Melding the Old Things With the New: Non omne quod nitet aurum est, 23rd April 2017

In the intervening eight days before I visited Tankerville again on Thursday June 30th, the building work advanced a lot.  This was only to be expected with the hand-over date now only two months away.  Because of this, the next few posts will rely on Giuseppe’s photos solely, but this one begins with one of the shots I took on June 22nd.  I took it because, surveying the outside of the old building in some detail (with nothing else to photograph), something caught my eye.  Did you notice it, I wonder, when you looked at the image?  I’ll give you a clue.  It’s to do with the windows.  New ones aligning with old.

If you’re putting a positive spin on it, they have certainly matched the windows up well on the front façade.  Indeed, a passer-by on the street even said this to me as I was standing taking this photograph.  Viewing it negatively, however, I must say it surprised me, considering the money spent and the fact we were told there was going to be a complete over-haul of the building, that they hadn’t replaced every window in the building never mind across the front façade.  The consequence of this I know to my own cost.  My new teaching room is in the 1935 extension where the windows weren’t replaced and, even at the point of writing ten months later, two of the windows in this room still cannot be opened.  They just need to be unlocked too.  As Mr Shakespeare knew very well, ‘All that glisters is not gold…’

The modern infill extension, now virtually complete, sits snugly between the 1935 (left) and 1927 (right) Church High extensions.

EWA’s subtle design to link the old and new buildings architecturally cannot be faulted, however.  As you can see from the shot below, the infill extension to the old building has been designed not only with a glass frontage but with copper cladding too.  This subtly melds the old and new together at the point they face each other.  In practical terms, at the moment this has necessitated the removal of part of the roof of the 1927 extension while the panels are affixed.

EWA’s creative use of shiny copper cladding subtly and successfully links both buildings.

As Giuseppe’s photographs make clear, this was a tricky and time-consuming process.  The panels all had to be cut to size and pieced together.  Unlike the new build, some of the cuts required here were very intricate, where windows had to be negotiated, for example.

The cladding even covers the windowsills.

Most importantly, the point where new shiny copper cladding meets old-fashioned slate roof tile must be weather-proof, of course.  As Giuseppe’s fascinating Clerk of Works drawing below shows, great attention to detail has been paid here involving a water drip detail.  I assume this will have been the same in both old and new buildings.

From my limited knowledge of roofing, one would assume that the major weather-proofing will be ensured by lead flashing, however.  A lot of sealing off will be needed it seems as these shots of the side cladding viewed from north to south and then south to north show.

The west-facing side of the new-look Old Building roofline looking from north to south (above) and south to north (below).

What wasn’t obvious to me until I looked at Giuseppe’s photographs and tried to get my bearings from my working knowledge of the existing roofline of the Church High building, was that the coper cladding was not just affixed to the side of the infill extension facing the new building.  It actually extends all the way around the back too.

The copper cladded back of the infill extension faces the north gable roof of the original Newcastle High building. The brickwork at the far end of the newly-created roof gulley is where the later-addition top floor of the 1935 extension was connected to the main building roof-space. To help you get your bearings, this was the very top landing of the north staircase.

During this same period of time, the roofline cladding was also being applied to the new building.  This process presented some different problems for the workforce.  Roof edges had to be negotiated.  The copper panels will be west-facing here too, this time creating those little finishing touches that will make the roof terrace extra special.

Plan for the copper cladding on the new building’s second (top) floor west-facing elevation.
The area of cladding being applied as per plan.
Close-up of the overlap join at the base here.
A similar join on the edge of the roof garden.

