The Pass It On heritage lottery funded project kicked off with the first event on a surprisingly sunny day in March. On the 13 March, 40 architecture students and lecturers from the University of Portsmouth descended on the Festival Theatre to find out more about the history, architecture and current building work going on at our architecturally (almost) impossible theatre! On hand were experts involved in many different aspects of the current RENEW project to talk to the students about the building and give them an inside perspective on all the on-going construction work.
First of all we heard about the work of the original ground-breaking architects, Powell and Moya, from Paul Grover, lecturer at Portsmouth University. Then current project architect Lucy Picardo talked about the modern day significance and vision behind RENEW, followed by Paul Batty, partner at Price and Myers giving an insight into the incredible engineering and construction behind the Theatre. By highlighting the role of concrete in the Theatre’s construction as well as the current concrete repair project we got an insight into the possibilities but also difficulties of working with such a material (look out for upcoming concrete workshops at the Theatre to find out more about this yourself!).
The final speaker was our very own Executive Director Alan Finch discussing the RENEW project from the client’s point of view. Seeing the previous facilities contrasted with the new Front of House and backstage designs showed us all what a huge and important project RENEW will be and gave an exciting glimpse of the possibilities that the new space will offer. Osborne, the building contractors, were fantastic in giving us access to the construction site and fitting us around their busy schedule. Clad from head to toe in safety gear the students were given unprecedented access to the Theatre stripped bare. Access was granted not only to inside the hoardings but also into the shell of the Theatre auditorium. To step inside the building, devoid of its characteristic seats and the stage an empty hole in the ground felt very odd – and rather eerie indeed! It was a real privilege to be given access to this space at such a time of change and significance and finished off the architecture visit in a hugely memorable way. We had a great feedback from the day with comments that the students felt they really understood the building from a range of different perspectives – inside and out – what more could we hope for! We’re hoping to hear much more from our speakers at future events and tours over the next year so watch this space!