Autumn/winter project update
- 27 October 2009
The project is now well into the last year of construction. The lifting of the viewing platform and its prefabricated brick flanking walls at the end of September saw the completion of the main external elements that shape the transformed Royal Shakespeare Theatre (RST). The tower crane has since been dismantled. After the platform was lifted the scaffolding was extended upwards to swathe the whole of the tower whilst the glass louvres (which will be opened up in good weather) were installed. The scaffolding is now being dismantled, a level at a time, as the work of glazing is progressively completed. The main scaffolding will be gone before Christmas although work on the zinc-clad side of the tower nearest to the theatre will continue.
Meanwhile, at ground level, behind the hoardings work has begun on the new landscaping, starting with the preparations for the new riverside walkway. The now familiar red hoardings will be progressively removed, starting at the Swan Theatre end of the building early next year to be replaced by a more temporary boundary. The site cabins will also be dismantled in early 2010.
The riverside elevation is nearly complete and, looking across from the far side of the River Avon, the restored 1932 façade with its new windows to the original designs can be seen. We have chosen not to clean undamaged areas of the façade so replacement brickwork and the scars left by the removal of the later additions are visible: these are some of the theatre’s ‘ghosts’ which we have tried hard to keep both outside and inside. Rejecting the option of harsh cleaning also gives the building the best chance of mellowing to a unified appearance.
Inside the building, the main areas have taken shape: the new RST thrust stage auditorium is well underway, with stage flooring recently installed and the stalls, circle and gallery floors in place. The dressing rooms are also well under way, with doors locked awaiting their fitting out. Front of house areas are also awaiting their finishes: the colonnade which links the Swan and RST auditoria is awaiting the fitting of its doors, including the large twin ‘get-in’ doors leading to the stage and the massive acoustic door that will seal off the stage wing. The restaurant ceiling is being installed and everywhere in the building the ‘pipes and wires’ of the engineering services are being installed. The theatre electrics are also under way, not only in the RST but also in the Swan Theatre, where a complete rewiring is being undertaken with new air conditioning all without changes to its familiar appearance.
These activities will continue until the early months of 2010, and will be followed by several months of testing, commissioning and handover before a separate final fit-out phase, undertaken by the RSC, over next summer and into the autumn.