Do C20’s South Bank pictures help the debate?
It's a gimmick, worthy of the worst of nimbyism planning tactics. The 20th Century Society isn’t getting its own way, and its response amounts to misinformation. Why not cut out the image and turn it into a hat for the Queen? It would make as much sense.
As far as I can tell the CGI images shown of the Southbank Centre are as good as we will get of what the overall scheme might eventually look like. They are based on accurate drawings and the materiality of the existing and the proposed. The illustrations may have a touch of artistic license, but they aren’t fantasy.
By contrast the 20th Century Society have fallen into the tabloidese. Such unsophisticated, sensational images show up the obsession with treating buildings as fixed architectural monuments. This misses the point. The debate is whether the Southbank Centre’s proposals both conserve the building fabric and, more significantly, restore the spirit and conscience of the architecture.
Images like those offered by the 20th Century Society have no relevance to context, location or detail of design – particularly as the Southbank Centre is not a Listed Building, an ancient monument or in a World Heritage Site. And the problem with the 20th Century Society’s approach here is that it risks making its concerns and more sensible suggestions also seem questionable.
The 20th Century Society’s images are intended to shock, but for the more forward-thinking they may actually be illuminating. Who knows? In the right circumstance, and with the right imagery, a structure floating majestically over one of our more historically significant buildings might just be an idea worth exploring.