By Sarah Jackman

The Observer Building was purchased by local developer White Rock Neighbourhood Ventures (WRNV) on 14th February and, just over 4 weeks later, renovation work began – the first structural repair work carried out on the building in over 30 years.

Behind the ornate decorative façade, the internal structure is made of concrete – both a fashionable material for post WWI modernist architecture and a practical solution to accommodate heavyweight printing machinery on an industrial scale.  

PICTURE: John Cole

“Unfortunately, having been empty for 34 years with a leaking roof, water has got into the concrete and caused the reinforcement to rust,” said David Spooner, the Construction Project Manager on the project.

To ensure that the building remains watertight and the spaces are safe and comfortable, Hastings Building Services are working alongside Structural Renovations Limited, the specialist contractor who has been brought in to carry out the structural work. “We are pleased to be involved in this worthwhile and important community project,” said Craig Farrand, their Managing Director.

The work to restore the structural integrity and bring the much-loved building back to its full strength involves repairing 750 areas of damaged concrete – an impressive 5000 square metres – and applying protective coatings to the internal areas.

One important legacy of the building is the graffiti that has accumulated over the years. Unfortunately, some of this will be lost – but the project team plan to invite artists back to create new works of art on the restored walls to contribute to the shaping of the space for the future. 

The concrete repairs aren’t a quick or cheap solution, taking around 8,000 working hours over a four-month period to finish, but it is the quality and longevity of the repairs that matters. As David Spooner commented, this “will ensure that the building will last for many years to come.”

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