Heritage listing confirmed for Taglietti’s Cinema Center building

Ian Bushnell 21 April 2021 39
The Cinema Center

The Cinema Center building in Civic. Photos: ACT Heritage Council.

The Cinema Center building in Civic, designed by iconic Canberra architect Dr Enrico Taglietti, has officially been listed on the ACT heritage register.

The ACT Heritage Council provisionally listed the four-storey building on Bunda Street late last year, opening it up to public comment.

The listing – for Cinema Center, Block 21 and part of the surrounding road and footpath verge, Section 35, City – was confirmed on 7 April after the council had been satisfied that the building met three of the heritage significance criteria.

The 500-seat, basement Center Cinema officially opened on 5 October 1966 and played an important role in Canberra’s cultural life for 37 years until it closed on 1 June 2003.

The Institute of Architects had nominated the building in 2018, citing Taglietti as one of only two architects in Canberra to have won the Institute’s Gold Medallion, as wells as designing a number of important buildings across Canberra.

Taglietti designed the building at the behest of developer Dr Darrell Killen and it remains one of his culturally influential private, commercial commissions.

The constrained site and planning rules led Taglietti to opt for an underground cinema. His innovative design involved possibly the first example of the use of Vierendeel trusses in Australia, usually used in bridges or factory roofs to achieve a large free span basement.

The statement of historical significance says the independent cinema provided high quality and culturally diverse entertainment for the burgeoning Canberra population and has a strong association with the development of cinema entertainment and attendance in the ACT.

It was also influential in the establishment of an independent cinema industry and led directly to the development of the Boulevard Red and Blue Cinemas (later Electric Shadows) in 1973, an independent cinema that followed a similar business model with a focus on quality films.

Cinema seating

The cinema was wedge-shaped and did not have centre or cross aisles.

The American spelling ‘center’ was adopted, Killen said, to avoid imitating the many other ‘centres’ that opened around the same time in Canberra, such as Canberra Theatre Centre, Griffin Centre and Civic Centre.

The cinema auditorium, box office, showings signage and projection room are no longer, but the building name, ‘Cinema Center’ signage, recessed front entry, and deep ground floor awning characterise mid-20th century cinema buildings and serve as a visual reminder of the important role of the Cinema Center in the cultural life of the ACT.

The three criteria the listing met were importance to the course or pattern of the ACT’s cultural or natural history, potential to yield important information that will contribute to an understanding of the ACT’s cultural or natural history and importance in demonstrating a high degree of creative or technical achievement for a particular period.

ACT Heritage Council chair David Flannery chair said last year that there were no fears for the building despite the gathering pace of redevelopment in the city as the owners intended to keep it within the family. They are currently doing repairs and fitting out the upper floors with a view to converting the building into a boutique hotel.

The cinema opened with the Canberra premiere of Dr Zhivago to a full house and became a regular venue for premieres of Australian films.

In 1977, a fire destroyed much of the original cinema interior and it was refurbished.

Between 2004 and 2018, Academy Nightclub occupied the basement, followed in 2019 by Fiction Club (FCTN), a multi-purpose entertainment venue.

The Canberra Museum and Gallery (CMAG) holds several items from the Center Cinema’s history in its collection, including programs, signage and a row of seating.

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39 Responses to Heritage listing confirmed for Taglietti’s Cinema Center building
Gerry Gageldonk Gerry Gageldonk 7:25 pm 25 Apr 21

The vierendeel trusses and associated steelwork was done by Normoyle engineering (nationals) of Young

Diana Marx Diana Marx 1:38 pm 25 Apr 21

I agree that the capital cinema needs to be heritage listed to much of Canberra history has gone under the hammer shame!!

Yvonne Patricia Yvonne Patricia 1:18 pm 25 Apr 21

Saw many movies there.

Virginia Dodson Virginia Dodson 10:26 pm 23 Apr 21

Let’s hope it’s heritage listing has more credibility than that of Anzac Hall at the War Memorial. Terrific that an internationally renowned and Heritage listed building has been closed and declassified during ACT Heritage month. Shame!!

Robert Knight Robert Knight 3:47 pm 23 Apr 21

Am I the only person who sees no architectural value in this building at all?

I think it’s an ugly monstrosity. A brutal modernism throwback to when we thought we could disregard the Millenia of experience we had in the growth of cities, and build places of whimsical, futuristic fantasies not far removed from the concepts we find in the Jetsons.

    Phil Ebbott Phil Ebbott 4:51 pm 23 Apr 21

    Robert Knight brutalise is kind of cool. And protecting examples of architectural style is important regardless of your tastes. It is defining of a style and is worthy of protection wether it is to your taste or not.

    Shane Wiseman Shane Wiseman 5:52 pm 23 Apr 21

    Robert Knight jetsons had quirky style. This is up there with Campbell Park for fugliness

    Gill King Gill King 9:39 pm 23 Apr 21

    Something doesn't have to be attractive to be important for heritage. I understand the cinema part of the building was groundbreaking. Then there are other reasons for listing too - 10 criteria if I recall - are you aware of them? And did you read the article?

    Robert Knight Robert Knight 11:55 pm 23 Apr 21

    Gill King oh, I get it. I grew up here and spent many a weekend night watching movies there. I understand it’s cultural value to the city.

    But this building is awful. I don’t think it should ever have been built. I’m not calling for it to be knocked down, but .... blurgh. Taglietti’s work is completely over rated.

