Hammersmith Apollo's art deco glory uncovered after refurbishment

It's a building steeped in history, where David Bowie bade farewell to Ziggy Stardust and Kate Bush recorded her only live concert performance.

But for much of its life the Hammersmith Odeon has been a dark, dingy place with sticky carpets and gruesome bars.

But on Friday, after a nine-week closure and refurbishment, it was revealed in a far more glorious light. "I think it is one of the best art deco buildings in London," said architect Edmund Wilson in the totally transformed interior. "It is up there with the Savoy and other art deco buildings on the Strand."

The 1932 building designed by Robert Cromie began life as the Gaumont Palace before becoming the Hammersmith Odeon and, in 1999, the Hammersmith Apollo. From now on, it will be called the Eventim Apollo after the German ticketing company which co-owns it with AEG Live, owners of the O2.

Most people's memory of the building will be for what was on stage rather than the unmemorable facade or interior. Now a wealth of original art deco features have been uncovered, not least the beautiful terrazzo floor in the entrance, hidden for years under carpet. "We knew it was there because of old black and white photos, but we didn't know the condition," said Wilson. "But we had a peek and saw it was really something."

Beautiful friezes by the artist Newbury Abbott Trent, also in the entrance hall, have been restored and now radiate, while blacked out windows in the circle bar have carefully had paint removed to reveal their elaborate original frosting.

The main auditorium now screams art deco, with the gloomy purples and pinks replaced by original greens and blacks, although "we made a few adjustments to slightly darken it down to keep it rock'n'roll," said Wilson, of Foster Wilson Architects. "We didn't want to lose its moodiness."

The venue is one of the UK's best known, hosting many memorable performances and concerts, not least the one in 1973 when Bowie closed the gig with Rock'n'Roll Suicide, bringing down the curtain on Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars. More recently it has hosted BBC1's Live at the Apollo series.

AEG Live's chief operating officer, Colin Chapple, recalled paying £2 to see Alexander O'Neal in the SOS Band there. He said consumers now expected a lot more from venues than in previous years. "Then the music industry was really about the recording side and not the touring, while today it's turned on its head."

Powered by Guardian.co.ukThis article was written by Mark Brown, arts correspondent, for The Guardian on Friday 6th September 2013 17.11 Europe/London

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