A bold and shapely new look is becoming clear as transformation work continues at one of Swansea’s most historic buildings.
Sweeping curves in upper levels are among the lines being seen as construction specialists work hard to prepare the Palace Theatre building for its new life.
Powerful straight lines are being forged where future ceiling spaces and a lift shaft are being created.
Its dramatic but sensitive overhaul is expected to lead to its reopening – as a base for new businesses – next year (note: 2024).
The structure was built in 1888 and, in its long history, underwent a series of interior makeovers resulting in a complex rabbit warren with steep, winding staircases and numerous spaces of different shapes and sizes.
The challenges for those rescuing the building were intensified by the structure’s derelict state after almost two decades of disuse.
Swansea Council plans a big future for the six-storey building, having taken it out of private ownership shortly before the Covid-19 pandemic.
Council leader Rob Stewart said:
“It’s fantastic to see things coming together in the Palace.
“It was in a terrible state when we took it out of private ownership – and could have been lost to Swansea.
“We’ve rescued it and are transforming it with the help of specialist partners such as GWP Architecture and main contractor R&M Williams Ltd.”
Council cabinet member Robert Francis-Davies said:
“The work being done on site is specialist and complex – and we’re now in the early stages of seeing the shape of things to come.
“Together – and in liaison with heritage bodies – we’re striving to restore and retain key features and to make the Palace an important location for the city’s ongoing £1bn regeneration.”
Work began on site in 2021. The project is being assisted with funding from the Welsh Government’s Transforming Towns programme.
Work on site so far has included:
- Installing steel girders to support key future aspects of the building
- Creating a huge void and inserting a steel framework to accommodate a lift
- Saving thousands of original red bricks – for future use in the scheme
- Repairing giant timber roof beams
- Repairing iron pillars that’ll remain integral to the infrastructure
- Removing and restoring the dilapidated roof in readiness for a new slate roof
- Repair and re-use of sandstone decorative blocks on the external façade
- Repairing other original theatre elements for re-use in the scheme
- Installing additional floor space, maintaining the historical connection as a theatre
Richard Townend, director of GWP Architecture said:
“To see spaces opening up as scaffolding is removed inside the building is a great step forward as the Palace’s transformation continues.
“The design team is continuing to work closely with the construction team and specialists, alongside the council, as completion nears of this fantastic rebirth of this unique building in its new role at the heart of Swansea.”
Simeon Reed, contracts manager with R&M Williams, said:
“It’s a huge collaborative effort to carefully transform this landmark, retaining its history through careful restoration.
“We're working closely with the council, historic environment service CADW and restoration specialists, overcoming challenges at every turn.
“Walking the site every day, I can see the final look and feel of the building taking shape. I’m thrilled to be part of preserving such a wonderful space for future generations to experience and enjoy.
Welsh Government Minister for Climate Change Julie James said:
“Transforming Towns is committed to addressing the decline in Welsh city and town centres and ensuring they not only survive but thrive.
“It plays a key part in our journey towards a stronger, greener, fairer Wales and focuses on improved biodiversity and green infrastructure, reuse of derelict buildings, increasing the variety of services on offer in towns with an emphasis on flexible working and living space and access to services and leisure.
“The Palace Theatre building is an excellent example of how, through hard work and funding, we can bring a disused building back to life and create much needed high quality modern commercial floor space in the city centre.”
The grade two listed Palace building is being transformed into a home for tech businesses, start-up and creative businesses, with Tramshed Tech to lease the building as lead tenant.
Recollections, photos and copies of other Palace memorabilia can be shared with the project’s Facebook page – www.facebook.com/PalaceTheatreRedevelopment/.