London is divided by the River Thames, with ‘south of the river’, notwithstanding its complex history and large population, regarded by visitors and north Londoners alike as liminal – a way into the capital rather than a destination in its own right.Southwark was noted from the medieval period for inns to accommodate travellers and for the town houses of church dignitaries, and from the sixteenth century for bear-baiting, theatres and prisons. Built on a difficult site at a time when the large shed allowing dispersal of smoke and steam was no longer required with the introduction of electric trains, the emphasis here shifted to the spacious, well-serviced concourse, the beginning in England of the station as a meeting place and a setting for commerce.The National Film Theatre nearby, also by Leslie Martin, was constructed in 1956–8 under the south arch of Waterloo Bridge. Waterloo Bridge John Rennie’s great granite bridge of 1811–17, its strength symbolised by the coupled Doric columns attached to the piers, was replaced in 1937–42 by this elegant essay in reinforced concrete by Sir Giles Gilbert Scott and Rendel, Palmer and Tritton, engineers. National Theatre Sir Denys Lasdun’s masterpiece (1967–76), this superb building was the result of a long saga which had involved consideration of sites in Bloomsbury, South Kensington and Jubilee Gardens (in front of the Shell Centre).There are three theatres: the amphitheatrical Olivier (1,160 seats), the proscenium-arched Lyttleton (890), and the experimental Cottesloe (200–400, depending on layout), which has a separate entrance towards the rear of the building.
Broadwall by Lifschutz Davidson (1995) is one of the scheme’s three distinct housing developments.
Here is the first major British public building in a modernist idiom, designed and detailed with considerable panache and great technical skill.
The 3,000 seat auditorium is placed above-ground, floating above the multilevel foyers, insulated from the sound and vibration of the nearby railway line into Charing Cross.
Alterations by Hubert Bennett in 1962–5 added new service buildings to the rear and pushed the riverfront forward, enlarging the foyer and restaurant.
Refurbishment, including the addition of shops at the lower level, was carried out by Allies and Morrison in 2006–7. Hayward Gallery, Queen Elizabeth Hall and Purcell Room Built 1965–8 to the design of the GLC Architect’s Department, this is exciting architectural sculpture, although the elevated walkways and reinforced concrete can appear forbidding on grey, rainy days, making this group of gallery and concert halls an acquired taste.
Dating from 1901–22 (incorporating earlier station buildings of the mid- and later nineteenth century), by engineers J. Maynard Smith, partly ten and partly twenty-six storeys high, of reinforced concrete with a steelframed tower, all stone faced.