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 unique character of its historic spaces.
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. The past is suddenly tangible. Some far-reaching interventions were called for, but of paramount importance was the preservation of the evocative and layered character that made this room unique – a fragile quality that could have been destroyed by well-meaning repair.
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.
Read 'Arrested Decay' by Architect Matt Somerville.
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.
The scheme won support from English Heritage, the Theatres Trust, the Friends of Alexandra Palace Theatre, the Friends of Alexandra Palace Park, the Victorian Society and the Alexandra Palace Television Group as well as local residents. This project represents a unique opportunity for the ‘People’s Palace’ to fulfil its potential as a place of learning and enjoyment for the wider community and to provide a significant boost to the local economy.
In September 2016 we were appointed to develop a strategic masterplan, to further regenerate the local area.
2019 AJ Architecture Awards, Heritage Category
2019 NLA Conservation and Retrofit Award: Commendation
2019 RIBA National Award
2019 RIBA London Award
2019 RIBA London Conservation Award
2018 Haringey Design Awards: Best Restoration Project
2018 Haringey Design Awards: Best Project in Haringey
2015 New London Awards: Public Buildings Unbuilt Winner
Alan Baxter & Associates
John Burke Associates
The Fire Surgery
Willmott Dixon Construction