Sympathetic installation at Battersea Arts Centre

POSTED ON 26/03/2019

An exciting £13 million phased restoration scheme to breathe new life into Battersea’s historic Grade II*-listed Victorian former Town Hall, Battersea Arts Centre, has been completed. Now stunningly restored, with Hawthorn rejuvenating the technical equipment installation, the award-winning venue is once again open to the public.

With the venue rebuild designed by architects Haworth Tompkins and construction project led by 8 Build, Hawthorn was awarded the contract for the sympathetic installation of sound, video, communications and lighting equipment into the theatre’s extraordinary Grand Hall and circulation spaces, working to a design intent created by Theatreplan.

The project was set back in 2015 when, just as it was nearing completion, a fire partially destroyed the Grand Hall, leaving only two gable walls standing. But, the charred Hall has been carefully resurrected, creating one of London’s most spectacular theatre interiors.

Hawthorn’s delivery on this prestigious project included the supply and commission of ETC Sensor dimmer racks, DMX System and the installation and programming of an ETC Paradigm control system for the house and working lights. Working with SES, three large power panels were supplied for installation by the electrical contractors, to provide ease of use by visiting productions. Two 42u equipment racks with associated sound and video patching was installed in the newly created AV Room. A Sennheiser infra-red system and a new paging system was also set up and installed. Not only that, but Hawthorn also supplied and commission a GDS ArcSystem.

Key to this project was ensuring that the technical equipment installation was sensitive to the fabric and history of the rebuild, as Installation Manager, Lydia Hawthorn, explains. “With a restoration project of this nature, it was vital that we worked sensitively within the space to only respect its heritage, but also help to realise its evolution as a performance area and support the overall vision.

“This included custom-finishing and patinating the front of house facilities panels to the architect’s colour specification, to ensure they visually complemented the fabric of the building. This level of detail is fundamental to the successful installation of equipment in a project like this. The technical installation itself must of course meet the needs and purpose of the space, but care and consideration must be given to its visual impact. In this instance, the aim was to make it blend seamlessly into the overall aesthetic of the historic theatre.”

Since completion, Battersea Arts Centre has been recognised as Theatre Building of the Year at The Stage Awards 2019.

Lydia Hawthorn said: “This was a hugely rewarding project for the Hawthorn team and the accolades Battersea Arts Centre is receiving for its restoration are richly deserved. We’re delighted to have been involved and thrilled to have played a part in supporting the theatre’s evolution.”

Jack Champion said: “Hawthorn have delivered a versatile installation that will enable Battersea Arts Centre to further push the technical possibilities for the users of the Grand Hall. The system has been designed to allow us to put on a variety of events and performances; without the flexibility of the infrastructure now in place none of this would be possible. We are extremely pleased with all the Hawthorn team involved in realising this ambitious yet rewarding project. ”