It stands, quite literally, in the shadow of the Royal Festival Hall – but the South Bank’s second concert space has provided no fewer talking points than its older, bigger neighbour in its 50 years of service.
Opened on March 1 1967, the Queen Elizabeth Hall was the brainchild of a maverick gang of architects whose inspirations included the terraced mounds that animals roam around on at London Zoo. It's a bewildering structure that barges into almost every photo taken from Waterloo Bridge, and you have to admire its resistance to half a century of attempts to demolish it or cover it up. Here are five more things you probably didn't know about the Queen Elizabeth Hall.
Yes, it was always that 'ugly'
Joined to the Hayward Gallery – which is one year its junior – the Queen Elizabeth Hall forms one of London’s most controversial brutalist buildings. While some love its irregular design, others are appalled by its hulking concrete forms and their grim appearance in the rain. And it’s always been that way: soon after opening in 1967, a Daily Mail poll ranked it the ugliest building in Britain.
Its site has an artillery history
Like it or loathe it, the building is at least an improvement on what came before. Now one of London’s cultural hubs, the South Bank was just a bleak, marshy landscape of wharves and warehouses until the post-war era. The Queen Elizabeth Hall stands on a site once occupied by a nineteenth-century tower used for making ammunition for guns.
Pink Floyd was one of the venue's first acts
One of the first acts to play the Queen Elizabeth Hall in 1967 was legendary prog-rockers Pink Floyd. Their psychedelic antics involved potatoes being thrown at gongs and the chopping up of a wooden log, while flinging daffodils into the audience and using a bubble machine which caused damage to the new upholstery. As a result, the band were served with a lifetime ban from the venue.
It’s got an unlikely claim to fame
While the concert hall itself calls to mind high culture, the building’s global status is largely thanks to the skateboarders who use its ‘undercroft’ (that’s the outside bit with graffiti to you and me). The fact they’ve been doing so since the 1970s makes this reportedly the oldest skate spot in the world.
There’s a part you’ve probably never visited enough
Ironically you can’t actually go into the building at the moment. Ongoing restoration work, helped by a fundraising campaign, has seen it temporarily closed off along with the Hayward Gallery. But in the spring and summer months, a wondrous (often underused) roof garden-slash-allotment offers a shady spot for beer-drinking and picnicking.