What was once at the centre of the community of Port Talbot, the Plaza Cinema began construction in 1939. Throughout its life the Plaza was a cinema, theatre, bingo hall and even hosted Welsh professional wrestling. It closed in 1983, becoming a bingo hall for 2 years before reopening in 1985 as a cinema, then a multi-screen cinema in 1989. It remained in this configuration until January 1999 when the Plaza closed its doors, already starting to fall into a state of disrepair.
In August of 1999 the Plaza was given Grade II listed status; one of only six cinemas from the Art Deco period of the 1920s and 1930s which have survived throughout Wales.
The project involved significant repair and accurate restoration of the frontage, and demolition and replacement of the rear. Demolition of the rear portion of the building and connection of the new steel frame to the existing concrete structure was logistically challenging. Temporary works were not permitted to be fixed to the retained structure, requiring coordination of multiple elements. Precision demolition was carried out around the façade retention system and then connecting steels were threaded back through it to stabilise the concrete frame. This was all achieved using heavy plant operating less than 2m from neighbouring properties.
For the repair and restoration of the frontage, multiple heritage specialist conservators were needed. They restored original feature hardwood doors and replicated the shopfront hardwood window frames, restored damaged and corroded Crittall windows, repaired damaged Faience tiling and Terrazzo flooring, and repaired the reconstituted stone plinth. Specialists also manufactured the thick, large, curved glazed shopfront units and metal workers replicated the steel downstand canopy and iconic ‘PLAZA’ sign.
The philosophy of both the Council and YMCA towards a sustainability strategy was underpinned through building re-use, high levels of insulation and natural daylighting, heat recovery, photovoltaics, a ‘green’ roof, sustainable drainage systems.
Three Winning Facts:
- The scheme was the first in the country to participate in a Circular Economy initiative. In partnership with Celsa, 25 tonnes of steel removed from the building during the demolition of the old cinema roof structure was returned to site in the form of reinforcement which went into the foundations of the new building.
- The building received a lot of press coverage due to the public interest in this iconic building. It was featured on the BBC and ITV and was visited by Michael Sheen and Jennifer Saunders during the construction.
- The press release from the1939 construction of the Plaza detailing the names of the construction companies that worked onit84 years ago is displayed in the lower entrance foyer as part of a historic photographic montage of the Plaza’s history.