    Phil Ebbott Phil Ebbott 12:19 am 24 Apr 21

    Robert Knight that's an opinion Rob. I'm guessing you don't like the Sirius building in Sydney either?

    Robert Knight Robert Knight 12:28 am 24 Apr 21

    Phil Ebbott yep. It’s an opinion. Purely subjective, but I’m sticking with it 🤗

    Phil Ebbott Phil Ebbott 12:30 am 24 Apr 21

    Robert Knight so you are suggesting that heritage listing should be dependent on subjectivity? Or should it be based on the objective goal of protecting buildings of architectural significance (ugly or otherwise).

    Robert Knight Robert Knight 12:31 am 24 Apr 21

    Phil Ebbott it should be a benevolent dictatorship, headed up by me.

    Phil Ebbott Phil Ebbott 12:49 am 24 Apr 21

    Robert Knight people who don't like brutalism aren't benevolent.

    Gary Kent Gary Kent 7:55 pm 24 Apr 21

    Robert Knight did you ever attend a movie there?

    Robert Knight Robert Knight 8:35 pm 24 Apr 21

    Gary Kent lots. I even attended when it was a nightclub. Great memories.

    Still, it’s an ugly building.

    You see, I don’t begrudge the heritage listing. I simply think this style of architecture was bad. Really bad.

    Gary Kent Gary Kent 9:15 pm 24 Apr 21

    Robert Knight it was innovative for its time 50 years ago. I knew Darrell Killen who built it so may be I have a soft spot for it. He used to tell me how it all happened

    Robert Knight Robert Knight 9:33 pm 24 Apr 21

    Gary Kent I’d love to hear the story. Would be great not to repeat the mistakes 😉

    Gary Kent Gary Kent 9:34 pm 24 Apr 21

    Yes, wasn’t the best cinema in the world!

    Robert Knight Robert Knight 9:36 pm 24 Apr 21

    Gary Kent my girlfriend worked there. She’d sneak me into sessions.

Neville Mercer Neville Mercer 9:11 am 23 Apr 21

Wasnt the Center cinema part of the Academy Twin Cinema group at Paddington?

Sol Sista Sol Sista 8:22 pm 22 Apr 21

Pity they didn’t heritage list the Capitol at Manuka.

    Stephen Cooke Stephen Cooke 8:27 pm 22 Apr 21

    Donna Hofmeier they've done a great job of tearing it down...twice.

    Phil Ebbott Phil Ebbott 4:52 pm 23 Apr 21

    It isn't really a stunning example of any particular architectural style.

    Sol Sista Sol Sista 4:53 pm 23 Apr 21

    Phil Ebbott the original one was

    Phil Ebbott Phil Ebbott 5:01 pm 23 Apr 21

    Donna Hofmeier that particular style is better represented by, and protected in buildings like the old bus depot.

    Kytie Mclign Kytie Mclign 7:55 am 24 Apr 21

    Phil Ebbott Community value counts as well.

Robert Azzopardi Robert Azzopardi 7:32 pm 22 Apr 21

The Cinema Centre is a fine example of the architectural style of the late Enrico Taglietti .. not only an architect but an absolute gentleman and friend.

There are many examples of his architecture around Canberra with the same cantilevered eaves, shapes and use of rustic materials .. refer to the Dickson Library, War Memorial Repository Mitchell, Italian Embassy, Woden Youth Centre, etc


Jake Kettmann Jake Kettmann 6:41 pm 22 Apr 21

Wot? My fave cinema in the 70's, old enough to be heritage listed... well, then. what about me?

Alison Handley - Ballard Alison Handley - Ballard 4:02 pm 22 Apr 21

He he. Carolyn bit of a Canberra update

Trish Roberts Trish Roberts 3:03 pm 22 Apr 21

I’m so glad to see it is now officially Heritage Listed. I went often, on my own and with friends. Saw some amazing films there. One of my favourites being the life and work of Andrei Rublev, Russian icon painter. Apart from the function of being a cinema, it has the architectural heritage of being designed by Dr Enrico Taglietti. Great to see his work recognised. Read the article to learn more.

Melissa Flanigan Melissa Flanigan 2:33 pm 22 Apr 21

Really looks like an ugly concrete jungle with limited usability to me. There is nothing special about this building .... I wonder sometimes. Just like I wonder why the garden beds on Anzac Parade are constantly being replanted

    Grant Suzanne Riches Grant Suzanne Riches 2:38 pm 22 Apr 21

    Most probably on the list because the people choosing it used to go there to steal a kiss in the back as teenagers..lol

    Lynne Audsley Lynne Audsley 3:10 pm 22 Apr 21

    Colette Yes. It has lost all character in the beige tone.

    Sue Sutton Sue Sutton 3:48 pm 22 Apr 21

    Melissa Flanigan it is a very nice different building - I think it will work well as a boutique hotel. Was a great place to go to the movies.

    Jorge Gatica Jorge Gatica 6:46 pm 22 Apr 21

    Melissa Flanigan I’m guessing you prefer a block of apartments instead??

    Robert Azzopardi Robert Azzopardi 7:19 pm 22 Apr 21

    Colette Robinson very typical of the style of the Architect .. rustic timber.

    Shayne Borger Shayne Borger 11:36 pm 22 Apr 21

    Jorge Gatica na just someone who doesnt appreciate architecture or heritage....probably a developer who like the council want to erase history

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