In May of 2023, a team comprising Australian architecture and design firm Architectus, international studio Henning Larsen and global consultants Arup were chosen as the winning consortium to redevelop and revitalize the Canberra Theatre Centre in Australia’s capital city of Canberra.
They hoe to transform it into a vibrant, multi-event, all-inclusive space that will, in consultation with First Nations peoples, metamorphose and regenerate Canberra’s Civic Square and Cultural District into an internationally recognized arts precinct.
The consortium will work together as a tripartite of design leaders to create a world-class destination for artists and audiences in the heart of Canberra.
Drawing on the original topography of Canberra and its relationship to Country, the consortium’s submission proposed a vision that would ensure the Canberra Theatre Centre is an internationally recognized cultural precinct with impeccable design credentials, as well as a safe, inclusive and accessible space for all.
The winning tender included early preliminary designs that depict a new theatre building with a bold and sophisticated façade treatment, and which references to the formal landmarks of Canberra.
Architectus Principal and Sector Leader, Dr. Stephen Long said that fundamental to the design process will be close collaboration with First Nations consultants, Yerrabingin to create a theatre that is reflective of relationships to place and cultural heritage.
“Our design process starts with Country. We commenced with Canberra’s geological origins before considering the city’s current context, heritage considerations, and functional requirements. Our collective is thrilled to be working alongside the ACT Government to deliver a world-class experience that has the potential to fuel the creative spirit of Canberra,” he explained.
Diversity and inclusion were also major considerations in the design, with Architectus and Henning Larsen focusing on the building envelope and the interiors including lighting.
“We want the lighting to evoke a sense of familiarity and comfort that inspires people to visit late at night, whether to see a show, attend a function, or to take advantage of the retail opportunities that will emanate from this redesign. We have also configured the theatre seating arrangement to offer a diversity of accessible locations,” Dr. Long added.
Commenting on the win, Henning Larsen Partner and Design Director, Viggo Haremst said, “Our design ambition is for the centre to become a national landmark and an international destination, drawing artists and audiences from around the world to Canberra’s new cultural heart. Together with Architectus and Arup, we’ve approached the design with great care considering the architecture, interior design and landscaping to create a vibrant and inclusive place that honours the history and beauty of the land.”
Arup, a leader in theatre planning, will collaborate with Architectus and Henning Larsen to ensure the theatre has the form and function required to support the highest level of national and international touring shows.
Arup NSW and ACT Planning and Design Lead, Hannah Slater said, “We are excited to be working in collaboration with Architectus and Henning Larsen on this landmark project that embeds dialogue and creation in the civic heart of Canberra.”
“Our winning design provides the opportunity for the project to knit the stories of this place into the city through establishing a transparent, connected and inviting Centre. Arup provides diverse technical engineering skills and detailed Theatre Architecture expertise, contributing to the realisation of this ambition,” she concluded.
Architectus and Arup have successfully collaborated on major public projects including the recently opened Art Gallery of New South Wales Sydney Modern Building, while Architectus and Henning Larsen have collaborated on several high-profile Commercial projects in Sydney and Brisbane.
Images courtesy of Henning Larsen, Arup and Architectus.