BREATHING NEW LIFE INTO A MUCH-LOVED VICTORIAN THEATRE AND CULTURAL ICON

Alexandra Palace
alexandra palace feilden clegg bradley studios

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.

Key Information

Sector: Arts & Culture, Community , Heritage & Creative Reuse, Interior Design

Client: Alexandra Park & Palace Charitable Trust

Location: London

Completion: Theatre and East Wing December 2018, Creativity Pavilion February 2020

Size: 5,920 sqm

TANGIBLE HISTORY

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

ARRESTED DECAY

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.

alexandra palace learning centre

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.

Team

Architect
Feilden Clegg Bradley Studios
Contractor
Willmott Dixon Construction
Structural Engineers
Alan Baxter & Associates
M&E
Max Fordham
Surveyors
Mott MacDonald
Project Management
AA Watson Project Consulting
Acoustics
Max Fordham
Access
All Clear Designs
Fire Engineers
The Fire Surgery
Theatre Design
Charcoalblue
Photographer
Lloyd Winters, Richard Battye

FCBStudios Team Leads

Awards

2020
Civic Trust Awards AABC Conservation: Highly Commended
2019
RIBA National Award
2019
RIBA London Conservation Award
2019
NLA Conservation and Retrofit Award: Commendation
2019
AJ Architecture Awards, Heritage Category
2018
Haringey Design Awards: Best Restoration Project and Best Project in Haringey
2015
New London Awards: Public Buildings Unbuilt Winner