Progress for 2009
- 11 February 2009
As last year came to a close it became increasingly difficult to write something interesting and different about the project every week. The problem was – and is – that, once the initial period of rapid and noticeable change has passed, activities on site take many weeks to complete and are barely noticeable to the passer-by. The weekly progress report was printed to our internal newsletter Omnibus, and I struggled to find interesting ways of saying that the steelwork contractor and the concrete contractor had made progress on this floor or that floor and was roundly teased by some of my colleagues for my pains! It seemed much more sensible to move to a monthly schedule, so I would have some substantial changes to report. So at the end of November we prepared a longer report, looking back over November and forward to the relatively short month of December, when the construction industry, unlike the theatre, traditionally shuts down between Christmas and New Year.
The beginning of December included a special event for the whole site team, as well as for the Company, the town and our supporters, when we celebrated the moment when the concrete structure that forms the hard shell of our new thrust stage auditorium reached its highest point and a large group of us gathered inside the new concrete structure for speeches – I was subsequently praised for keeping mine suitably brief, given the chilly and windy day! – mutual congratulation that we’d got this far and for mugs of hot soup. The ceremony, called ‘Topping Out’, traditionally celebrates the moment when the builders have got past the hardest/highest point and it was a very good moment to celebrate and reward success. In a complex project like ours there are a good many significant moments to come which we will celebrate, perhaps somewhat less publicly, over the coming months. Construction workforces are rarely recognised for their considerable efforts, generally unnoticed unless something goes wrong and it’s really important to provide occasions for that recognition.
In the days that followed our concrete contractor, John Doyle, carried on to try to complete his works before the Christmas break and the structural steelwork contracts, Billington followed hard on their heels to complete the main steel frame, working away at the framework of the new colonnade which links the two auditoria together. During this period there was another moment of celebration when a huge steel star, lit from below, was hoisted into place atop the new concrete lift shaft to make the RST Transformation project’s own contribution to Stratford’s Christmas illuminations.
My plan was to produce another update in early January, looking forward at our February plans but, for a variety of reasons, including a very nasty form of flu for some key members of our team and then the spectacularly wintry conditions which we’ve had to contend with, I’ve not been able to do this till now. So here's a look at what's happening in February and the coming months.
Transformation Project Progress Update: February 2009
Despite the weather, we have continued to make good progress on site. Actually snow, whilst it causes travel problems for some, is far less of a difficulty than freezing temperatures which make it difficult get mortar to set properly and therefore for work on the brickwork (which is now a major activity on site) to continue. Snowfall is less of a problem to the site than heavy rain and at this stage, with most of the structural steel envelope of the building completed; the team is looking forward to the time when the interior of the building becomes weather tight and the work inside, which requires dry conditions, can begin. The roof is, of course, a crucial contributor to a watertight building and work on this is continuing apace.
Although the major elements of the steel frame were complete before Christmas. Almost the last section completed was the colonnade, which will form the linking foyer between the two auditoria; with its two large doorways to the 'get-in' and the steel framed opening beyond in the stage left wing of the RST now visible through them from the street.
Just after Christmas the new entrance between the tower and the old balcony stair was the last visible section to be completed. However, keen observers of site progress will have noted that steel deliveries have continued and large pieces of steel have been regularly lifted and lowered through the fly tower where the new internal structure is being completed. A second steelwork contractor has also started work, installing the internal finer structure of the technical levels of the auditorium which are suspended below the huge trusses that were craned into place in the autumn. Enthusiastic walkers may have noticed from across the river that the brick façade of the dressing room block is progressing upwards behind the steelwork of the balconies.
As we missed our January update, here is a look at the year ahead that was intended to be included then. These are the ‘main moves’: we’ll explain more about the hugely complex business of filling the building with pipes and wires in future updates.
Next two months
The blue-painted steel framework, that is providing temporary support to the old balcony stair and to the original riverside façade, will be removed as these parts of Scott’s 1932 building are permanently connected to the new structures being built inside.
The large air handling units which will provide fresh air to the RST that are to sit at high level either side of the fly tower will be craned into place. They will be visible up there for a while before the permanent screening around them is completed.
The brick skin of the new auditorium will begin to be visible from the street through the colonnade steelwork, slowly followed by the outer brick structure of the tower at the end of the period: don’t expect this to be a rapid process – unlike the concrete lift shaft that it encases it will take many months.
Second quarter of 2009
Flytower roof completed early in this period
Dressing room elevation completed when balcony railings and screens are installed
The original Scott front façade, including its windows, is completed
The louvred glass ‘lantern’ that will form the tower top will be assembled at ground level within the site compound. It will be lifted in one piece onto the completed tower during the third quarter (see below).
Third quarter of 2009
Colonnade glazing and cladding completed – this area will then be weather tight The preassembled viewing tower lantern is craned into position
Fourth quarter of 2009
The internal fabric of the new theatre will take shape as the balustrade and handrails are fixed into position in the RST auditorium.
The final finishes will be made to the auditorium in anticipation of the installation of the seating in the next (and final!) year of the RST Transformation Project, 2010.