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Graham Sutherland: Documenting our construction project

If you've been by the Citizens Theatre building recently at 119 Gorbals Street, you may have noticed that demolition work is well underway as part of the theatre’s redevelopment.

Graham Sutherland, our Head of Production has begun a blog cataloguing the project. Here’s Graham on the demolition work:
Photo by Alex Brady.

External Demolition – Part 3
The latest area for demolition is one of the most prominent parts of the building: the main entrance from Gorbals Street; the foyers, bar and box office; and the Circle and Stalls studio theatres.
Front of House in peach to be demolished
South wing in blue already demolished

The previous demolition area is now cleared of all the debris and the larger exposed openings have been boarded up to protect the auditorium and stage from the rain. Some further protection, diversion of water where drainpipes have been removed and tidying up of the wall will happen a bit further down the line.

The demolition of the front of the building was delayed slightly waiting on permission for a road closure. Now it's in place the contractor can put up a temporary hoarding well into the road to ensure the safety of passers-by.

Last sections of the hoarding going in.

Some of the demolition at the front of the building, such as separating our building from the next door neighbours, taking down the glass canopy, and removing the overhang on the roof, is done by hand to minimise risk as much as possible.

The glass canopy has now been removed above the main entrance. Here we can see an operator on a scissor lift working by hand to take down the roof overhang and carefully tease apart the building where it butts up against the neighbours.

By this point, taking down the front elevation is well underway. A small digger is used to carefully knock down the wall and pull apart the structure with an impressive degree of control.

The next two images were taken an hour apart from the car park looking towards the front. In the first one you can just about see that the brickwork has started to be taken off at the front corner. With them working a bit further back from the road the huge demolition claw was able to get in and make short work of the rest. I had to go away for a meeting and the second image was taken an hour later when I got back.

The demolition claw was also able to get right into the old foyer and rip out the revolving door from the main entrance. Here you can see it being crushed till it is ready to go in the skip. (Some people at the Citizens might find this pretty therapeutic. In its old age the revolving door mechanism was forever breaking down and a source of great frustration for maintenance staff, front of house staff and customers alike)

During a lunch-break, I could get in and take a few pictures from within the demolition zone.

View of the corner of the building on Gorbals Street - old Circle Studio up on the first floor.

View from Gorbals Street between the remains of the steel frame of the foyer looking up at the sandstone gable.

A day later and most of it was down except for some steelwork on the left that will remain in place to support the building next door while temporary works are carried out to reinforce their party wall.

You can start to see quite clearly now all of the entrances in to the main auditorium at the various levels. Previously, most of it was boxed in and covered in plasterboard. Now that it is stripped back to the sandstone you can see remnants of old stairs and striking arches that were hidden above the ground floor auditorium doors. Part of the design is to reveal this historic structure and use it architecturally within the foyer space. (I’ll cover this in more detail in a later post)

The studio was no longer fit for purpose after issues with servicing, leaks and building fabric failures. It lost a lot of its atmosphere and intensity after the capacity had to be significantly reduced to satisfy building regulations. But, there were some phenomenal shows in there over the years and it held a lot of fond memories for staff, audiences and participants.
It is perhaps worth mentioning at this point what will go back in its place:

  • Foyer – a new foyer that is level from the street right through to the auditorium and beyond; increasing the amount of usable space and making it more accessible for all
  • Cafe bar – a new cafe/bar with proper back of house facilities to provide a proper food offer as well as drink
  • Studio/workshop spaces – a new dedicated learning studio for rehearsal and simple performances and spaces for participation and events
  • Studio Theatre – a new 150-seater studio-theatre with flexible seating allowing for productions in multiple configurations; like end-on, thrust and in the round.
  • Facade – a glazed frontage to Gorbals Street that allows easy access and views in and out of the building as well as creating a more substantial and prominent street presence featuring the six stone statues mounted back on the outside of the building
  • Lifts/stairs – new stairways, auditorium entrances and a lift that serves all three levels of the main auditorium as well as the first-floor studio and rehearsal spaces; better accessibility for the Dress Circle including new seating positions for wheelchair users
Plan views of the new ground floor and first floor foyer spaces

Artist's impression of street-level on Gorbals Street (images by Bennetts Associates)

Proposed facade for redeveloped building (images by Bennerrs Associates)

It won’t be long before we start seeing this going up and preparations beginning on the first season of work back in the new building.

In the coming weeks, the contractor will continue the internal strip-out in back of house as well as demolishing the old front of house offices and metal escape stairs to the north. We will also pay a visit to the sculptor who is renovating the statues to see how he is getting along with Shakespeare, Burns, the Four Muses, the Elephants and the Nautch Girls.
Citizens Theatre, Demolition

Written by Graham Sutherland for, 30 October 2019. Graham will be continuing to blog about the project in the coming months. 

The Citizens Theatre building is undergoing the first major redevelopment in its 140-year history. The newly redeveloped theatre will restore an historic part of Glasgow’s cultural heritage, enable us to engage more people in our Learning programme, and host a bigger and better programme of productions. For the first time, we’ll be able to welcome everyone to take part in the creative life of our theatre.

We need your help to ensure that the redevelopment is delivered on time, and that we can once again re-open the doors of the Citizens Theatre. You can donate online and are hugely grateful for all donations towards this project.