The Playhouse theatre at the Geelong Performing Arts centre is a landmark project for the regional city of Geelong and is the first project under a proposal to redevelop the entire arts precinct.
studio101 architects refurbishment of ‘The Playhouse’ has firmly placed the 800-seat theatre into the 21st century. The much-loved cultural asset, unchanged for over 30 years, is now a contemporary, warm, welcoming and exciting venue for performers, patrons and staff alike. The underlying concept for the design was heavily forged through the innovative use of timber and has vastly improved the spatial quality and acoustics of the theatre. Universal access requirements, patron seating comfort, lighting and AV equipment were also improved and upgraded.
Inspired by the nearby Otway Ranges State Forest, the main palette for the refurbishment consists of natural timbers and luscious green fabrics. The remaining existing surfaces inside the theatre have been painted black to become recessive planes, allowing the timber forms to seemingly push forward and interact with the large spatial volume. Acoustic plywood panels were also fixed to the existing walls on the Stalls Level to assist with acoustic absorption while high level timber sound deflectors re-directed sound to the Balcony seating. This hierarchy of materiality was enhanced with the strategic use of LED timber pelmet lighting that washes and highlights the timber linings with a beautiful even glow.
American Black Walnut (Juglans nigra) was used extensively throughout the project. Walnut veneer was specified on the new theatre seating, ceiling-suspended sound deflectors and the theatre entry doors. Elsewhere, select grade American Black Walnut shiplap cladding was selected for its beauty and durability on the balcony balustrade. Along with excellent workmanship, this allowed the curving form to fold and wrap underneath to become the ceiling soffit to the stalls below. The curving Walnut lining was also meticulously faceted out to deflect sound and improve acoustics.
‘The Playhouse’ theatre redevelopment has been a well-received project throughout the local and state community and has significantly enhanced the city’s art precinct’s public profile. The consistent expression, detail and underlying conceptual use of timber has led to a finely crafted result that marks a centrepiece to Geelong’s dynamic arts hub.
‘The Playhouse’ project has been recognised as a finalist in the 2010 Australian Timber Design Awards program.