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Public Architecture for the Arts: From South Bank to Southbank

Part 2 Dissertation 2013
Philip Pryke
University of Portsmouth | UK
The South Bank was chosen as the basis for this dissertation as it is the location of the Royal Festival Hall 1951, South Bank Arts Centre 1967/8 and National Theatre 1976. Three pieces of publicly funded modern architecture that sit tightly packed together, both geographically and theoretically but which come from very different social, cultural and political epochs.

The post-war reconstruction years are known for many achievements, the National Health Service, reform of the education system and housing for all, but rarely for its contribution to the arts. This thesis will explore the social and political surroundings, which lead to the unrivalled investment of public money in buildings for the arts and whether the combination of modern architecture and public funding has created a unique character for the buildings of the South Bank.

Though aware of the political dilemmas and funding shortfalls the area has suffered over its life, it is rarely evaluated as a whole in terms of its past and continuing use and legacy. This dissertation intends to address this issue through discussion of the politics and city planning which contributed to the creation of todays South Bank, followed by the architectural response and public reception of its continued development.

As the three buildings have defied the fate bestowed upon the majority of post-war architecture it will ask if it is only through such cultural typologies as those displayed on the South Bank that the spirit and expression of a nation can be depicted and thus cherished. This dissertation is intended to explore how the South Bank developed into a centre of national pride and identity and whether this is down to the post-war spirit manifested in its architecture. It will ask how the modern movement came to play such a pivotal role on the South Bank and if this use of modern design helped, or hindered the public’s acceptance of the redevelopment of the area.

Philip Pryke

Dr Elizabeth-Marie Tuson
Tina Wallbridge
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