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Regenerating 'people's palaces'

Queen Elizabeth Hall foyer (above) restored and re-designed by FCBStudios

We were delighted that both Elaine Bedell, Chief Executive of the Southbank Centre and Ian Taylor, Managing Partner of FCBStudios spoke at our April Future Cities Forum about the £30 million regeneration of the structures of London's people's palace by the river Thames.

Elaine who is currently enacting her vision for the Southbank Centre spoke about respecting the spirit and principles of the Festival of Britain which gave birth to the Festival Hall and other installations. She described the approach to restoring the brutalist, avant-garde buildings of the Hayward Gallery, Queen Elizabeth hall and the Purcell Room, which were built later in the 1970's, to make them lighter and more welcoming. Watch Elaine below:

Ian Taylor's team at the London office of FCBStudios has been renovating the complex of buildings at the Southbank Centre, releasing daylight into the Hayward Gallery via re-worked roof pyramids, and adding warmth and adjustable colour lighting into the coffered ceilings of the Queen Elizabeth Hall Foyer. Ian also talked about the way in which the success of the Southbank Centre can be measured in just how full the foyers are from opening at 10 am in the morning, with many visitors choosing to work - with 'Southbank' business cards - from the public tables, while enjoying coffee and one of the best views in London. See him describe his renovation work below:

FCB Studios is experienced in tackling old and listed buildings, being sensitive to retaining the heritage fabric while making them fit for today's use. Alexandra Palace is another example. with the regeneration of the East Wing of this 'people's palace' in Haringey, North London, breathing new life into a much-loved cultural icon, integrating a new technical infrastructure while retaining the unique character of its historic spaces.

According to project architect, Matt Somerville: 'These spaces offer their own particular delight and significance. The East Court was once a grand exhibition hall, part of a wider experience of promenade and spectacle so beloved of the Victorian public. The 19th-century theatre, dark for over eighty years, tells a story of grandeur overlaid with decades of alteration, damage and slow decay. All of this is integral to the character and atmosphere of the space. The past is suddenly tangible. Some far-reaching interventions were called for, but of paramount importance was the preservation of the evocative and layered character that made this room unique - a fragile quality that could have been destroyed by well-meaning repair.'

FCBStudios uses the term "arrested decay" to describe an approach of consolidation rather than restoration. In treating rooms as found spaces, the processes of deterioration have been addressed, elements that were unsafe or could not be viably repaired have been removed, added elements are legibly modern, it says.

Future Cities Forum's April 'Cultural regeneration and cities' event discussed the role and ambitions of people's palaces across London, with the re-making of Olympia in West London by SPPARC Architecture. Additionally, the forum looked at how a cluster of leading cultural and education organisations including the V&A, Sadler's Wells , UCL and the London College of Fashion can work with communities to create an 'East Bank' hub with major urban impact.

'Arrested decay' - the theatre at Alexandra Palace (image copyright Richard Battye for FCBStudios)

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