Queen Elizabeth Hall Cafe and Interval Bar

Archer Humphryes Architects


On 1 March 1967 the newly built Queen Elizabeth Hall was open by Her Majesty the Queen. The space was then used to host chamber orchestras, choirs and other performances. In 2015 the building closed its doors ahead of a two and a half year renovation programme, opening again in April 2018.

Archer Humphryes Architects were in charge of the interior architecture for the Foyer Hospitality and implemented a new programme for a space with capacity for 1000 people, which included a new café/bar and an Interval bar, along with new dining and lounge areas. With this in mind, the designers worked towards the collective aim, with the rest of the team, to blend the building's history with new contemporary elements that would complement the original without copying or providing a facsimile. The existing structure and materials were retained but the new bar, café and seating areas were given their own language in primary colours with hand thrown tiles juxtaposing with the original neutral palette. Bush hammered concrete was specified for the interval bar front, introducing a new and innovative approach to the material, at once maintaining the focus on the concrete as an intrinsic characteristic of the building, but also using it as a connective element between past and present.

The design had also to meet complex brief defined by the client with the uses ranging from gatherings of hundreds of people for ceremonies, the brief but intensive service required for interval and pre-concert drinks and the wide variety of events hosted within the South Bank's programme.

The design work was developed by means of historical research undertaken giving reference to location and vocabulary, designing the space in keeping with the building's life and surroundings. The original brutalist building provides a backdrop for a modern theatrical destination. The Foyer was designed as an understated and inclusive Cosmopolitan City Room without injudicious extravagance to simultaneously welcome and enhance the permeability and transparency to the river Thames.

There is, finally, a sense not merely of high aesthetic value but of genuine public spirit, a feel for the traditional cosmopolitan value of the urban public, especially as embodied in this public space. This grasp of the larger possibilities of the concert hall, needless to say, will be crucial in the place making, which must remain a vibrant and welcoming civic landmark even as it takes on new public life and purpose.


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