As Chichester Festival Theatre has been tucked away behind hoardings undergoing its intense period of restoration and improvement, we at Pass It On have been charged with providing the public with as much access to, and information about, what’s going on back there as possible. To this end, over the course of this summer we ran a short series of lunch time tours around the hoardings with RENEW Project Architect, Lucy Picardo.
On three sunny afternoons between July and September, 15 lucky people spent 45 minutes with Lucy talking them through the works taking place, catching glimpses of various aspects of the project through the windows in the hoardings before ending up on first floor level platform overlooking the site.
Because Pass It On is a heritage project, our focus was primarily the restoration work taking place on the original Powell and Moya grade 2* listed building. Lucy began at the front of the building in front of the Pass It On artwork, by talking us through the decisions that needed to be made early on by the project team to identify which aspects of the flagship building are of the greatest architectural significance and which (such as the newer additions and insensitive extensions) were less significant and therefore could potentially be removed or altered. The outcomes of these decisions formed the Conservation Management Statement, a document that served as a keystone for the rest of the project, defining the necessary restoration work, informing the look and feel of the new building and later taking it through an important part of the approval process with English Heritage, who originally listed the building in 1996.
The one of a kind hexagonal auditorium with its similarly shaped thrust stage (the first built in this country for 400 years) was of course deemed to be of paramount significance, as was the open plan foyer space. Much of the work being done on the original building is designed to turn the clock back to before years of adapted use took their toll on the clean lines of a minimalist vision. Actually, because the original build took place on an incredibly tight budget and compromises had to be made during its construction, this current work is able to bring the Festival Theatre closer to the original intentions of Powell and Moya. More details will be appearing on these works in the Pass It On website over the coming months.
With the restoration work covered in detail, Lucy walked us around the outside of the hoardings and showed us some key features of the new extensions. Foundations, for example, for the small triangles that will come off the foyer and provide café and bar space, and into the ground floor green room and first floor dressing rooms.
Finishing on a platform just inside the building site itself, we were able to get a good view of the original building and the new extension sitting together. People who came on these tours enjoyed the opportunity to hear from an expert so central to the project.