Homes for culture vultures

A new arts centre on the South Bank and designer homes, too.
The new development has a tower echoing Tate Modern
The new development has a tower echoing Tate Modern
A giant sky-diving simulator is part of three schemes shortlisted to form a new cultural centre on the prime three-acre development site between Tower Bridge and City Hall, known as Potter’s Field.

It is part of a popular tourist trail on the South Bank. The proposals shortlisted by Southwark council are for a sports museum, a theatre and a
commonwealth museum.

The decision to have a cultural element on this flagship housing development was agreed last year between the council and Berkeley Homes, after five years of rows over how to build on this sought-after spot, which has one of the best views of the river and the Tower of London.

The agreement meant scrapping eight “Dalek” tower blocks of flats. The site is now empty, waiting for Berkeley Homes to start building. The new design, by architects Squire and Partners, includes a single tower to echo the chimney on the nearby Tate Modern. Berkeley Homes will be submitting a revised planning application to Southwark in April. It will not start to market the scheme until next year.

The three finalists are:

The Sportsworld and British Sport Museum
The first museum of its kind in the UK, it is planned to open at the same time as the London 2012 Olympics and will include interactive and educational exhibitions. Proposals include a giant sky-diving simulator, a virtual Tour de France and a series of large video walls to showcase British sport before, during and after the Olympics. The company behind the scheme says it has about £40 million of private money to back the plan.

The British Empire and Commonwealth Museum
Currently housed in Bristol, the museum’s collection includes 75,000 artefacts and historic items ranging from film and photographs to costume and art. Exhibits range from Indian land-surveying chains to African poll-tax discs and Burmese grain-measuring baskets. There are numerous photographs taken by imperial explorers. If the museum were to be chosen, it would show 50,000 exhibits inherited from the old Commonwealth Institute in Kensington.

Shunt Artists’ Collective
Shunt is just a stone’s throw away from Potter’s Field in a labyrinth of railway arches under London Bridge station. It is a collective of 10 artists who create large-scale performance events in abandoned or derelict buildings. At £5 million, Shunt’s bid is the lowest but would, it says, allow for a theatre that would be “a truly interactive art centre”.

A Southwark spokesman said a decision was expected in the near future and stressed that there was no preferred option at this stage.

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