Landmarks: The Royal Festival Hall

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The Independent Culture
I have various reasons for selecting the Royal Festival Hall. In the first place it was significant in my own career in that it was built while I was still a student in the early Fifties and was the first post-war building of real quality. It epitomised social attitudes of the day. Truly a people's building, there is nothing pompous or grand about it. Until then public buildings had been designed to impress . . . this was meant to be enjoyed.

It integrates remarkably well with its surroundings. Of course some of the walkways by which you now approach it were built subsequently and were not of such good materials although the difference between the Portland stone of the Festival Hall and the concrete of the surrounding buildings makes it stand out more than when it was first built. The facade to the river has also been changed; I think it was more interesting before but it is still quite a good piece of architecture, and the internal detailing is really a delight with the balustrades which change as you come to landings and the inside of the auditorium with its wonderful display of boxes hung in space. The red leather quilted doors are the one touch of ostentation but they are still quite beautiful.

It has stood the test of time remarkably well. It is not dated and does not look tatty. Some fairly horrific alterations were done to it internally but these could be undone and by and large it is still a very distinguished building. I think it is remarkable that a building built almost half a century ago is still loved and enjoyed as much as when it opened.

Professor J Dunbar-Nasmith is a partner in Law and Dunbar-Nasmith, based in Edinburgh. He designed the new Edinburgh Festival Theatre which opens in June

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