Porthmeor Studios is a substantial building, with masonry, concrete and timber-frame walls, timber floors and windows, and a wet laid slate roof. The original fabric was only replaced if it was beyond repair, with new materials sourced locally wherever possible using Cornish grown Douglas Fir for structural timbers and larch for the boarding, and Cornish slate for the roof and walls.
The masonry and concrete walls are still in good condition, and just required repointing. Much of the timber framework was also in surprisingly good condition, but wherever there had been persistent water penetration and the timbers had rotted, they needed to be replaced (Image 1). Walls and floors were strengthened where necessary to allow them to cope with additional loading, and wherever the timber panelling was removed, each board was marked, carefully removed (Images 2 – 3), and then replaced in exactly the same position.
The architects’ intention had been to repair the windows wherever possible. This was achieved for many of the windows, but all the large windows facing the beach were in a poor state and had to be replaced. All the skylights had been replaced in the recent past by corrugated plastic sheets, and these were removed, and new patent double glazed units fitted which were much closer to the original design (Image 4).
The building performance was upgraded significantly using sheeps wool insulation (Images 5 – 6) and fire proofing. Previously the building services – electrics and plumbing – had been fixed on the outside of the building and were all visible. These were all stripped out, and replaced with new services that ran round the building in the cellars (Image 7), and then within the building structure to supply the individual studios (Image 8).
The slate was the only building element that was not reusable, and new slate for the roof and vertical slating was sourced from Delabole and Trevillett quarries. English Heritage paid particularly close attention to this operation, and brought in an expert from North Wales to advise. The completed slating and associated leadwork is spectacular (Images 9 – 17).