The repair works to fully restore the Apollo Pavilion were carried out between January and July 2009, though the process leading up to this could be said to have started seven years earlier.
‘The fly through was produced by Burns Architects, Castle Eden, County Durham who were the project Architects for the restoration and conservation.’
In order to carry out a structural survey, in 2002 District of Easington Council removed the vegetation and a two-foot layer of soil from the upper level of the pavilion. This had been put there in 1985 coinciding with the removal of the access staircases. The structure was also given a light surface clean and rudimentary patch repair work undertaken to small areas where the concrete had broken off the surface of the structure exposing rusting reinforcement.
Environmental consultants Wardle Armstrong were commissioned to carry out an assessment of the lake and provide recommendations to control the presence of algae blooms that blighted the lake over the summer period, creating an unsightly appearance and causing a foul smell. Due in part to the costs involved, the remedial actions recommended in the report were not implemented until the full restoration of the site in 2009.
Possibly the key event of 2002 with regards to securing the future of the Apollo Pavilion was the formation of a steering group set with the task of finding longer term solutions to the perceived problems presented by the Pavilion. This group included local residents, supporters and representation from Peterlee Town Council and the then District of Easington Council. The group continues today continues under the name Apollo Pavilion Community Association.
Beginning in 2003 the steering group began building wider appreciation and support for the Apollo Pavilion by undertaking a survey of local people’s views on the subject and by participating in events such as the annual Peterlee Show and Heritage Open Days.
Around 2004 a small professional advisory group was also set up, which met before each Resident Steering Group monthly meeting to debate and decide probable restoration options. The group included architects, academics and the specialist advisors with the chairmanship of the Local Authority Arts Officer.
By 2005 a feasibility study was completed that recommended a scheme to convert one of the nearby houses into a dedicated visitor centre. In retrospect this proposal was overly ambitious and for a period progress stalled with key stakeholders being unable to agree on a practical way forward.
Between autumn 2006 and spring 2007 the professional advisory group prepared a revised restoration scheme that finally met with broad agreement and District of Easington Council gave final approval to prepare and submit an application to the Heritage Lottery Fund. This was submitted in December 2007.
In July 2008 the Heritage Lottery Fund awarded a grant of £336,000 towards the costs of restoring the Apollo Pavilion. The approved scheme involved restoring the Pavilion and surrounding site back to its original condition with some minor agreed changes.
Restoration of the pavilion structure
The most complex element of the restoration involved the remedial repairs to the concrete surfaces of the structure.
The structure was first cleaned to remove dirt and layers of paint built up over many years, either from graffiti, or applied in an effort to cover the graffiti. This proved more difficult than anticipated and eventually required grit blasting.
The structure is composed of two types of surface finish, juxtaposing planes of exposed aggregate against fair face concrete, each of which required different repair methods. The grit blasting revealed that some surfaces initially believed to be fair face were in fact exposed aggregate, which is where the top surface of the concrete is removed, a technique referred to as bush hammering. This reveals the aggregate within the concrete, leaving a textured finish to the surface as oppose to the flat smooth finish of the fair face surfaces.
Areas of the exposed aggregate concrete requiring repair were broken out in rectangular sections revealing the steel reinforcement beneath. The steel work was then coated and sacrificial anodes fixed to the back of the reinforcement to prevent the process of carbonation causing future decay. Wooden shutters were constructed over the repair areas and the concrete poured into the void behind. Finally, after bush hammering the repair areas, an invisible coating called Keim Lotexan was applied across the entire surface of all exposed aggregate areas to waterproof and protect the concrete.
One further challenge worth documenting was finding a source to match the existing aggregate. In building concrete structures it is most common to use gravel sourced from a quarry. The aggregate used to build the Pavilion however was a marine type as found on a pebble beach, which provides the mix of colours only revealed after the structure was cleaned. After exhaustive inquiries the aggregate used for the repairs was found from a source in Hartlepool.
Repairs to the fair face surfaces were far more straightforward, carried out using trowel-applied repair mortar. Using this method the repair areas stand out in strong contrast to the surrounding concrete area due to the different tonal and colour properties of the two materials. As a result the whole surface then needs a coating applied to blend everything together. This proved not only to be one of the toughest challenges of the whole restoration, but also one of the most difficult to resolve satisfactorily.
Several different concrete paint finishes were applied in small trial areas and it was only at this point that the subtleties of the task at hand were revealed, requiring the design team look at the structure through an artist’s eye. They had not only to find the right colour match, but also a finish that didn’t alter the tactile material properties of the concrete surface. The products initially thought appropriate to this task when tested created a heightened contrast between the fair face and exposed aggregate surfaces, changing the compositional balance and character of the structure. After a long process of trial and error a product called Lazure was identified, which is applied in a series of translucent glazes that absorb into the surface of the concrete maintaining its tactile properties.
