Work to transform the Plaza into an all-weather space suitable for all kinds of events started this week, with the removal of the etched glass panels along the front of the building.

Each of the panels has been carefully lifted from its surround and stacked on glass-holding frames to be stored for inclusion in the final Opera House precinct. The plan is to re-install the eight panels in the buildings that make up the Hawke’s Bay Opera House precinct, said Hastings District Council facilities and programmes group manager Alison Banks.

The glass panels were etched by artist Campbell Gordon before being installed in 2006, as part of the project that also saw the space enclosed by a canvas roof.

Each of the glass panels was sponsored by supporters of the project, and they had been advised of the removal and plans for reinstatement.

Mrs Banks said the final design elements, which would add the “sparkle” to the multi-functional events space, were being worked on between now and when the rebuilding phase starts mid-year.

“The feedback from residents during the public consultation process was very clear, that it needed to be a weather-proof space which could be used year-round for a broad range of events. That led us to look at options to replace the canvas cover with a permanent roof, fill in the floor depression to make it more user-friendly for a range of events, and replace the etched glass front panels with double glazing. All the elements have been designed to work together to provide bright acoustics.”

Council’s Opera House and arts precinct committee chairman Malcolm Dixon said the progress being made on both the Opera House and the Plaza projects was excellent.

“A lot of work has gone into the plans for these facilities, to ensure the results are buildings that our people can be truly proud of and will find a multitude of ways to use.

“Council and the committee members have been fully involved in the process, and are very pleased at the way the plans are rolling out. We are looking forward to the reopening of the Plaza early next year, and then the celebration of the re-opening of the Opera House further on in the year.”

Following the removal of the panels, a start will be made on removing the columns and the retractable roof. The recessed floor will be filled with shingle which will provide a platform for a crane being brought in to lift the steel that will strengthen the neighbouring Opera House roof.

Once the crane is no longer required, work on reconstructing the Plaza will start, with the project expected to be completed and the facility open by January next year.

Work on the Opera House continues to go to plan, with the installation of the sheer walls, that will strengthen the building, underway.