Lower Hall work 95% complete – we’ve moved in!

As everything continues at breakneck pace, and the builders move to the centre of the building, almost all of the BAC staff have moved to our temporary offices for 12 months.

Gilbert Ash, the Design Team, and their many sub-contractors have done an absolutely fantastic job transforming one of the most untouched areas of the building into a light, airy and thoroughly useful space. Look at the changes between the two plans below, with the first being August 2014 and the second being today:

Screen Shot 2015-01-29 at 17.30.10 Screen Shot 2015-01-29 at 17.29.49The Kitchen Office is increased in size, the foyer has been opened up, and toilets increased in number and quality, including adding an accessible WC. The biggest change is the new lift linking the Lower Hall Foyer to our Grand Hall, finally making it possible for wheelchair access between the two levels without going around the outside.

Having said that, with the builder’s site now occupying the Courtyard and surrounding corridors, staff now have to walk outside between front and back during the day; in the evening during performance runs, we’ll be opening our east corridor, giving audiences an enticing view through the windows into the building works as they pass. Whilst waiting for the last touches to the new toilets, this has meant many of us scheduling meetings and trips around regular toilet breaks…

But this is all for a very good purpose.  Just north of the central Courtyard is the slightly oddly arranged part of the building where the front original council offices meet with the rear Grand Hall. The site of the old Battersea Town Hall is on a steep incline, falling away to the north towards the Thames, and also bends by a few degrees, meaning that the two halves are almost cobbled together. For building-wide productions like Masque of the Red Death (2006-07) or The Good Neighbour (2013 & 2014) we’ve made great use of this, confusing audience members by taking them on complicated, winding journeys of discovery, but equally has its issues, given that you cannot cross from the west to east side of the first floor without descending and ascending several flights of stairs.

Although we are re-levelling these floors to match them to the rest of what we call “theatre-side” we will still retain the slightly warren-like nature of our layout for audiences to explore.

This work has started by creating the new lift shaft, digging down into the foundations, and opening floors above all the way to the second floor:

2015-01-27 14.59.21
The Old Gents’ Retiring Room and Grand Hall Gents’ Toilets
2015-01-27 15.03.20
Previously known as both the Mezzanine Room and the Home Room, most recently this space acted as staff and artist green room, and separate shower block for resident companies.
This was the Ladies' Retiring Room office and Grand Hall Ladies' Toilets. Future audiences will be overjoyed not to have to mountaineer up the huge flight of red stairs for relief.
This was the Ladies’ Retiring Room office and Grand Hall Ladies’ Toilets. Future audiences will be overjoyed not to have to mountaineer up the huge flight of red stairs for relief.

To finish, here’s some shots of the new offices. We’ve elected not to completely finish the walls or floors yet whilst we’re only occupying them temporarily.  It’ll give us time to see how they function, and make final design decisions before completely decorating in early 2016.

Although some of the old 1960's tiling remains from when this was a kitchen, the ceiling is now higher, with better lighting, and the old plywood floor stripped out.
Although some of the old 1960’s tiling remains from when this was a kitchen, the ceiling is now higher, with better lighting, and the old plywood floor stripped out.
The office has been expanded into the old Lower Hall kitchen. As you can see, our Finance Team is unusually friendly - wave to Mai!
The office has been expanded into the old Lower Hall kitchen. As you can see, our Finance Team is unusually friendly – wave to Mai!
Although we needed half of our Lower Hall for office space, we've erected a sound-proofed wall to retain a workshop space for rehearsals and youth projects such as Homegrown and The Agency. This will be up and running from next week.
Although we needed half of our Lower Hall for office space, we’ve erected a sound-proofed wall to retain a workshop space for rehearsals and youth projects such as Homegrown and The Agency. This will be up and running from next week.
New heating and double-glazing means that staff now enjoy the best office space we've ever had, and we are especially glad of it this January.
New heating and double-glazing means that staff now enjoy the best office space we’ve ever had, and we are especially glad of it this January.

Next week, I’ll be posting a few shots of the new Lower Hall Foyer which I genuinely hope you’ll love as much as I do.

For audiences, our new season opens next week, and brings your first chance to look into what’s changed and changing, and see into the site in the Courtyard.  We look forward to seeing you.

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