The thirty recessed lights that Victor Pasmore intended to illuminate and dramatize the structure at night had not functioned since the mid-1970s. Reinstating the lighting system was another challenge, involving not only replacing all of the light fittings but also installing a new power supply and core drilling new conduits through almost the entirety of the structure in order to run the electrical cabling to each light.
In 1985 both the access staircases leading onto the raised deck level, and the retaining balustrades were removed.
When the Pavilion was first built there were in fact two staircases, one on the south side allowing access through a doorway built into the gable wall, which was a single straight flight of stairs and another, located on the north east side, which had a dogleg design as seen above. One significant element of the restoration, deviating from what existed originally, is the decision taken to reinstate only the south staircase. This decision was based on two main factors.
Firstly, Victor Pasmore’s original designs for the Apollo Pavilion included only one staircase located on the south side. The second staircase was introduced later when a decision was made, probably not by the artist, to have the structure function as a pedestrian bridge. Why this decision was originally made is not clear, as pedestrian access across the lake has always been possible via a footpath running under the structure. There has been speculation that this may have been a requirement needed in order to release funding for the pavilion to be built, or possibly in response to concerns that the footpath could potentially become flooded as a result of a storm surge, an event that has subsequently never occurred.
The second factor taken into consideration when deciding not to reinstate both staircases, was the desire to restrict access to the upper level throughout the night. To achieve this a metal gate, in keeping with design of the structure, has been introduced to the doorway recessed into the south gable wall. Restricting access to the raised deck via the dogleg staircase on the east side of the structure was deemed impossible without introducing measures that would detrimentally alter the character and integrity of the pavilion.
New retaining balustrades based on the original designs have also been reinstated along with the two hand painted murals on the north and south gable walls.
Restoration of the surrounding site
The restoration involved not only the work undertaken on the Pavilion structure as detailed above, but also remedial repairs to the surrounding environment that form part of the artwork.
Almost the entire areas of cobbles running along the banks of stream channel beneath the Pavilion and around the edge of the lake were replaced old for new. This degree of replacement wasn’t initially thought necessary. However when exploratory work was carried out it revealed that in large areas problems must have been encountered when the cobbles were first laid as a whole second layer of concrete and cobbles had been laid over the first. This made it impractical to carry out selected repairs to most existing cobbled areas. They needed to be fully excavated and a new layer set in place.
Repairs were also carried out to the concrete lakebed that had been damaged during general maintenance when cleaning the lake in order to remove algae blooms. The schedule involved emptying the water from the lake by street cleaning vehicles on a monthly basis from April to October.
The second main deviation of the restoration has been to implement the recommendations of the Wardle Armstrong report written in 2002. This has involved introducing a major planting scheme in the lake aimed at controlling the problem of algae by creating a more balanced ecosystem in the water.
A reed bed has been constructed at the inflow of the lake to filter out the presence of nitrates and phosphates in the water and floating plants such as water lilies, which provide shade, have been introduced to help keep down the temperature of the water. Submerged barley straw, which as it decomposes releases chemicals that restricts the growth of algae blooms, has also been inserted.
To view further images by architectural photographer Sally Ann Norman documenting the restoration work go to the Restoration gallery page.
In 2010 the restoration project won the following awards:
Civic Trust Awards
Civic Trust Award (March 2010)
The Apollo Pavilion was one of 26 projects from across the United Kingdom and Ireland to receive the prestigious Civic Trust Award 2010.
The honour given to Durham County Council, the design team of Burns Architects, RNJ Construction Consultants, DTA Consulting Engineers and contractor Makers Freyssinet follows the work undertaken to repair and reinstate the structure’s original features and rejuvenate the surrounding park area.
The award, which was announced at a ceremony at St George’s Hall in Liverpool on Friday, 12 March, recognises the cultural, social and economic benefits of the scheme and its outstanding contribution to the quality and appearance of the environment.
Constructing Excellence North East Awards
Highly Commended, Heritage Award sponsored by English Heritage (May 2010)
Durham Environment Awards
Craftsmanship Award (May 2010)
Community Partnership Award sponsored by Groundwork (May 2010)
Following the restoration Durham County Council have put in place a ten year management and maintenance plan to ensure the Apollo Pavilion does not return to the condition it had fallen into prior to 2009.
Lead Design Consultant
Burns Architects, Castle Eden Studios, County Durham
Structural and Electrical Engineering Consultant
DTA Consulting Engineers LLP, Washington, Tyne and Wear
Quantity Surveyor and CDM Co-ordinator
RNJ Construction Consultants, Newcastle upon Tyne
Makers Freyssinet, Galloway, Scotland