Letter: Reasons to protect the South Bank

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The Independent Online
Sir: Jonathan Glancey comments on the declared intention of The South Bank Board to demolish The Hayward Gallery, Queen Elizabeth Hall and Purcell Room (24 February). It is to be hoped that the board will think again, for reasons both particular and general.

I have not the expertise to add to what Mr Glancey says about the Hayward, but I have recorded in both the QE and the Purcell Room. Each has its faults; the QE because the stage is too enclosed in concrete, the Purcell because of the flutter-echo in the acting area. Both defects could easily be cured, and the basic acoustic of each has delightful possibilities when properly used. Most of all, however, these are buildings that 'work', unlike so many that have been erected.

Their respective scales suit the performers and they give the audience that intangible but crucial feeling of excitement and well-being. These buildings are a necessary adjunct to the Royal Festival Hall itself, the acoustic of which I find quite delightful, with or without the electronic enhancement, which has been fine tuned to give an excellent result. There can be no guarantee that replacements for these buildings would be as good, or work as well together. Cannot a habitat be created around them, as Mr Glancey says, which would satisfy all the requirements of the board?

There is also a powerful general reason for preserving these structures. Buildings begin by being new and praised, at least by some. Then they are deprecated as old- fashioned. These two stages are almost independent of the actual merits of the building, and it is only in the final post-unfashionable phase that they can be truly assessed.

It is scarcely to be denied that our architectural heritage would be the richer, and much needless expense spared, if more buildings had been allowed to survive their unfashionable phase.

Yours faithfully,


St Kew Highway,


25 February