Hayward Gallery - London

Photography: Rory Gardiner

South Bank, London
Architect: Norman Engleback, Ron Herron and Warren Chalk
Completed: 1968

The Hayward Gallery is an art gallery within the Southbank Centre, Europe’s largest art center with over six million visitors annually. The gallery does not house any permanent collections but hosts 3-6 temporary modern or contemporary exhibitions each year. It’s situated on the South Bank of the River Thames in central London. The gallery is named after Isaac Hayward, a former leader of the London County Council.

The building was designed together with the Queen Elizabeth Hall and Purcell Room, as an addition to the Southbank Centre arts complex. In 2003 the building was remodeled by Haworth Tompkins architects who added a larger glass-fronted foyer and a new a new oval shaped glass pavilion.
The gallery, Queen Elizabeth Hall and Purcell Room are now closed and are undergoing a major regeneration led by Feilden Clegg Bradley Studios. The first stage of the project, refurbishing and adapting the existing buildings to the demands of the 21st century is set to be completed by the end of 2017. After that major additions to the existing buildings are planned.

Map   -    London


Site Plan    -    1. The River Thames   2. Queen Elizabeth Hall   3. Royal National Theatre   4. Waterloo Bridge   5. The Royal Festival Hall

2003 Entrance and oval pavillion by Haworth Tompkins architects.


One of the most interesting aspects of Brutalism, especially on the South Bank is the diffuse transition between building and city and between street, place and façade.
The buildings extend into platforms and walkways connecting different levels of the buildings and city to each other and plays with the transition between public and private.

Denys Lasdun who designed the National Theater another Brutalist icon on the South Bank explained how he looked at the building as an extension of the city. Aspiring for the building to provide the qualities of the urban space - streets on which to spontaneously meet - the square on which to stop and be for a while - buildings that provide spaces for human interaction. This view - on the building as more than just a façade towards the street – as an extension of the city – is as interesting today as then.

You could however say that both the Hayward Gallery and the National Theatre along with many other Brutalist projects failed to consider one aspect of this relationship in their designs; A city like London is constantly changing and concrete is not a very flexible material over time. Adapting to a changing context seems to be the greatest weakness of Brutalism. Whether it is a change in how people move through and area, a new economic climate or system, a different political agenda or simply peoples changing taste, Brutalism seems to always end up in the line of fire. Maybe it's just because it is such a strong and bold gesture. Strong enough to still today make a statement, to still start debates and to still be able to remind us that architecture can be ambitious and make a stand.
Even though many Brutalist projects have failed in what they set out to do the questions they raised and tackled are still as relevant today and unfortunately mostly remain unanswered.