Southbank Film Centre update

BFI senior management circulated this update on their ambitious plans for the Southbank Film Centre to staff today.

Film Centre Update

Over the past nine months, work on our concept for a new Film Centre has been given ever-increasing substance as we have continued to develop, cost and visualise the new building – and rigorously test our working assumptions and models.

The project has confirmed that the Hungerford Car Park site is the preferred site, but no action will be taken on further pursuing this option until future funding for the project has been confirmed and wider consultation has taken place.

The feasibility study has also included a building massing diagram that takes into account the constraints and aspirations for this complex site. In particular, the scheme must enable a significant extension to Jubilee Gardens and improvement of the public realm and pedestrian linkages at various levels.

The Film Centre concept includes film auditoria (including a 950-seat screen for gala events and premieres); a knowledge and creativity centre (fulfilling BFI’s educational remit and contributing to the creative sector and UK film industry); exhibition space showcasing the best of BFI’s archive; BFI operational offices; and public realm, both internally and externally (including an outdoor screen overlooking Jubilee Gardens). It will be a major destination internationally for film festivals and provide London with a world-class cultural film centre – complementing the music, theatre and gallery venues of the South Bank.

In getting to this point, we have sought the input of Lambeth council officers, including the planning department. We have also been working closely with Southbank Centre, and you may well have seen press comment that is very supportive of a Film Centre on HCP.

Funding remains another primary challenge, but we are confident that significant sums can be raised from private sector sources and haveset up a Development team to progress this, led by two BFI Governors, Eric Fellner, Chief Executive of Working Title, and Caroline Michel, MD of William Morris Agency (UK). We will, of course, be strengthening the Development team, and in the short term will be undertaking a fundraising development plan.

Size of the scheme
The work undertaken by many of you over the last year led to the development of two options. Option A had a space requirement of 20,800m² BFI space, with an estimated capital project cost of around £187m ex VAT. Recent new construction cost inflation figures, however, have caused our cost consultants to revise inflation allowances – which has had a marked effect on the total cost, taking it to £210m excluding VAT. Option B, while smaller, still rose to around £175m.

This seems too large, both in terms of space requirement and cost. We have therefore revisited the proposals, and while they are still being tested for space and cost, we are closer to a development of around 15,400m² with a cost nearer to £155m. This third Option C still retains important original features, such as: a number of auditoria – six including a 950-seater; the opportunity to engage with our collections including books, periodicals and special collections; gallery spaces; production spaces; and public facilities.

It should be stressed that these costs are based on an assessment of floor areas, not on a detailed design. There is scope in the design process for the architect to come up with innovative uses of space that may reduce the overall volume of the building (although increased complexity may have the opposite effect).

What will the Film Centre be?
* A place to access directly the still and moving image collections of film and television – be it through informal free access to further an interest in the subject of a particular film, director or genre, or the specialist in-depth research of scholars and industry experts or curated exhibitions where the cinema experience is enhanced through contextualising material, unseen to date. Where the history and development of film is on display and touchable, where restoration can be seen and practised, where new film makers can make their start up base, engage with all aspects of the creative industries and mix with the leaders in their field.A place that recognises the increasingly important congregational effect of sharing the viewing experience in cinemas that can show the best of historic film in its original format, the best of contemporary and a glimpse of the films of the future in the emerging formats of 20-30 years’ time.
* Where cultural film can benefit from the boost derived from public premieres and gala events.
* A home for the increasingly important and influential London Film Festival and a base and support for other festivals.
* A wrap-around experience – for both the virtual and physical visitor – on arriving at the site in London, with the external screen, the activities in the foyers or on entering the site on the web – an unrivalled engagement with the depth and breadth of British and international film, building on Screenonline and the Mediatheque with podcasts, reviews and the opportunity to watch and interact with what is happening within the London centre.
* It will also provide an extension to the world’s leading cultural campus – keeping the BFI in its home and putting film in its rightful place complementing the great buildings that make up the South Bank and providing the valuable extension to the open land of Jubilee Gardens.

The build
Shortly, we will be ready to start an OJEU competition process for the selection of an architect, a design team and a consultant project manager. This team, together with other approved advisers, will take the project through from concept design to a planning application. The planning application will require a detailed design to RIBA Stage D, an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) and community consultation prior to submission.

To get to this next step, the Executive and BFI Board have to agree to the recommended option, the cultural programme that creates the whole, the projected capital cost and the projected revenue cost. We will be aiming to do this in September – and then of course we need to secure the funding to finance the next step.

Why do we need a new centre?
And, just to remind ourselves why there is a need for the new Film Centre:
* The existing estate is coming to the end of its economic life and the original NFT building is unlikely to remain sustainable beyond the next 6-8 years. It is compromised by its position under Waterloo Bridge which renders it almost invisible and creates huge operational problems, which will only be further exacerbated by the building of a tram on the roof of the building. The tram may well render the building unusable – without major investment to separate the building from its current roof, which is the bridge.
* Disparate estate housing UK film culture ie the BFI National Library in Stephen Street, BFI Southbank – including the NFT – under Waterloo Bridge, and the special collections in Berkhamsted.
* The BFI is committed to ensuring that the international focus for film is of an appropriate calibre to celebrate and support arguably the world’s second most significant film hub and to support its continued success in the world markets.

Jill McLaughlin
Project Director
27 July 2007

6 thoughts on “Southbank Film Centre update

  1. Amusing how visibility seems to be a key concern. Perhaps they need a bright new shiny tower, a Skylon should do the trick.

  2. “who is the Film Centre actually for?” Well exactly.Does you average NFT goer really need access to the facilities that were on offer at Stephen St? Probably not.

  3. Will the ‘further consultation’ include those who use the facilities? Unlikely — those running the BFI (into the ground) aren’t interested in the views of the punters.

  4. I think you should really put Shaun Woodward’s email address on the right hand side – I read the article on the film council’s budget cuts of the BFI, really seems like they’re to blame for the downsizing.

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