Best Laid Plans
I wonder whether Johnny Rodger was familiar with Eden Court Theatre in Inverness prior to its latest extension, which he reviews in AJ 20.12.07. It was very much ‘of its time’ and not without its problems, but it was nonetheless a strong, characterful and clearly organised piece of architecture. My impression, on a recent visit following its reopening, was that Page\Park has failed to live up to or respect this in its alterations, particularly in its treatment of the ground floor and entrance areas.
The original plan revolved around a leisurely procession from entrance and ticket desk, past the cloakrooms via the ‘internal street’ mentioned, and on to the main staircase which spiralled upwards, revealing views of the river and gardens outside as it rose. This staircase remains but now lands awkwardly right next to a clumsy blob-shaped column, spitting audiences out facing a messy shop-cum-storage area beside the ticket desk. What was once a pivotal element now feels lost and impotent.
Yes, the entrance now faces the city, which is in itself to be welcomed, but it opens into an ill-defined and unfocused space which largely ignores the intriguing hexagonal geometry of the shell it inhabits, and seems not to invite the sociable milling around which accompanies most visits to the theatre. Although your review hints at these problems, I fear it lets Page\Park off rather too lightly by glossing over such fundamental failures in the organisation of the plan.
It is good to see Eden Court Theatre reinvigorated with new facilities, but I feel rather sad that the inventive spirit of the original design seems to have been washed away in such a disappointing fashion.