The Burton Street Tabernacle, in inner-city Darlinghurst, operated as a Baptist Church from 1887 until 1996. The Tabernacle was a favourite place of worship for many Sydneysiders and was the source of inspiration for pavement scribe Arthur Stace’s most famous message, ‘Eternity’, which he wrote on Sydney footpaths for over 30 years. The City of Sydney purchased the Tabernacle in 2004 and commissioned TZG to adapt the building as an intimate 200-seat theatre for a rapidly-growing professional company specialising in the new drama.
The complex and detailed requirements of the brief strained the capacity of the building, requiring the 1930s rear wing to be replaced by a totally-new four-level addition, containing back-stage facilities, dressing rooms, administration, and plant, linked by a glass foyer with a sculpted steel stair and lift.
The main entry uses the original church entry to Burton Street, where original arched openings have been restored. A generous new stair descends to the lower level where the old dank space is now daylit and open, accommodating the foyer, café bar, and box office. The new rake of the seating, lined with the reused timber from the church floor, forms a lively ceiling to this space.
The auditorium provides an intimate actor to audience connection with flexible staging arrangements. Extensive soundproofing, including multiple layers of glass to the restored stained glass windows.
Internally and externally, original finishes have been conserved and restored, and new elements reuse salvaged material where possible.