Recommendation to grant planning permission
- 20 April 2007
Well, we got a “recommendation to grant planning permission” from Stratford-on-Avon’s West Area Planning Committee on the afternoon of Thursday 19. After all the preparation work that we had put into our application, with the dozens of public consultations of both a general and sometimes a very particular type, and the equally demanding schedule of meetings with the statutory consultees that our professional colleagues in the design team and the environmental impact assessment team have had to conduct – some of them continuing right up till the last minute, I suppose we had a right to feel confident that we would get a “yes” but absolutely none of us were that confident. There was a huge nervousness pervading the group of us that gathered in the foyer of Elizabeth House before the meeting – would our tower get approved?
The tower was always the most difficult thing to explain to people because it does so many things for the RST Transformation project – obviously it provides space for lift and stairs which the RST completely lacks but much more subtly it allows the theatre to be extended toward the town to provide the vital link between the RST and the Swan auditoria in a positive and confident way which a “lean-to” extension could never have done. Finally – and this is the hardest thing of all to explain – it provides continuity between the boldness and confidence of the Victorian theatre and our own time. There’s no need to copy the architecture of another period to provide something that’s in sympathy with a place, in fact, in my view, pseudo-Elizabethan or even pseudo-Victorian pastiche couldn’t achieve it.
Our next challenge is to show that the detailing of the new additions matches up to (or even exceeds) what has gone before. That’s a challenge that everyone in our team looks forward to because it can be done with real materials samples rather than with PowerPoint presentations. My last similar project was the conversion of Bankside Power Station into Tate Modern – the centre of the power station was filled with a massive piece of equipment called the Flue Gas Washing Plant – we had to demolish it to make way for the river entrance and with it went all of the brickwork surrounding the chimney – now (a mere seven years on) the new brick façade is part of a view of Tate Modern that has been called “iconic” and part of the fabric of London’s riverside. It would be great to achieve that again!
In the meantime, just across the road from the RST work is proceeding on our new central workshops and administration – like the bigger Transformation a combination of renewal and extension – the extension, like nearby Cox’s Yard – is a timber clad building and, with the Topping Out Ceremony in early May, will be a chance for RSC and its design team to show that old and new can go well together.