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Citizens Theatre redevelopment: demolition work

Graham Sutherland, our Head of Production and Client Representative, has kept a personal blog documenting our Building Redevelopment.  In this extract, Graham captures a significant moment early in the project.

External demolition

This area for demolition is one of the most prominent parts of the building: the main entrance from Gorbals Street; the foyers, bar and box office; and the Circle and Stalls studio theatres. 

A floor plan of the Citizens Theatre. It shows the Front pf House Area and South Wing which are both being demolished as part of the building redevelopment.

Front of House in peach to be demolished. South wing in blue already demolished.

The previous demolition area is now cleared of all the debris and the larger exposed openings have been boarded up to protect the auditorium and stage from the rain. Some further protection, diversion of water where drainpipes have been removed and tidying up of the wall will happen a bit further down the line.

A building site. An area of the old Citizens Theatre building has been demolished and cleared of all the debris. You can see an old brick wall and a dirt floor where the demolished area previously stood.

The demolition of the front of the building was delayed slightly waiting on permission for a road closure. Now it’s in place the contractor can put up a temporary hoarding well into the road to ensure the safety of passers-by.

Last sections of the hoarding going in at the Citizens Theatre building site

Some of the demolition at the front of the building, such as separating our building from the next door neighbours, taking down the glass canopy, and removing the overhang on the roof, is done by hand to minimise risk as much as possible.

The old front of the Citizens Theatre building. A man on a scissor lift is working by hand to remove a part of the roof.
The demolition of the old Citizens Theatre building. An operator on a scissor lift working by hand to take down the roof overhang.

The glass canopy has now been removed above the main entrance. In the images above,  we can see an operator on a scissor lift working by hand to take down the roof overhang and carefully tease apart the building where it butts up against the neighbours. 

A digger pulling down the old front of the Citizens Theatre building.

By this point, taking down the front elevation is well underway. A small digger is used to carefully knock down the wall and pull apart the structure with an impressive degree of control:

The next two images were taken an hour apart. In the first one you can just about see that the brickwork has started to be taken off at the front corner. With them working a bit further back from the road the huge demolition claw was able to get in and make short work of the rest. I had to go away for a meeting and the second image was taken an hour later when I got back. 

Side by side photos showing demolition progress at the Citizens Theatre building redevelopment.

The demolition claw was also able to get right into the old foyer and rip out the revolving door from the main entrance. In the video below, you can see it being crushed till it is ready to go in the skip. Some people at the Citz might find this pretty therapeutic. In its old age the revolving door mechanism was forever breaking down and a source of great frustration for maintenance staff, front of house staff and customers alike! 

During a lunch break, I could get in and take a few pictures from within the demolition zone:

A building being demolished.

View of the corner of the building on Gorbals Street – old Circle Studio up on the first floor.

View from Gorbals Street between the remains of the steel frame of the foyer looking up at the sandstone gable.

View from Gorbals Street between the remains of the steel frame of the foyer looking up at the sandstone gable.

Rubble and building debris surrounding a steel frame.

A day later and most of it was down except for some steelwork on the left that will remain in place to support the building next door while temporary works are carried out to reinforce their party wall.

Rubble and building debris between the remains of an orange steel frame. In the background you can see the sandstone gable of the historic building with the words 'Citizens Theatre' on it.

You can start to see quite clearly now all the entrances into the main auditorium at the various levels. Previously, most of it was boxed in and covered in plasterboard. Now that it is stripped back to the sandstone you can see remnants of old stairs and striking arches that were hidden above the ground floor auditorium doors. Part of the design is to reveal this historic structure and use it architecturally within the foyer space.

The structure in the foreground here is the roof of the old Circle Studio theatre.

The old studio was no longer fit for purpose after issues with servicing, leaks and building fabric failures. It lost a lot of its atmosphere and intensity after the capacity had to be significantly reduced to satisfy building regulations. But, there were some phenomenal shows in there over the years and it held a lot of fond memories for staff, audiences and participants. 

Rubble and building debris on the ground in front of the historic Citizens Theatre building.

Remains of old Circle Studio

It is perhaps worth mentioning at this point what will go back in its place: 

  • Foyer – a new foyer that is level from the street right through to the auditorium and beyond; increasing the amount of usable space and making it more accessible for all 
  • Bar – a new bar for people to catch up with friends and enjoy a drink.  
  • Studio/workshop spaces – a new dedicated learning studio for rehearsal and simple performances and spaces for participation and events 
  • Studio Theatre – a new studio-theatre with flexible seating allowing for productions in multiple configurations; like end-on, thrust and in the round. 
  • Façade – a glazed frontage to Gorbals Street that allows easy access and views in and out of the building as well as creating a more substantial and prominent street presence featuring the six stone statues mounted back on the outside of the building 
  • Lifts/stairs – new stairways, auditorium entrances and a lift that serves all three levels of the main auditorium as well as the first-floor studio and rehearsal spaces; better accessibility for the Dress Circle including new seating positions for wheelchair users 
Floor plans for the new ground floor and first floor foyer spaces

Plan views of the new ground floor and first floor foyer spaces

Side by side of old foyer and proposed facade for redeveloped building

Side by side of old foyer and proposed façade

In the coming weeks, the contractor will continue the internal strip-out in back of house as well as demolishing the old front of house offices and metal escape stairs to the north. 

Make a donation

A donation to our building redevelopment is the best way to support the Citizens Theatre.  Your donation will ensure that communities across Glasgow and Scotland can enjoy the magic of theatre in a building that is truly accessible to all. 

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Architect's rendering of the new redeveloped exterior of the Citizens Theatre. The building features a new facade with black cladding, neon pink lettering, and a row of statues on the roof.

Explore our redevelopment

Our statues part 3 - from restoration to glorious return

Our statues part 3 - from restoration to glorious return

Citizens Theatre redevelopment: auditorium foundations
Building work in the Citizens Theatre auditorium. Concrete has now been poured for new foundations

Citizens Theatre redevelopment: auditorium foundations

Our statues part 2 - the restoration
a man in a navy jumper and jeans is crouched beside a statue. He has a long thin paintbrush and is painting the statue with gold paint

Our statues part 2 - the restoration