A Peek Into The Courtyard

In a very short period of time, we will be inaugurating the new open-air Courtyard theatre with Little Bulb’s new show Extravaganza Macabre, from the 26th July. As the internal scaffolding has come down, it seemed a good time to tease you with a few pictures of the space.

Firstly, you can get a sense of the old Courtyard via a photosphere on Google Maps, taken just after the decking had been lifted. In the last year of its old life, we enjoyed a cracking summer, with our outside furniture and planting, so it had a great sendoff.

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Now, however, it is being given a new breath of life. Quite apt, since the architect of the building, E.W. Mountford, saw the courtyard as the lungs of this grand old edifice. In the London of 1893, Battersea Town Hall was constructed at the peak of Lavender Hill, and visitors would look north across the changing landscape towards the smog and dirt of the city. He knew that with the coming of the railways and a greater concentration of housing throughout the borough, there would be more traffic and the activities of the metropolis across the Thames to the north would encroach eventually on Battersea’s relatively open spaces.

So he made sure that fresh air would always be available by opening the internal windows of the building onto the courtyard, drawing in cleaner air, rather than from the surrounding streets.

Over the decades since the Town Hall opened, various changes took place, as the Grand Hall Kitchen encroached into the northwest corner, and then a more modern lift was built into the southeast. Windows were covered, bricked over, and lost. The rooms immediately behind the north face of the courtyard became toilets and bathrooms (those behind the south wall were already so), and further temporary spaces were subdivided through the west corridor.

Eventually, only the east corridor, running from the main Foyer to the Octagonal Hall entry to the Grand Hall was left with windows opening directly onto the courtyard. In some ways, this was very typically BAC – it became an almost secret space, something to be discovered when taking a wrong turn, and found itself a balance between lost and loved.

The Haworth Tompkins design formed part of the overall building plan several years ago:

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All of these served to create a sense of excitement within us all on the Building Project, but as the winter months have trudged by, and more rain than any of us could have anticipated poured through temporary roofing and scaffold and boards, plastic flapping in high winds, it seemed it would never end.

This week, we have a few shots of some of those new walls, and a larger space within the core of our building. As the footprint of the space has almost returned to its Victorian size, we’re starting to get a sense of the potential.

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