Melbourne’s Princess Theatre benefits from heritage plaster repair services

The most recent renovations for Melbourne’s Princess Theatre have taken place from 2016 to 2018. Vision Ornate Plaster proudly provided heritage plaster repair services for the 2016 entry and bar renovation as well as a bespoke seating design in 2017.

Princess Theatre entry and bar renovation

Vision Ornate plaster commenced heritage plaster repair services in the Princess Theatre in 2016.

The first stage was the entry and the bar renovation which was headed by the Marriner Group and Soma Building (Vic). The heritage plaster repair work included installing large decorative cornice throughout and reproducing heritage-listed plaster motifs and decorative cornice. This work was to complement the stunning new timber bar and the modernised ticket booth area.

Firstly, Vision Ornate Plaster installed large decorative 280mm x 250mm ‘egg & dart’ plaster cornice. The heavy decorative cornice pattern had to be matched in all corners to perfection, as the owners and architects specified a very detailed gold-leaf paint scheme. This requirement left no room for error in the cornice installation and fine finishing.

Vision Ornate Plaster expertly installed the cornice and finished it to perfection, before it was beautifully painted by Mulholland painters (Vic).

Following the cornice work, the plaster motifs needed to be reproduced to replace the damaged and missing originals. The plaster motifs were actually based on the classic film ‘Ben Hur’ and were originally hand-made in 1927.

The panels were taken back to the Vision Ornate Plaster custom workshop and restored by carefully taking the old layers of paint off the originals. The panels also required repairing and ‘re-modelling’, which is the process of remaking the intricate details by hand. Once satisfied with the restoration, silicone moulds were made of the heritage-listed panels to recreate very accurate reproductions. These were subsequently cast and installed to perfection, complementing the new cornice and beautiful new timber bar.

We also completed multiple cornice re-productions and installations.

Due to the modernisation of the adjacent hallways and public amenities, some of the Princess Theatre’s cornice required restoration and customising. The various cornice moulds included basic Victorian or Classic profiles to the stunning multi-piece baroque cornice piers in the upstairs wintergarden bar.

The restoration and customisation helped retain the original fabric of the building, while blending it in with the new amenity areas required for modern-commercial compliance.

Princess Theatre custom seating designs

As part of the Princess Theatre’s restoration, the Marriner Group undertook the massive task of replacing the theatre’s 1500 seats. They enlisted English company Kirwin & Simpson, worldwide specialists in theatre seating, to produce the new seating arrangements. The Marriner Group desired a Princess Theatre-inspired ornament to be made into the decorative metal seat endplates that the English company were producing. The endplates, which are the decorative ends of all seating rows, house the hundreds of row and seating lettering.

In a very exclusive opportunity, the Marriner Group organised Vision Ornate Plaster to collaborate with Geraldine Maher of Jackson Interiors to produce a prototype of the endplate. The specific brief was to produce a hand-modelled design of an endplate, inspired by the Princess Theatre’s baroque ornamental ceiling. Designer Geraldine consulted with the Marriner Group and produced a hand-drawn design to scale.

Vision Ornate Plaster were then tasked with modelling and carving the supplied original design, a task rarely commissioned in the modern age of ornamental plastering.

Using the professional services of CAD expert and mentor Andrew Hopkins, the hand-drawn design was then scanned, scaled to size and optimised for reproduction.

We determined that carving the design out of a slab of plaster would be the most accurate and effective method of production. This technique has actually been used in ornamental plasterwork for hundreds of years. The plaster slab or tablet was carved in a way that the finished product could be reverse-moulded straight out of the carving.

Vision Ornate Plaster completed the intricate carving process and, after a series of variations and presentations to the client and designer, the successful version was agreed upon.

The finished ‘tablet’ was then 3D-imaged to a spectacular result and sent over to the English seat makers Kirwin & Simpson. The design was digitally incorporated into the seat maker’s cast iron frame production and cast into hundreds of rows of the brand-new seats. The digitisation amazingly retained the hand-carved nuances and man-made feel of the design, even after the antique-inspired powder coating was applied.

The installation of the new seats now showcases Vision Ornate Plaster and Geraldine Maher’s design on every side of every seat row in the beautiful theatre. The design is further enhanced by the row lettering, illuminated with modern LED lighting that sparkle with elegance.