On 30 September, in an effort to find out more about CFT’s standing within the architectural world Becky (Heritage Activities Officer), Katie (Community Apprentice) and I went on a very special tour of several buildings on the Southbank.
The Southbank Centre and the National Trust ran a week of Brutal Utopias tours which took visitors around the Queen Elizabeth Hall, the Purcell Room and the Hayward Gallery all of which are, like CFT, 1960s Brutalist buildings. These three spaces are now entering the process of being restored and refurbished, much like our own Theatre building through the RENEW project, and lay dormant the week of the tours before building work got started. With the spaces empty the two organisations came together to give exclusive tours of areas of the buildings never before open to the public, and other parts that will change in the process of the site’s two-year refurbishment. Continue reading “Brutal Utopias”→
When architectural duo Powell and Moya designed Chichester Festival Theatre in the early ‘60s they brought in Structural Engineer Charles Weiss. Weiss had previously worked with them on the Skylon Folly for the Festival of Britain in 1951.
Weiss’ daughter, Emma Cole, has given Pass It On an account of his life and career that helped to build Chichester Festival Theatre and its pioneering suspension roof.
Charles Weiss (1914 – 1985)
My father Charles was born in Budapest in 1914 to Jewish parents. His life as an émigré started early in the 1930s when he was forced through the numerus clausus to go to university in Brno, Czechoslovakia where he studied architecture. He completed his doctorate of architecture in 1936 in Florence where he also worked before moving to Milan.
In 1939 as the European scene worsened, he was offered a passage to Shanghai and managed to secure refuge in Singapore along the way. He worked there as a structural and architectural designer until 1942, escaping on 13 February 1942 just before Singapore was captured by the Japanese. He reached Bombay in March 1942 where he joined the British Army and gained a commission to the Corps of the Royal Engineers. He served mainly in Assam and Burma, eventually commanding an Indian Sapper Company as a Major.
We’ve been showing it off for months now; public and private tours for members of the public to experience and explore backstage areas, and the Open Day where we threw open every single door for visitors to find out more about what happens behind the scenes. But this week we have been able to properly enjoy our renewed and refreshed Theatre from a rather special vantage point.
As I write this, I can turn to the right and ahead, and see green parkland space. The Director’s Office is a mere few metres away, and to the left is our brand new meeting room. Yes, we have finally packed up out of our temporary office in the Stephen Pimlott building and officially moved into the Festival Theatre!
The office is housed in the new extension added to the back of the Theatre. A huge lightwell that spills outside light down into this office space also connects the upstairs dressing room area with admin. Everything is open plan and we are all on an equal footing. This is a design feature that you will find in all areas of the Theatre, from the entrance foyer, a space with no ‘VIP’ areas which every single ticket holder can enjoy, to the 12 dressing rooms in the new extension, that all provide the same facilities for each performer – no matter what the name. This sense of democratic space not only enhances the feeling of community within the building (between both cast, crew and admin) but is also an important and original feature of Powell and Moya’s 1962 vision.