One of the principal aims of the Festival is to bring to the British way of life some enrichment that will endure for long after the Festival year is over. lt is fitting, therefore, that the main national Exhibition should be the first occupant of a site which has been so long abandoned by human enterprise and so newly won from the river.
The South Bank site is in the heart of London, yet, until recently, the marshy texture of its ground has repelled the City’s most important buildings to positions on the North Bank of the river. Nobody could bring themselves even to pioneer the development of this neglected and decayed area until after the First World War, when the London County Council placed the County Hall here. Waterloo was then rebuilt as one of the finest railway stations in the country, and, more recently, the new Waterloo Bridge has added the third point of the triangle of new development.
Within this area, which, for the present, is occupied by the Exhibition, the Government and the London County Council have plans for a number of great buildings, which will form part of a co-ordinated design. The first of these, the Royal Festival Hall, is the largest structure among the many Exhibition Pavilions – and the only permanent one.
One part of this major plan that has been specially hastened-on for the Festival is the new river wall. This project, completed in record time, has reclaimed four and a half acres of land from the river. It has quite transformed the familiar patchwork of rubble and half-derelict buildings which had for so long monopolised the prospect from the North Bank.