Rogers proposes glass umbrella for concrete South Bank: Jonathan Glancey looks at plans to revamp London's cultural centre and surroundings with a cover of glass

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The Independent Online
THE South Bank, London's concrete culture bunker, is to be revamped and covered by a glass umbrella or skin, under a plan by the Richard Rogers Partnership.

The team, architects of the Lloyd's building, the Pompidou Centre, Heathrow's planned Terminal 5 and the new European Court of Human Rights, Strasbourg, was chosen from three architectural practices short-listed at the beginning of the July. Sir Richard Rogers' plan to weave together the disparate buildings (the Royal Festival Hall, the Hayward Gallery, the Queen Elizabeth Hall and the Purcell Room), public spaces and walkways that form the South Bank Centre will be submitted to a detailed consultation process during the autumn before a final scheme is offered for National Lottery funding.

The funding is crucial to the plan which will be competing with other cultural projects chasing lottery money and Millenium grants. Rival plans include the conversion of Bankside power station into the Tate Museum of Modern Art, a revamping of the Royal Opera House and the creation of Albertopolis - an overground and underground mall linking South Kensington tube station to the Albert Memorial via the Kensington museums and the Albert Hall.

The Rogers' scheme envisions a South Bank Centre, like Frank Hampson's Festival of Britain drawings of London in 1999 that appeared in the Dan Dare comic strip in the Eagle.

The glazed-over spaces would include new exhibition, education and performance areas with a new foyer to the National Film Theatre and the Museum of the Moving Image.

There would also be bookshops, a video library, bars, cafes and restaurants. The proposal also includes a new bridge link between the concourse of Waterloo Station and the South Bank. Currently, pedestrians coming from Waterloo have to negotiate a grim passageway. The walkway on the Hungerford railway bridge that connects the South Bank to the north bank of the Thames would be rebuilt.

No building would be demolished. Previous plans made in the Eighties considered the destruction of the Hayward Gallery.

Sir Richard Rogers has long been concerned with improving the look of London along the River Thames. He proposed plans for the South Bank in the Eighties; including them in his book A Vision for London.

An exhibition of all the designs put forward for the South Bank opens in Royal Festival Hall on 20 September. Visitors will asked to comment on the schemes.

(Photograph omitted)

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