The Brutalist Purcell Room and the Queen Elizabeth Hall on the South Bank was opened in 1967, sharing a large foyer off the network of concrete terraces and walkways that move in and around the South Bank. Outside children are running in and out of the fountains that fill the terrace, enjoying the cool water in the hot summer sun. Inside, recently refurbished by Feilden Clegg and Bradley, you would not know that anything had happened – the architecture looks the same, slightly cleaner perhaps, but still with the concrete board-marked columns with their splayed heads and the timber plank ceilings, complimented with appropriate new furniture now installed inside alongside the café/bar. Controversial at the time, the building is now recognised as an international exemplar of Brutalist architecture and of the culture of the 1960′s.
Over the summer, the foyer became an exhibition gallery with a centenary exhibition celebrating the life, struggles and achievements of Nelson Mandela who was born 100 years ago, appropriately sdisplayed against the tough harsh Brutalist architecture of the space, the designers allowing the architecture to flow around and above the exhibition, which itself highlights the tough, brutalist battles which Mandela had to fight in his life, including his time in prison, but balanced with dignity and with generosity in his later life.