The copper cladding on the main body of the building is still not complete.  The slow progress is owing to the sourcing of the product.  There are much cheaper ways to clad buildings than this and we are using a large amount.  I was talking to Brian Castor from Powderhall Bronze Foundry who is very familiar with metal-work just last week; he was installing Zoe Robinson’s GDST commissioned seahorse bronze which is at present wrapped up tightly waiting to be officially unveiled this coming Friday (28th April) at 11.00 am, if you’re free.  It’s going to be a fantastic event and I can’t wait for everyone to see the sheer quality of the finished sculpture.  Brian told me that not only is this kind of cladding expensive, it is also very tricky to apply.  He said that Wates have made a very good job of it, which I think you can see from these general shots Giuseppe took that day.

EWA certainly knew what they were doing when they designed this building for Tankerville: the metalwork and glass complement the natural elements of our site perfectly. A big thank you, Mark, Pablo and Hayley.

This isn’t the first old building restoration I’ve been lucky enough to be involved with, albeit in a very small way.  Having served on Newcastle Theatre Royal’s Friends Committee for many years, it was a privilege to watch both an extension/restoration project and a refurbishment of that very special building from up close.  Perhaps that’s why I appreciate the care that has been taken with The Old Girl so much.   In 2006-7, the City Council bought Barclay’s Bank on Market Street so that the 100 Grey Street Theatre Royal footprint could be expanded in a £7.2 m redevelopment.  I remember well the talk of just how long it took to break through the strong-room wall!  In addition to much-needed extended wing space stage-right, a new modern Learning Space and bigger Box Office were both created.  As I look back on those structures now, I see similarities in the design to parts of our extended and renovated areas on Tankerville.

The new Theatre Royal Learning Space at its unveiling.
Upstairs, glass was used to join the new extension to the old.
The new Box Office was panelled in a natural substance too.

Phase Two involved the restoration of the auditorium in 2011; both phases of the development were Cundall projects though the architects for each differed.  One common denominator was the theatre’s Director of Development, Richard Berg Rust, whose job it was to raise all the money.  And a great job he did of it too.  I owe a great deal to Richard, who became a good friend to me over time.

Richard Berg Rust, Theatre Royal Director of Development, and myself at the Theatre’s fundraising Stage Dinner in 2009.

The 2011 Vote for Shakespeare Campaign was Richard’s idea to keep audiences involved with the Theatre while it was dark and he asked for my help with it.  He had faith that I could do the writing and because of him I found myself nervously sitting in The Newcastle Journal Editor’s Office as he pitched to Brian Aitken.  Heaven knows what David Whetstone, The Journal’s Arts and Culture Editor, thought when Richard told them that I would write the articles!  David asked me to write the first four up-front and we went on from there.  19 articles later, he’d even allowed me more words.  I owe a lot to David too.  Without that experience, I wouldn’t be blogging now.  From that came the Mercutio statue in 2012, cast at Powderhall Bronze.  And so, exactly 5 years to the day, I come full circle.

Myself, sculptor Lisa Delarney, actor Jonjo O’Neill, Richard Berg Rust and Ramy Zack, owner of The Biscuit Factory & project funder, at Mercutio’s unveiling on 23rd April 2012.

This post is being completed on 23rd April, the day we celebrate Shakespeare’s birthday and consequently the day we chose for the statue unveiling.  I always think of Mercutio on St George’s Day – it was such a fabulous project to be involved with and I am aware how very lucky I was to be in just the right place at the right time.  My frame of mind is particularly reflective this year, however.  I received the sad news on April 13th that Richard had died very suddenly.  it was a big shock and he will be much missed.  A Richard-shaped hole in the world will be a big space to fill for a lot of people, not least of all his partner Claire and young William.  From watching Richard, I learned how to be fuelled by a dream, to work towards a goal with passion and to embrace warmly folk who share the journey with us.  The last thing I talked to him about was the book on NHS I want to write.  ‘Love’s Labours Will Not Be Lost’, he wrote in the copy of Shakespeare’s Works I was given as a ‘thank you.’  I’ll hold on to that thought for the future and dedicate this post to Richard’s memory.

Richard Berg Rust, my friend, as I will always remember him: a unique, energetic combination of innovation and tradition.


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