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Eventim Apollo, Hammersmith, London, England

Issue 77 February / March 2014 : Architectural: Theatre


The Hammersmith Apollo, recently renamed the Eventim, is a musical temple. A precise refurbishment process is currently restoring the theatre’s Art Deco splendour to its 1930s heyday, a delicate challenge for James Morse Lighting Design.

British music certainly has its fair share of shrines, from the Cavern in Liverpool to the Pyramid Stage at Glastonbury, live performance takes on a whole new meaning in a venue that boasts a back history of legendary gigs. A long history of electric performances suggests there is an ethereal element to a great venue, a case of there being ‘something in the air’.

The Hammersmith Apollo, recently renamed the Eventim Apollo, in London, is certainly one of those venues. Opened in 1932 as the Gaumont Palace Cinema, an Art-Deco palace dedicated to a new art form, the talking picture, the theatre soon became a music venue, at first hosting performances by Ella Fitzgerald and Tony Bennett and then, as the tastes changed, a 21 night residency from The Beatles. Bruce Springsteen recorded a legendary live album there and, in what was one of the more memorable nights in this long roster, David Bowie killed off Ziggy Stardust at the theatre in 1973, in a blaze of glitter and platform shoes.

The years of concerts took their toll and the building was badly in need of renovation, when the venue was sold by the failing HMV to a consortium of Aeglive Ltd and Eventim gmbh.The new owners immediately set about the task of renewing the building.

It was decided to phase the work to minimise the period the theatre would be dark and the first stage of refurbishment included the front of house areas, the hallways, staircases and bars, as well as the building’s façade.

James Morse Lighting Design was responsible for the lighting scheme, working in conjunction with manufacturer GDS, who was also responsible for the restoration of the original light fittings, and Tim Foster of architectural firm Foster Wilson. Together they worked to produce a proposal for the lighting design at the revamped Apollo.
The brief for the lighting design was to make the foyer areas much brighter, while lending the front façade, with its Art Deco style columns and iconic marquee, an impressive visual impact.

The façade is relit using a programmable LED colour changing system from Philips Color Kinetics and the underside of the entrance canopy is equipped with Crescent IP54 rated recessed LED downlights to lend a high level of illumination to the entrance.

There was a requirement from English Heritage, who had the responsibility for ensuring the building’s listed interior was not damaged, that the Art Deco nature of the front of house spaces be retained. The vision was to work within the fabric of the original 1932 Robert Cromie masterpiece and wherever possible restore the historical fixtures. A collection of historical photographs detailing the Apollo’s early splendour provided a template from which to work. In response to this, the design team decided to renovate all the existing and original Art Deco luminaires.

Using the photographs for reference, GDS managed the manufacture of the new light fittings as well as refurbishing the original 1932 chandeliers.

The architects and the lighting designers felt that the foyer would be much more visually impressive if an RGBW colour changing installation was installed. In response to this Radiant and LightGraphix colour changing LED linear lighting was used for the cove areas and the GDS team fitted new and original fittings with its new RGBW colour changing strip. Designed to achieve an even coverage of light throughout the foyer, and running at up to 70W per metre, it easily matched all compact fluorescent benchmarks that were given.

Created specifically for this job the new strip light carries a dedicated white cell (2700K) in order to provide the correct colour temperature. In addition to the newly created strip lights, the installation also features ArcSystem MR 16 fixtures across the foyer.

Where the original luminaires had been lost, new fixtures matching the originals were designed by Great British Lighting and installed in the building. Due to the need to minimise the intervention into the original fabric of the structure it was decided to utilise the existing wiring infrastructure and to specify a wireless DMX control system. This radically simplified the wiring of the new lighting installation, meaning that only 240V feeds were necessary to the luminaires, with all control emanating from the wireless signal sent to drivers within each luminaire.

The installation used a whole DMX universe that exceeded the normal ARC system 64 channel capability. LumenRadio provided an integrated CRMX OEM solution that connected with the ARC system electronics.

The reborn Eventim Apollo in Hammersmith is bound to retain its position at the very heart of British music, a position that will be further strengthened by its new and refurbished look. With its retained classic Art Deco features and its carefully considered lighting design, the Apollo will no doubt act as a retro cradle for our musical future for many more years to come.


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