.

The Story So Far...

Belvedere Road Walkway

In the spring of 1999 the elevated concrete walkway linking the Hayward Gallery to Waterloo Station via the Hungerford Railway Bridge and Shell Centre was removed. The demolition work was begun by Jim Dickson leader of Lambeth Council. It revealed a new public space called Festival Square which has since become a major space for orientation around the site and home to Festival Square Café opened in the summer of 2003. The square is now crossed by over 1.5m people a year.

Royal Festival Hall stairway

In the summer of 2003 the old narrow and dangerous spiral was demolished. A new Royal Festival Hall stairway linking Belvedere Road with the terrace and the new Golden Jubilee Bridges was officially opened by Kate Hoey, MP for Vauxhall, Peter Truesdale, Leader of Lambeth Council and Michael Lynch, Chief Executive of Southbank Centre. The new stairway marked the beginning of the creation of new pedestrian routes to and around the Southbank Centre, linking up with the new Golden Jubilee footbridges. It is now used by over 4.5m people a year. The stairway has been funded by Waterloo Project Board and the Cross River Partnership.

Hayward Gallery Foyer and Pavilion

The Hayward Gallery reopened in October 2003 following a £1.8 million foyer extension. Collaborating on this project were American artist Dan Graham and Graham Haworth of British architects Haworth Tompkins. New facilities include: Dan Graham's pavilion Waterloo Sunset at the Hayward Gallery, 2002-03; a new café - Starbucks at the Hayward Gallery; education and corporate entertainment spaces, better access, including a lift from ground level enabling independent wheelchair access, as well as automated doors.

Festival Riverside

The landscaped river frontage of the Royal Festival Hall has transformed an access road into a pedestrianised Festival Riverside. It was officially opened in August 2005 with Giraffe, MDC Music and Movies, EAT, Foyles, Strada and Wagamama. An internal staircase will provide easy access from the Queens Walk to the main foyers.

Inspiration for Festival Riverside has come from the 1951 Festival of Britain with:

  • sculptured stairs reflecting the curve of the RFH and the river
  • dramatic granite stairs and a generous square
  • an integrated ramp to the RFH
  • potential for outdoor café seating and informal performances

The Level 2 Riverside Terrace has an area for seating, defined by canopies over the new foyer and outdoor staircase. Limestone paving will extend the foyer on to the terrace. New cafés will spill out onto the terrace when the RFH reopens next summer.

The New Extension Building

The new building, designed by Royal Festival Hall architects Allies and Morrison, is a slim, glass-fronted building built alongside the Hungerford rail bridge opening on to the terrace and links the new Golden Jubilee foot bridges with Belvedere Road. By providing office space for staff and technical facilities it has freed up 35% more public space within the Royal Festival Hall for our Learning & Participation Centre, the opening up of the original roof terraces and the extension of the two Level 4 interval bars.


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