With its third and final stage of redevelopment complete, Geelong Arts Centre opened its doors on 19 August, becoming Australia’s largest regional performing arts centre, a historic moment in Australian arts history.
The building is located in Geelong, Victoria, and highlights the shared history with the Wadawurrung traditional owners, where historically people came together for dance, song and story. Geelong Arts Centre is designed to continue that story inside the new spaces, representing and honouring the land and community.
“The prospective technical capabilities are extraordinary,” said Joel McGuinness, CEO and creative director, Geelong Arts Centre. “We have worked with world leaders to design these spaces, pushing the boundaries of what theatre spaces will need now and what they can be for the future.”
Working with ARM Architecture for the combined client team of Geelong Arts Centre, Development Victoria and Creative Victoria, Charcoalblue provided comprehensive auditorium design and theatre planning scope, alongside a full suite of technical design for all performing spaces. These include The Story House, a flexible theatre for drama, music and dance, and a flexible-format warehouse space known as the Open House, suitable for a multitude of configurations and events.
The Story House Theatre is an elliptically designed room; the space wraps itself around an audience and hugs the stage. The theatre is a multi-format space seating 550 in an end-on proscenium format and holds an audience of up to 850 for live music. It is designed to balance intimacy, a high level of audience experience, and technical excellence, with cutting-edge theatrical systems to support the work on stage.
“These two amazing and unique theatres will change the landscape and expectations about not only what flexibility can mean, but also what a regional arts centre is capable of,” said Erin Shepherd, associate director, Charcoalblue.
Charcoalblue led the design of these spaces from the beginning, yet they are a result of a strong collaboration with ARM Architecture and “innovative and bold thinking” from the client team, Charcoalblue noted.
“From the beginning to the end, this project has revolved around the exploration of new possibilities and innovation in what regional theatre in Australia can be, whether by the client’s aspirations for the community, performers and audiences or the striving of ARM Architecture to embed a sense of place and country into every detail, together with Charcoalblue’s global theatre design perspective, we all collaborated to produce exciting new spaces, each unique and filled with that potential to take Australian performance to the next level,” said Eric Lawrence, managing director, Charcoalblue.