Since The Wharf opened in 1984, visiting Sydney Theatre Company has been a unique Sydney experience. Over that time, the Company has grown, times have changed, and facilities at The Wharf are bearing 30 years of wear and tear. Our needs and the needs of our audiences have evolved.
STC’s Wharf Renewal Project aims at making much-needed improvements to the audience facilities and theatre-making spaces at The Wharf.
$60 million is required to fund our Wharf Renewal Project. In April 2017, it was announced that the NSW Government has committed $30 million towards the project.
The additional funds required to complete the project will be raised by Sydney Theatre Company. We will match this government funding dollar for dollar. The majority of this philanthropic funding is already in place.
This modernisation of our facilities will be the first significant upgrade for the Company in 30 years. We have planned this project in close consultation with artists, theatre-makers and specialist consultants including heritage architects, and all the refurbishment works have been designed with a heritage framework.
Our Wharf Renewal Project will maintain the beloved character of the building and enhance the heritage features, while also providing better accessibility, modernised theatres and a more comfortable theatre experience for you, our audience.
STC’s Wharf Renewal Project builds on 30 years of history. STC’s first Artistic Director, Richard Wherrett, who oversaw the design of The Wharf, acknowledged at the time that artistic compromises had to be made. He wrote: “In my original discussions with designing architect Vivian Fraser, I had wanted what is now called Wharf 1 to be a more fully flexible space in which the seats could be removed and replaced in any configuration the director wanted, but the money wouldn’t stretch to that.”
Amongst other improvements, STC’s Wharf Renewal Project delivers modernised Wharf 1 and Wharf 2 Theatres with flexible seating configurations, just as Richard Wherrett had envisaged.
These spaces will be responsive to distinctive theatrical visions, offering artists more scope of expression and providing audiences with a greater range of theatre experiences and a higher level of amenity.
The wonderful walk to the theatre along the full length of the building will be preserved.
Rehearsal spaces will also be improved with sound-proofing and full-size spaces, while artist dressing rooms on The Wharf will also be modernised.
More flexible theatre spaces will allow STC’s work to more easily transfer to other venues, and to reach broader audiences. We anticipate The Wharf Renewal Project will afford STC an increased ability to tour work internationally, nationally and regionally.
STC’s Wharf Renewal Project opens up The Wharf to the public in new and improved ways, whilst staying true to the building’s important heritage and much-loved character.
At Hickson Road, a more welcoming entry point will guide visitors onto The Wharf and provide clearer accessibility.
Two new accessible public entries, one midway along The Wharf and one at the bar, offer opportunities for visitors to engage with and enter the building from the harbourside promenade. Both these entries will have lifts.
Improved facilities include new foyer spaces, rest rooms and more efficient paths of travel. The theatre-watching experience for audience members will also be improved. The inside of the theatres will be upgraded for better comfort and accessibility.
These enhancements ensure that STC can offer a great visitor experience for everyone in Sydney.
Over the past 30 years, as STC has continued to grow its artistic output, the demands on its facilities behind the scenes have grown too. STC’s Wharf Renewal Project will create spaces that match the work done across all areas of the company.
As part of the project, the ceiling height in the workshop will be raised to allow larger sets to be built. Transport of heavy goods within the building will be improved with a more efficient layout and new equipment. Health and safety will also be improved through better ventilation.
The administrative offices of STC will be updated to reflect changes in current business practice.
STC’s Wharf Renewal Project has been led by consultations with a cohort of theatre-makers and designers who work regularly with STC. Their knowledge and love of the building and their experience as artists have been instrumental forces in shaping a vision for the future of The Wharf.
This artistic input, together with the input of STC staff and audiences, has been teamed with the expertise of specialist consultants, including HASSELL (architect), Charcoalblue (theatre consultant), Tropman & Tropman Architects (heritage architect), ARUP (building services, fire engineering, sustainable design), Taylor Thomson Whitting (engineer) and MBM (quantity surveyor).
As the project has taken shape, consultation has also occurred with key external stakeholders and the broader Walsh Bay community. Create NSW and Infrastructure NSW have been closely involved, as have the architects of the Pier 2/3 redevelopment, to ensure that work on the whole Walsh Bay Arts Precinct is complementary and synchronised to minimise disruption. Neighbouring arts organisations, businesses and the local community have also been consulted and will have the opportunity to attend a public exhibition of the proposed development.
The heritage significance of The Wharf and the Sulman Award-winning architectural design by Vivian Fraser have, along with the spectacular Walsh Bay location, been key contributors to The Wharf’s success. The architects were NSW Government Architect, JW Thomson in association with Vivian Fraser, Architect; (Government Architects Branch) Principal Architect Special Projects Section, Andrew Andersons; Project Architect, David Churches; Supervising Architect, Michael Fletcher; (Vivian Fraser, Architect) Partner-in-Charge, Vivian Fraser; Associate-in-Charge, Barry McGregor.
From the outset, The Wharf has brought together every facet of theatre-making under one roof in a unique way. Raw materials enter at one end, moving through workshops, scenic art, costume and rehearsal spaces before reaching the theatre at the other end.
The Wharf Renewal Project maintains The Wharf’s distinctive character, it continues to house the full theatre-making process under one roof. It creates new and better experiences for artists and audiences, and it will ensure that The Wharf remains an inspiration for adaptive reuse of a heritage building. It builds on a vibrant legacy and will serve the city of Sydney for decades to come.