Studio Theatre’s Art Deco exterior cleaned and restored

Specialist work to clean and restore the exterior of the historic Studio Theatre, part of Brighton’s Dome, has now been completed.

The Grade II listed building (formerly known as the Pavilion Theatre) has been steam cleaned and repaired as part of the Royal Pavilion Estate Regeneration Project, a partnership between Brighton & Hove City Council, Brighton Dome & Brighton Festival and the Royal Pavilion & Museums Trust.

Rich history

The work has been carried out by PAYE Stonework and Restoration whose work has included restoring Windsor Castle following the fire of 1992, and recent projects at Battersea Power Station and Pevensey Castle.

PAYE worked closely with the project’s architects, Fielden Clegg Bradley Studios, to restore the exterior of the Studio Theatre with minimal intervention and to honour its rich history.

Cleaning and repairing

The team began by cleaning the building with a super-heated pressure wash, followed by a mix of air, sand and water – a conservation method used to remove dirt without damaging the brickwork.

“You would be surprised by the number of further repairs that become apparent once you’ve taken the dirt off the surface,” said Rob Kember, site manager of PAYE Stonework and Restoration.

They included removing non-stainless-steel fixtures and fittings that had pockmarked the brickwork as they had eroded, and repairing water damage caused by the original 86-year-old roof, now undergoing essential repairs, with a planning application submitted to replace with a new copper roof.

Tracing materials

Rob explained that where heritage buildings have been constructed from stone sourced from local quarries that have since closed, it can often be hard to find the materials for a seamless restoration. But PAYE were able to identify and colour-match the cement on the exterior of the Studio Theatre and London Reclaimed Brick Merchants supplied the stone

They also used a variety of mortar mixes during repairs to the dome, the windows and the walls, taking into account the theatre’s history and its prevailing winds and salt air.

'Supper room'

The Studio Theatre was erected in 1935 as part of architect Robert Atkinson’s Art Deco refurbishment of Brighton Dome Concert Hall and Corn Exchange. It was originally used as a ‘Supper Room’, with kitchens to serve functions and as extra space for conferences, public meetings and dinners.

By the late 1950s, the building had been converted to the Pavilion Theatre and hosted overflow exhibitions from the Corn Exchange, as well as smaller performances, community events and competitions. It was eventually renamed the Studio Theatre in 2012 to reflect Brighton Dome’s arts programming.

Unique features

The Studio Theatre stands out from other buildings of its vintage for its ‘unique features and different styles,’ says Rob. “From the crenelated style windows, to the parapet that runs along the roof, it mimics the character of the Royal Pavilion and everything around it.”

Rob has relished the chance to get to know more about the history of the place.

Rob said: “I feel proud that, with our help, something that’s been here a long time could be for standing for hundreds more years to come. If we’ve done it well, it should blend in. Some people won’t even notice that we’ve been there.”

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