The Development Project
Between 1996 and 2004 a major refurbishment and remodelling of the Hall took place to adapt it to meet the needs of moderns shows and audiences at a cost of some £70 million.
The key to this programme was the excavation of a three and a half storey basement below the steps and gardens that lie to the South of the Hall, which houses a major loading bay so that scenery, sound and lighting equipment can be loaded in from trucks underground and out of sight and brought up into the auditorium on lifts. The excavation also accommodates plant rooms and performers' dressing rooms. New arena foyers, bars and lavatories were created and restaurant provision expanded. New function rooms were created at Grand Tier level and administrative offices and other non-public space concentrated behind the stage.
With the agreement of Westminster City Council, the road which previously encircled the Hall was stopped up at the South End and an entirely new South Porch was built to provide a day-time entrance to the building. Fresh air ventilation was introduced to the auditorium. The Hall’s famous pipe organ was completely rebuilt and refurbished, new decorative schemes and lighting were introduced in public areas and a number of investments were made to support the staging and broadcast of the shows themselves.
As a Grade I Listed building, every structural change had to be approved by English Heritage. Most remarkable of all, perhaps, this extensive programme of work was carried out whilst the Hall remained operational, closing for just two periods of four weeks when seating was replaced at Circle level and in the Stalls. Audience capacity was increased by the addition of an extra row of seats in the Stalls.