by Jez Bond

Already six months ago Hughes Jones Farrell would have far exceeded the total hours spent by many other architects on this near pro-bono project. Our many sessions – from design team meetings on site (or at various consultants’ offices across London) to a great many tours of theatres, attendances at conferences and events and even trips to see shows – have racked up a vast number of hours. Yet on Friday we spent an hour discussing the intricacies of a drinks shelf in the circulation area of the upper ground floor.

Such is the level of detail that we engage in. We discuss and consider every single aspect of every single element of everything to do with the building. It’s time consuming but an amazing process to engage with. It means that every decision has been thought out tremendously. It means that when it comes down to opening the building not only will there be the positive energy of deep thought woven into the fabric of every millimetre but as the artistic director of the building I will be in the unique position of knowing exactly why every choice was made and what it meant.

I rejoice every day in the open, forward thinking approach that Hughes Jones Farrell have taken through every step of the project and in my sometimes too integral involvement they graciously allow. I would estimate that we have spent well over a hundred hours together (add at least another twenty for phone calls all hours of the day and every day of the week between Dave and me). Given that doesn’t include the vast amount of time they have spent without me in drawing the plans, building the computer models, preparing the preplanning and planning documents, liaising with the design team etc – it’s quite astounding. As if that wasn’t enough, now the fabulous Martin Cawson has come on board pretty much full time as the project architect, taking over the day to day detail work and focussing on the interior finishes.

Now I ask a lot of questions and the way my brain works I need to understand the detail of everything in order to move on. So it’s all the more unbelievable when I note that not once in all these hours together have they ever said to me “don’t worry it just works like that / you don’t need to understand that”. Their patience is a virtue.

Similarly I’m sure they will always remember who guided them through the technical theatre babble of wings, working lights, dimmer racks, green rooms and show relays, who explained the process of theatre from rehearsals through to the tech and dress rehearsals.

I bet people reading this are thinking “bloody hell they chose a firm of architects who hadn’t even been to the theatre before?” – to which I smile and direct them to an earlier blog and say that I would still wish it absolutely no other way. It’s been the most fantastic relationship – one in which both parties have learned such a great deal. I have no doubt that after this project Dave Hughes and the team will be far better informed about the true workings of the theatre than many other architects who have designed ones before. In fact I guarantee it – as Dave is already looking at booking in some weeks to shadow me through the process of an entire show. That’s not normal….but it should be!

This will I hope be their first of many. Dave – just remember who taught you your stage left from right…!

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