The practice blog

Hammersmith Apollo – Where David Bowie brought the curtain down on Ziggy

…in 1973… on Rock’n’Roll Suicide.

I had a wonderful opportunity of visiting this great Art Deco monument on Wed 11 June 2014 for a gig. It has only been reopened since September last year as it had gone through a £5m face lift and had been shut for nine weeks (only nine weeks! It looked as though a lot more time had gone into the works).

I wasn’t allowed to take photos of the gig and being law-abiding, I didn’t take any photos. I just sat back and enjoyed the Pat Metheny concert. However I was allowed to go off with my camera and capture the beautiful interiors once out of the main auditorium.

I could not help but compare the refurb with Claridges Hotel, one of the best jobs of my life which I had the pleasure and honour of working on. Hammersmith Apollo was originally called the Gaumont Palace and was designed in 1932 by Robert Cromie. Then it became the Hammersmith Odeon and, in 1999, the Hammersmith Apollo. Now it is called the Eventim Apollo after the German ticketing company which co-owns it with AEG Live, owners of the O2. I did wonder what ‘Eventim’ meant. More recently it has hosted BBC1’s Live at the Apollo series.

What people saw on stage will form most people’s memory of the building. As I had never been here before, I could appreciate that the exterior and the interior are now equally an impressive show. The terrazzo floor in the entrance, hidden for years under carpet, is now a shocking and revealing work of art.

Blacked out, painted windows in the circle bar have been stripped and instead the original decorative frosting is now beautifully presented. Beautiful friezes by the artist Newbury Abbott Trent, also in the entrance hall, have been restored.

The main auditorium interior which I did not get a photo of, is back to the original green and black rather than the garish purple and pink. None of this namby-pamby beiges of the 90s onwards. Art Deco was the last of the decorative arts. It has a true sense of place and time. It is evocative, moody and bold. All the design elements and features are geometric, stylised and elegant. And of course went with the party atmosphere in history – jazz music and cinema.