Architecture Update: Centuries of ideas

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The Independent Culture
DETAILS of the long-awaited architectural competition for the South Bank arts centre, London, will be revealed next Wednesday. The announcement by the South Bank Board will coincide with the opening of an exhibition covering projects that have been mooted for the site since the 18th century.

Although competitors will be asked to look at ways of including a better range of restaurants, cafes and shops, the competition brief emphasises the need to make the South Bank more inviting by transforming the spaces between existing buildings and overcoming problems of access. As predicted, the board will announce that the Hayward Gallery, Queen Elizabeth Hall and Purcell Room - much maligned Brutalist concrete buildings of the late Sixties - will be renovated.

There will be scope for increasing performance and gallery space with new buildings - one obvious site is the Hungerford car park. Although the land is owned by the South Bank Board, it is also one of two possible sites for the Tate Gallery's proposed Museum of Modern Art; the other is Bankside power station. As the Tate has not made up its mind - and is unlikely to do so until the spring - it will be difficult for any architect to draw up a masterplan.

'Building for the South Bank', an exhibition of architectural projects, 1753-1993, is at the Architectural Foundation, 30 Bury Street, London SW1, from 3 February to 20 March, 071-839 9389.