Landmark faces ‘transformation’

2018-03-13 06:01

Cape Town’s iconic “grand dame” is in the midst of a major makeover, which started in December last year. Extensive work is taking place in the City Hall’s auditorium, previously known as the Grand Hall.

This classical space is undergoing a once-in-a-lifetime intervention to be fully air-conditioned and gain new flooring and seating throughout.

The interior is being completing redecorated, and the stage in the hall will also be rebuilt to incorporate a piano lift and basement storage.

The original boarded stage was built in 1905 and was deemed to be too small just two years into its existence. It has since been enlarged a host of times in the course of its long years of service. It was extended into the auditorium, thereby reducing the seating space, and also extended backwards, cropping three of the lower choir tiers below the grand organ backdrop.

The new stage will be straight-fronted and will reinstate a teak-panelled front that was long buried under successive forward extensions. This straight stage keeps the stage at its previous capacity and it will be slightly lowered for improved sight lines and enhanced acoustics. It will facilitate a return to traditional straight seating rows within the teak-panelled auditorium. The piano lift and new basement extension will enhance stage management not only with regard to housing the three valuable concert pianos, but also for orchestral and choir stands and the placing of on-stage rostra, explains Mayco member for assets and facilities management, Stuart Diamond.

“The City Hall is a building of civic pride that is used by communities from across the City. It is home to the Cape choirs and the Cape Philharmonic Orchestra. I am certain that once the new stage is completed, together with the revamp of all the other elements, this grand dame will reclaim her place as an ideal musical events venue,” he says.

It’s a race against the clock to make sure that all the work is completed in time for the next season of concerts, Diamond adds.

“The major reconstruction works, if all goes according to plan, are set to be completed by the end of June this year, with final commissioning and snagging taking place during July,” he says.

“It is amazing to see the gentle transformation taking place under the watchful eye of heritage specialists. City Hall is one of our oldest and most central public spaces, with a rich history that resonates with Capetonians as well as visitors to our City. As a key strategic asset of the City of Cape Town, its upkeep and maintenance has to be done with the utmost care to preserve the integrity of this heritage building and the equipment within. The refurbishment will enhance the aesthetics of this building.”


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