Amelia’s Magazine | A preview of the National Trust Brutal Utopias Tour at the Southbank Centre

It’s no great secret that I’m a big fan of Brutalist architecture, so I pulled out all the stops to join a preview of the Brutal Utopias tour hosted by the National Trust over the next few weeks (tickets sadly already sold out). The tour offers a unique chance to see areas of the Southbank Centre that are not usually open to the public before the Queen Elizabeth Hall and the Hayward Gallery close their doors for a major refurb. Baby Carys came along in my wrap and was admirably well behaved for a not quite two month old.

We began our adventure with Joseph Watson (London creative director of the National Trust) in the bowels of the complex, tracing the routes of the service pipes in an underground passage between the buildings. I can see why they filmed episodes of Doctor Who down in these atmospheric innards.

A trek up the stairs to the roof of the building revealed an astonishing and unexpected sight. I’ve never got quite so excited about ventilation before but these great machines have been operating continuously since the 1960s which is pretty amazing. The vast turbines suck air in from the sky and send it down to the concert halls, but because this is not exactly energy efficient they will be replaced in the two year refit. Thankfully some parts will be saved and left in situ. I’m not sure you can tell from this great fluttering bank of filters but there was quite the breeze in this antechamber where the air gets sucked in to be processed. It felt like entering a hurricane and gave Carys quite a jolt!

The original 1960s projection unit looming over the wood panelled Queen Elizabeth Hall includes these hulking beasts that will be restored for use once more: I was dwarved beside them.

Finally, we admired the walls of the Queen Elizabeth Hall and the Hayward Gallery, which were lovingly cast in concrete from slabs of Arctic pine showing amazing attention to detail. It’s really great to see this under-loved architectural style finally getting the attention it deserves before all the best examples are ripped down, let’s hope a few more wonderful buildings can be saved before they befall the fate of the Tricorn Centre.

For more information on these tours visit the National Trust website here.

Categories ,1960s, ,60s, ,architecture, ,Brutal Utopias, ,Brutalism, ,Brutalist, ,Carys, ,Doctor Who, ,Hayward Gallery, ,Joseph Watson, ,National Trust, ,Queen Elizabeth Hall, ,South Bank Centre, ,Southbank centre, ,tour, ,Tricorn, ,Tricorn Centre

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