Sydney is dotted with disused, dilapidated or mutilated former theatres. How to adapt such buildings while respecting their fabric and retaining their scale? The Majestic strives to be an architectural exemplar of imaginative adaptive reuse, combining viability with conservation, inserting livability while respecting the building's character.
The Majestic Theatre, originally designed by the architects Kaberry Chard in 1921, immediately became the centrepiece of New Canterbury Road's shopping strip. Modified as a cinema by architect Guy Crick in 1953, it underwent further changes in 1979 to become the Majestic Roller Skating Rink, and again later for a social club. Although heritage-listed by Marrickville Council, the building has lain vacant over the last decade as various re-use schemes failed.
The new works are largely contained within the existing building volume, roof profile and perimeter walls. The ground floor has retail spaces, with three levels of apartments above. All insertions are set out in relation to the structural bays and major elements of the original building.
Accommodation comprises 27 units, a mix of one and one and a half bedroom apartments in different 9 configurations. Each end of the building is quirkily adapted into highly individual apartments that occupy the nooks and crannies of old projection rooms and back of house.
Within the cavernous hall, a new block is effectively inserted, framed by two generous voids which loftily retain the hall's dimensions. These voids contain common circulation areas, galleries and balconies, and introduce sunlight and ventilation. Original ceiling details, wall finishes and light fixtures crowning these spaces are retained.
All apartments have a powerful relationship to the existing fabric, with a variety of new openings made through the external envelope to allow light, air and outlook. On the western side a series of single floor units front a laneway with a gritty inner urban aspect. To the eastern boundary double-height apartments have tall atria to introduce light and air. Within the roof space loft apartments with mezzanine bedrooms feature the original timber roof trusses that were exposed during construction.
Following the rhythm of the structural bays, dramatic openings are meticulously cut through the solid brickwork of the lane, side and rear elevations. These openings have large-scale aluminium screens which echo the former plaster screens. The large painted sign high on the rear facade is retained, with new sliding panels concealing bedroom windows behind.
The main façade is restored, reinstating timber windows and revealing three stained glass bulls-eye windows. Its render patched and repainted, the facade's civic presence is emphasized by peeling back the side and rear walls to face brickwork.
The residential entry recycles the former escape stair to create a full-height void. Original ceiling details, wall finishes, ventilation screens and remnant stairs are on display, adding a heritage dimension to the experience of homecoming. The illuminated Rollerink sign becomes a colourful accent in the foyer, and moveable elements such as various signs and screens are prominently repositioned in the common areas.
The Majestic becomes anything but a regulation flat building.