Royal festival hall on London's Southbank.

A visit to London's Southbank

The striking brutalist architecture along London's Southbank is not to be missed. I head down here on regular occasions to admire the modernist forms and pared back materiality of the landmarks and often spot something I hadn't appreciated before. This visit was with my 5 year old in tow (teacher's strike day), in terms of drawing pens we came armed with a couple of method mini pens - his favourite is the black pen and mine the brass EDC pen. Plus two rudimentary sketch journals we'd made by hand that morning (just folded A4 and staples). There's nothing like drawing to keep a little one occupied. We got the train to London bridge and walked along the Thames from there heading towards Waterloo. 

Herzog and de Meuron extension to Tate Modern

First stop on the walk was the Tate Modern, I'm quite a fan of the Herzog and de Meuron wing especially the detail in the brickwork and windows which emphasis it's geometric form.

wall of drawings at Tate Modern shoop

Evolving wall of drawings in the Tate Modern Shop

Alright a bit of a cliche but once inside our first stop was the Tate Modern Shop, it is set up very well for little creatives with a wall of drawings which everyone can add to and a long table down the centre with loads of coloured sketching pencils to use. We were there for quite some time flicking through the great selection of books and creating some artwork to add to the wall of drawings. 

Painting of a fountain pen

Great Criticism - Pop 1992 by Wang Guangyi

One big pen spotted. We searched for other painted, sculpted and drawn pens but this was the best we could come up with.

sculpture room in the Tate Modern

We spent some time doing some pen sketches of these sculptures - all looking like robots in the mind of a five year old.

After a bit of lunch in the Tate cafe (amongst sea of Jasper Morrison designed Air-chairs for Magis) we carried on our walk along the river, through bridge underpasses which funnels the sea of tourists. You know you're approaching the Southbank centre from the many passing packs of skateboarders, a lot of the street furniture and concrete forms make great terrain for this with the undercroft space being hailed as the birthplace of British skateboarding. The rattle of the tiny wheels echoing back and forth is a sound I associate with the Southbank centre. The Soutbank centre itself comprises of the Royal Festival Hall, Queen Elizabeth Hall, Purcell Room and the Hayward gallery.

Detail of Southbank Centre

Beautiful shot showing the detail of the cast forms.

The architecture is quite a lot to take in and you can only imagine how radical and exciting it would have been back in 1951. The structures are brave and bold and cathedral like in their scale. But what I really love are shots like the above. The patterns within the cast structures remind me of heat sinks and inner workings of machines, take a closer look and the concrete has a beautiful texture of wood, showing the process of how it was originally cast from wooden molds. 

Cast concrete stairwell Southbank Centre

Detail of one of the iconic yellow stairwells showing off the wood texture from the molding process. A good spot for anyone interested in brass rubbings!

Hayward Gallery Shop 

Entrance to the Hayward Gallery Shop

Nestled behind the Royal festival hall is the World renowned Hayward Gallery. Their shop is a recent stockist of Andhand so we popped in for a quick look around. They have a really great edit of products, we really liked their ceramics in particular which reflected some of the textures of surrounding architecture. 

Hayward gallery

Installation Artists Mike Nelson is currently showing (March 2023) 

Southbank Centre

This cantilevered section is where my son thought we had wondered into Minecraft. Not a big stretch of the imagination!

We finished the afternoon finding different faces in the architecture (when you start looking they are everywhere) and sketching them in our journals with our 4 inch pens before enjoying a double decker bus ride all the way back home.


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