Today I visited the building site on Lord Street where work on the former Arts Centre is well under way. The new building is certainly going to have a 'wow factor'. The new design has brought masses of natural daylight into what was a dark building. By opening up archways and long blocked up windows there are some striking long sight lines right across the building pretty well from the Cambridge Arcade to Eastbank St.
We began our tour at 1a Eastbank Street (which regular readers will recall was the address of FJ Hooper the Town Hall keeper who was part of Scott's last Antarctic expedition) It is called Eastbank Street-so I'm told-because the original building was a Bank and the architecture reflects that. We have some magnificent old bank buildings in Southport and this looks to have been as grand as many of them. The first picture shows the restored ceiling in what became the Atkinson Library
Although it was full of scaffolding you really got a feel of what the old dance hall was like. Today it a theatre but with all the windows on the Lord Street side opened up it was transformed.
I guess the biggest impact will come from the light that will stream in from the glass roof above the central stairwell into the hallways.
During the renovation the builders have uncovered some forgotten mosaic floors. It is not clear if it will be able to include any of these into the final scheme. I think the team hope that one from the old banking hall (now the library) may be preserved.
I was struck by the electric blue tiles in the photo taken in the corridor outside the main theatre. Apparently the blue dye came from arsenic and there are very few examples surviving-which is not surprising as it must have had a very bad effect on the health of the workers. Thank goodness for modern Health and Safety. Talking of which there has not been any notifiable accidents at all during the building work. Up to 100 hundred employees have been on site from 15 different contractors.
When we got up to the roof you got to see some of the detailed restoration work close up that is normally hidden. Some of the sandstone carvings were impressive. I was good to learn that the specialist builders who was involved in this work had taken on a local unemployed lad who proved to have a real talent for this work. Some of the replacement stone work developed from moulds of the original was pointed out to us and it was pleasing to hear they were the work of the new recruit who has now been taken into permanent staff.
The view from the roof-the picture was taken between the icy hail showers-gave some views of Lord Street