23 November 2022

World-leading architecture firms shortlisted for Canberra Theatre redevelopment

| Ian Bushnell
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It’s happening: the long-awaited Canberra Theatre redevelopment will have a design partner by mid-2023. Photo: Michelle Kroll.

The transformative Canberra Theatre Redevelopment project has taken a big step forward with three of Australia’s leading architecture firms shortlisted to tender to become the ACT Government’s design partner.

The Government said the three firms – Architectus, DesignInc and Hassell – and their international partners were leaders in innovative theatre and architectural design, and had track records for delivering excellence in globally significant projects.

They would now go on to the next phase of the procurement process which will run until the first quarter of 2023.

They and their international partners would bring the best of the world’s ideas to Canberra, the Government said.

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Architectus is responsible for major projects including the Queensland Gallery of Modern Art (GOMA), the redevelopment of the heritage-listed State Library Victoria and the Sydney Modern Project nearing completion at the Art Gallery of NSW.

It has partnered with Danish architects Henning Larsen, the lead designers for the Harpa Concert Hall Reykjavik, Iceland and the Royal Danish Opera, Copenhagen, and international theatre designers Arup.

DesignInc recently completed work on Phive, Paramatta’s new civic hub and library, and will work with international firm Zaha Hadid Architects, responsible for Beijing’s Galaxy Soho.

Australian international firm Hassell is the architect behind the Sydney Theatre Company and award-winning refurbishment of the ANU’s Birch Building.

It will collaborate with international multidisciplinary design studio Snohetta, known for its work on the Norwegian National Opera and Ballet and the Times Square redevelopment in New York.

The Government said the three short-listed tenderers would work with other national and international industry leading specialists to prepare their tender proposals for a globally recognised theatre centre that supported Canberra’s strategic ambition to be Australia’s arts capital.

Arts Minister Tara Cheyne and Chief Minister Andrew Barr

Arts Minister Tara Cheyne and Chief Minister Andrew Barr at the Canberra Theatre Centre: a world-class audience experience and architectural excellence befitting its location in the centre of the city and at the heart of the planned Canberra Civic and Culture District. Photo: Ian Bushnell.

A renewed Canberra Theatre Centre would deliver a major new theatre and reimagine the current facilities so it could stage international, national and local performances, concerts and events, it said.

Arts Minister Tara Cheyne said the redeveloped Canberra Theatre Centre would provide a world-class audience experience and deliver architectural excellence befitting its location in the centre of the city and at the heart of the planned Canberra Civic and Culture District.

“This project will also support our local industry by including world-class facilities for artists and art workers to develop, rehearse and perform productions,” she said.

“I am excited to see the innovative tenders these industry leaders produce, bringing us closer to our ambition for Canberra as Australia’s arts capital.”

Chief Minister Andrew Barr said a redeveloped Canberra Theatre Centre, including a new major theatre, was essential to the city’s performing arts future and a key driver for the tourism, economy, hospitality, and accommodation sectors.

Architectus principal Dr Stephen Long said the project was an opportunity to create an enduring place to be enjoyed by the people of Canberra and visitors from across Australia and overseas.

“We’re looking to create a really vibrant arts atmosphere through the design of the building,” he said.

Dr Long said Architectus had strong working relationships with its international partners, and Canberra firm CK Architecture would also be part of the team, providing local knowledge and insight.

“It’s a team of like-minded practices, all have really good experience working on major projects,” he said.

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Hassell principal Mark Wolfe said his firm was honoured to be shortlisted for the next phase of the project.

“It’s a significant cultural asset in the ACT and looking to become an internationally recognised one, and we’ve got a wealth of experience and knowledge in this particular sector and in Canberra,” he said.

“We’re looking forward to submitting our tender for the next phase and hopefully being selected as the design partner for Major Projects Canberra and this exciting project.”

DesignInc director Richard Does said the firm was excited about starting on this project and had already met with their partners to get the ball rolling.

He said the project was a great opportunity to change the urban fabric of that part of Canberra.

“It will be an exciting project,” Mr Does said.

“It will need to be a fantastic public facility that contributes to the place where it’s built and the environment.”

The Government said diversity and inclusion would be a priority in the tender submissions, with tenderers asked to create design solutions that are supportive and inclusive for patrons, staff and performers with a disability and involves those who identify as LGBTIQ+.

It was expected the successful consortium would be appointed by mid-2023 to develop and deliver detailed designs.

The successful tenderer would work closely with Major Projects Canberra during the design phase to provide opportunities for stakeholder and community input into the final design, the Government said.

Design, public consultation and approval processes would take around two years and inform planning for the project’s construction phase.

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