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Radio Cinema, Bridgend, Kilbirnie

A Category C Listed Building in Kilbirnie, North Ayrshire

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Latitude: 55.7561 / 55°45'21"N

Longitude: -4.685 / 4°41'6"W

OS Eastings: 231603

OS Northings: 654677

OS Grid: NS316546

Mapcode National: GBR 37.BJ00

Mapcode Global: WH2NB.0LB5

Plus Code: 9C7QQ847+CX

Entry Name: Radio Cinema, Bridgend, Kilbirnie

Listing Name: Kilbirnie, Bridgend, Radio City, Including Gatepiers, Boundary Walls, Railings, Gatepiers and Archway

Listing Date: 19 April 2000

Category: C

Source: Historic Scotland

Source ID: 394509

Historic Scotland Designation Reference: LB47121

Building Class: Cultural

Location: Kilbirnie

County: North Ayrshire

Electoral Ward: Kilbirnie and Beith

Parish: Kilbirnie

Traditional County: Ayrshire

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James Houston, 1939. 2-storey to S, single storey former cinema auditorium to N, 5-bay, rectangular-plan Art Deco former Radio City cinema (currently a community centre, 2008). Steel frame with cement-rendered brick infill. Base course, dividing band courses with decorative circlets at junctions; coped eaves course to front block.

S (PRINCIPAL) ELEVATION: symmetrical; 5-bay; slightly advanced centrepiece with broadly chamfered recessed doorway centred at ground accessed by 3 semicircularplan terrazzo steps with Saturn motif, entrance screen to doorway comprising 3 sets of glaze timber doors with triangular glazing pattern, doorway flanked by (later) mosaic tiled walls, semicircular-plan steel-framed cantilevered timber canopy oversailing entrance, deep recess centred above (originally containing "radio" transmitter beacon) flanked by 2-storey bays each with pair of windows to outer return at 1st floor, modern signage spanning recess at centre. Full height bays to outer left and right advanced at ground floor with curved outer angles, each with flag-pole clasped by facetted brackets, horizontal band of window openings at ground floor, window on each corner and to each outer return; pair of small openings to right of right return, modern billboard above; irregular openings to left of left return, predominantly louvred below lintel.

E ELEVATION: predominantly blank; doorway near-centre of ground floor, 3 margined billboard panels evenly spaced between horizontal band courses above; irregularly-fenestrated return of principal elevation advanced to outer left (see above).

W ELEVATION: matching E elevation, but with single billboard panel to left of irregularly-fenestrated front block at outer right.

Windows boarded-up (2000). Profiled reinforced asbestos cladding to auditorium roof with substantial cast-iron square-profile downpipes and gutters.

INTERIOR: curved ends and 3 circular light fittings to recessed ceiling feature in entrance hall; 2-leaf timber entrance doors with glazed strips accessing auditorium; some fluted wall decoration surviving; some projection equipment surviving in projection room at upper level of S block.

BOUNDARY WALLS, GATES, GATEPIERS AND ARCHWAY: low curved stugged sandstone wall enclosing S front surmounted by saddleback cope and wrought-iron railings with geometric pattern, circular-plan gatepier to SE, coped with domed cap; wall stepped up to meet bridge parapet at W.

Statement of Interest

A well-known landmark prominently sited at the head of Kilbirnie's Main Street, Radio City is an important survival of the 1930s, when Scotland was at the forefront of cinema and indeed modernist design. It is the last surviving cinema building designed by James Houston (1893-1966). Houston came from Kilbirnie, Ayrshire. He trained firstly with the architectural firm of Fryers and Penman, then studied at Glasgow School of Art. He started his own practice in 1920. Houston was an enthusiast of cinemas at the height of their popularity in Scotland. He not only designed the Radio City cinema but also The Viking at Largs of 1939 (now demolished). Radio City is an example of 'theme' architecture, a genre associated with thirties cinemas of which Houston was particularly well known. The recess in the centre of the principal faƧade originally contained a large 'radio' pylon with a flashing beacon at the top, flanked by flashing neon zigzags and chrome eagle wings (a replica mast has been installed). The cinema could accommodate 1200 people, 880 in the stalls and 320 on the raised area. Houston designed the auditorium on the 'stadium' principle, where rather than having a balcony where the seats 'often had the foulest atmosphere' (NMRS manuscript MS/611/4), the rear seats are set on a platform which slopes up from the back stalls. The cinema interior was originally lavishly furnished and painted with planets, stars and futuristic designs which were described as 'rich colourings without being bizarre' (NMRS manuscript MS611/1).

The building was converted to a community centre 2002-04.

Notes and references updated as part of the Cinema Thematic Study 2007-08.

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