The refurbishment of Brighton Dome Corn Exchange and Studio Theatre has continued over the last year to protect, conserve and upgrade the historic buildings to re-open as new and revitalised arts spaces in the heart of the city.
Despite the complications caused by the coronavirus pandemic restrictions, contractors have been able to progress with major architectural restoration work, including the mammoth task of replacing over 16,000 Welsh slate tiles (weighing 55 tonnes) on the Corn Exchange roof, which had been badly damaged by age and weather.
Many of the original 200-year old interior features have been replaced using specialist craft skills and workmanship. Bespoke joinery company, Neil Burke Joinery have installed 6,500 linear meters (the equivalent size of a football pitch) of solid oak cladding along the length of the Corn Exchange walls and inside the ‘eyelid’ roof arches.
Neil Burke explains more about the process:
“As a joinery business, one of the most interesting aspects of our work is researching the history of the building, looking at the original designs and details taken from the architect’s proposals and archive images. In our workshop, we re-produced 34 decorative pilasters (rectangular wall columns) which run from the floor to five metres high, matching the original detailing from Prince Regent’s riding house built in the early 19th century. Along the roof level we have bent thin layers of oak to create 10 curved sections which replicate the original interior specification. "
“The selection of the type of wood for this project was paramount and we worked with our regular supplier, Florian Mills in Italy who provide sustainable solid oak felled in Croatia. This type of wood is excellent quality for listed buildings and will enhance the Corn Exchange for many years to come. The final challenge in the production process was to research and develop a fire spread of flame product which wouldn’t detract from the natural beauty of the wood but would also offer full fire protection. We have relished the opportunity to be involved in such a unique Grade I listed building and have been proud to be part of the project. We’re really looking forward to seeing it completed and for visitors to enjoy this stunning interior.”
Further improvements include:
- The Front of House lift has been installed and work on a new platform lift in the Gallery.
- Temporary chillers have been removed and a new chilled water system, which removes heat from internal spaces to maintain a comfortable temperature has been completed.
- Masonry repairs to north, west and south external elevations are being carried out by a specialist heritage contractor to ensure the building walls are in good condition and remain watertight.
The major refurbishment of the Corn Exchange and Studio Theatre is the first phase of a wider project to reaffirm Brighton’s Royal Pavilion Estate as a key cultural destination by equipping it for a sustainable future. The longer-term vision aims to reunite the historic Estate to create a centre for heritage, culture and the performing arts which reflects the unique spirit of Brighton.
The redevelopment will restore and reveal previously hidden heritage features; improve venue access for visitors, staff and performers, including new accessible toilets, hearing assistance systems and a public lift providing wheelchair access to all levels of the buildings. A new Creative Space will be available for community groups and emerging artists to use for workshops, meetings and rehearsals. Find out more about the project and how to support the building’s development here.
Thanks to Arts Council England and National Lottery Heritage Fund for Capital Kickstart funding, read more here.
Images by Carlotta Luke