BREATHING NEW LIFE INTO A MUCH-LOVED VICTORIAN THEATRE AND CULTURAL ICON
The regeneration of the East Wing of the 'People’s Palace' has breathed new life into a much-loved cultural icon, integrating a new technical infrastructure while retaining the character of its historic spaces.
The court is more than just a foyer; it is an arrival space and focal point for the eastern end of the Palace and brings together all its uses, as well as an indoor extension of the park. The Victorian Theatre beyond has been brought back into use as a performance and events venue. These spaces offer their own particular delight and significance.
The East Court was once a grand exhibition hall, part of a wider experience of promenade and spectacle so beloved of the Victorian public. The 19th-century theatre, dark for over eighty years, tells a story of grandeur overlaid with decades of alteration, damage and slow decay. All of this is integral to the character and atmosphere of the space.
In these spaces the past is tangible. Some far-reaching interventions were called for, but of paramount importance was the preservation of the evocative and layered character that made the theatre unique – a fragile quality that could have been destroyed by well-meaning repair.
It has a wonderful atmosphere, the acoustic is extraordinarily good. What was exciting as we came in and started making music in there was that the building began to breathe again!
Jane Glover, BBC Concert Orchestra
We use the term "arrested decay" to describe an approach of consolidation rather than restoration. In treating rooms as found spaces, the processes of deterioration have been addressed, elements that were unsafe or could not be viably repaired have been removed, added elements are legibly modern.
These additions are informed by the grand scale of the Victorian palace and the ambitions it represents, and are marked out by a scale and materiality that identifies them as new. At the same time, this is just one more layer added to many previous ones, another chapter in the history of Alexandra Palace.
MODERNISATION AND CHARACTER
To create a more flexible auditorium the floor in the stalls was first flattened and retractable seating installed. The decorative ceiling has been stabilised and the trusses from which it is suspended have been strengthened and repaired. A matrix of strongpoints within the auditorium roof void allows for the connection of chain hoists and the suspension of production equipment beneath the fibrous plasterwork ceiling. This kit of parts – of points, hoists and trusses – allow for a wide variety of formats to be created to provide for the events of today and the future.
CREATIVITY FOR ALL
The Creativity Pavilion in Alexandra Palace provides a new home in the East Wing of the building for the charity’s Creative Learning programme.
The pavilion has the flexibility to be transformed and adapted for a range of activities. The upper levels of the space form a lightbox, whilst below a series of fixed and moveable panels enable the space to be enclosed from the rest of the East Court or opened up to become part of the larger space.
The Creativity Pavilion provides a welcoming, inspiring and modern fit-for-purpose facility which contributes to the vibrancy of the newly restored East Wing.