London & South East, Premier Construction

New multi-cultural landmark takes centre stage

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Tara Arts Theatre, Earlsfield, south London

Creating a new landmark building, which is claimed to be the only facility of its type in Britain, the extensive reconstruction of the Tara Theatre in Earlsfield, south London, will provide a superb new venue, fusing architectural styles from east and west.

The project is being carried out for Tara Arts by main contractors HA Marks, working with Aedas Arts Team, who have both been commended for their performance. “Aedas Arts Team have been absolutely brilliant in helping us to realise our vision,” said he theatre’s artistic director and founder Jatinder Verma.

Previously known as the Tara Arts Centre, the theatre is a cross-cultural facility working with theatre artists from around the country as well as local young people. The building, a Victorian end of terrace, was taken over by Tara Arts and converted into a theatre in 1985.

The new building will include a new basement level and two floors above.

Tara Arts Theatre, Earlsfield, south London

The works commenced with the demolition of the entire building apart from the main frontage and the excavation of a new basement level to a depth of 10 metres. The basement will accommodate a passenger lift, public toilets and changing rooms for the actors.

The ground floor will incorporate a foyer with a cafe bar and box office, leading into a magnificent auditorium seating 100 people. Also leading off from the foyer will be a landscaped patio garden. The floor above will house rehearsal rooms, which will also serve in the evenings as a studio for presenting smaller shows.

The new construction will feature brick external elevations and a flat roof.

A design element emphasising the multi-cultural nature of the building are the doors, architraves and windows – all of which have been imported from India. Another element of the design is the use of an earth floor as an optional stage, echoing the days when players travelled from village to village, performing in impromptu outdoor spaces.

Tara Arts Theatre, Earlsfield, south London

The building is to be fitted with new mechanical and electrical services throughout, with emphasis on low energy and low maintenance systems. Heating and cooling is to be provided via ground couple boreholes and a reverse cycle heat pump. Ventilation will be provided via a displacement system which induces air at low level and provides maximum audience comfort. LED lighting technology along with simple lighting control further reduce the energy demand.

Finally, water conservation is ensured by the use of low water use urinals and pans coupled with a grey and rain water harvesting system.

“This landmark building will be architecturally the first multi-cultural theatre building in Britain,” said Jatinder Verma.

He added: “The idea of the design theme is that it represents a constant conversation between east and west, old and new, which is why we wanted to retain the original 19th century frontage, which will have a full height tree motif pargeted onto it.

“This is a very complex project, because in addition to the site being located on a busy high street, we have a railway embankment to one side of the site, with businesses and residential properties on the other side.”

Tara Arts Theatre, Earlsfield, south London

“The contract team are doing very well, despite the challenges of the site. Currently the basement level’s concrete slab has been laid and the steel superstructure is now in place.

“We are so excited about the project, and for me it is an absolute dream come true to create a legacy for multicultural theatre for the next generation of performers and audiences to enjoy.”

In addition to obtaining its principal funding from The Arts Council, the project has had donations from over 1,400 local supporters, making it a community project in the truest sense of the word.

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