Lee/Fitzgerald are the retained architects for the London theatre portfolio of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Really Useful Group. This includes The Theatre Royal Drury Lane, The London Palladium, Her Majesty’s Theatre, the Adelphi Theatre, The New London Theatre and The Cambridge Theatre.
Theatre projects are incredibly varied (facade restoration, foyer and bar design, air conditioning and other services, new WC provision, Office and dressing room provision, show lighting and new stage installations for in-coming shows) and are invariably complicated due to the listed status and historic importance of the theatres. There are many statutory and non-statutory consultees including (variously) the local authority planning and listed building department, English Heritage, The Theatres Trust, The Twentieth Century Society, The Victorian Society, The Georgian Society and many local interest groups. There is often a conflict between the operational requirements of a working theatre and the restrictive conservation regulations imposed by the statutory listing. Furthermore any construction must work around an operational theatre where disruption to the show schedule is unthinkable.
Much of the provision within these famous buildings is dated and inadequate when set against modern performance standards. A creative and innovative use of existing and leftover space is crucial to unlocking the potential inherent with the historic fabric to allow their continued relevance moving forward into the 21st century and beyond.
THE THEATRE ROYAL
Comfort Cooling – The Theatre Royal is perhaps the most complex theatre project completed to date due to it’s Grade 1 Listed status and the size of the plant required to cool the auditorium. To provide sufficient pre-treated fresh air to the auditorium of the Theatre Royal it was necessary to introduce a number of very substantial rooftop mounted Air Handling and Chiller units.
The areas within the Theatre Royal that required pre-treated fresh air included the foyer and front of house, the auditorium, The grand circle saloon bar and the stage area. Each space required an individual design strategy to provide fresh air, cooling and subsequent heat recovery from the extracted air. The fresh air is distributed through the original brick ducts of the theatre and filtered into the designated spaces via the existing grille apertures. The project was successfully completed and commissioned without any works within the auditorium.
THE LONDON PALLADIUM THEATRE
Lee/Fitzgerald were asked to obtain Listed Building consent for the installation of the new stage and revolve for The Wizard of Oz production company. The Palladium is Grade 2* Listed and consultation was required with Westminster Planning, English Heritage and The Theatres Trust. The works had to be completed to an incredibly tight programme which required works to commence prior to the granting of permission and Lee/Fitzgerald were also responsible for managing this regulatory irregularity. We also managed the building regulations application when it became apparent during the installation that in order to acommodate the new revolve the fire curtain line would have to be breached. This required the development of a complicated fire protection detail to maintain the 2hr fire break between stage and auditorium.
THE PALACE THEATRE
The Palace facades are designed in a northern French Renaissance manner in red brick and terracotta. After a century of attack from fume and grime-laden atmosphere, the terracotta underwent an attempt at restoration in the 1980s and this resulted in surface erosion and irreversible damage to the vitrified surface. The decay subsequently accelerated, which led to the commission from Really Useful Group to restore the facades. Lee/Fitzgerald managed the full survey process, production information package and tender process.
The works are presently on hold as Really Useful are selling the theatre. The new owners will have to carry out these essential works which are likely to increase in cost as the decay continues. Lee/Fitzgerald ensured that a full electronic survey of the facades was completed in 2008 in such detail that a terracotta mould could be created to replace panels that are now so decayed that much of the detail has disappeared.
THE ADELPHI THEATRE
The Adelphi Theatre is located on the Strand in the heart of London’s West End and is iconic for its 1930’s Art Deco styling. Due to the peculiarities of its tight siting the theatre has always suffered from a shortfall in service spaces, due to the necessity to prioritise Auditorium and foyer provision. This has manifested itself in the front of house facilities, as a significant shortfall in the provision of WC facilities when set against modern space standards.
Lee Fitzgerald were initially commissioned to carry out a space audit on the building and following on from this study to convert the constricted basement storage vaults and the upper light wells into usable toilet and powder-room facilities. Such provision is not simply vital for the comfort of audiences, but also has a major impact upon the commercial activity of the foyer bars.
Leading on from this work, the main entrance foyers were reworked and refurbished with a new feature access opened up to the new basement facility. A new bar facility was also provided within the basement.
The approach taken was to maximise provision as far as was practicable, whilst producing both a level of robust quality and an aesthetic which sat comfortably with the Art Deco styling of the original. The colour scheme adopted is rich with golds and reds creating a theatrical effect.
In the toilets the cubicles are laminated in rosewood, and the interior finishes are engraved with delicate Art Deco triangular patterns. The relief to the mirrors carries through the graphic motifs of the building as a whole, as does the signage.
The result is a high quality facility which has already significantly impacted upon both comfort levels and profits within the theat