WORK has started on the iconic Hammersmith Apollo this week as builders gutted the theatre less than 24 hours after the last show.
Concert goers who saw Turkish superstar Sertab Erener perform on Sunday (30) night were the last people to see the Apollo's interior as it was.
By Monday lunch time, the seats were removed and bars ripped out ready for a complete refurbishment by the world's largest owner and operator of arenas, AEG Live, who acquired the famous listed building in June 2012.
The company, along with ticketing and venue operation business CTS, felt the building had been neglected and under invested, with a series of poorly considered and short term additions and alterations which have compromised the look and feel of the structure.
In their planning application, approved in February, they emphasised that both companies are respectful of the building's 81-year-old heritage and its local and national importance so were keen to respect and protect the building.
Plans from Foster Wilson architects show the theatre's original Art Deco appearance being a major theme for the refurbishment, with the dark red tones of the foyer and its bars being transformed into a lighter, more airy atmosphere reminiscent of the original entrance of 1932.
One of the major changes is the removal of the forestage and the lowering of the floor to create a larger area for both seated and standing audiences, with allowance for a temporary forestage to be built if needed.
The Compton Theatre Organ, which is one of the very few left in the UK, will stay in its original 1932 location, with decking and suspension cables being removed from in front of the chambers to restore the organ's sound delivery.
All bars and merchandise counters in the building will be replaced to be in keeping with the Art Deco appearance while a major historic paint analysis of the original colours has been undertaken to look into the original colours throughout the Apollo, originally named The Gaumont Palace Theatre.
This has not been easy as the only pictures from that era are in black and white but there are descriptions from articles of tones of horizon green, grey, mauve, and silver with dull gold and black lacquer, with sea green moquette seating, which the architects want to mimic in the refurbishment.
Provision for people with disabilities is a key focus for the new Apollo, with a new seating layout which will accommodate 20 wheelchairs instead of the current four available. There will also be a significant improvement in wheelchair users being able to evacuate the building in an emergency and new accessible bathrooms.
While the interior is the main focus, brickwork will be repaired, waterproofed and replaced with original, matching bricks which will make no difference to the appearance, with new up-lighting on the front of the building and colour changing spotlights on the window sills being the most noticeable alteration.
Some of the works will be finished by September this year, with pop princess Selena Gomez performing in the refurbished building on the 7th. More of the refurbishments will happen next year but timings have not been confirmed.