Queensland Performing Arts Centre Refurbishment

South Brisbane, Queensland

The largest of four cultural buildings designed by architect Robin Gibson in the Queensland Cultural Precinct, the Queensland Performing Arts Centre was opened in 1985. It has often been applauded for its arrangement of its four theatres around a central loading dock and for its theatre acoustic qualities.

Increasing deficiencies of the planning have, however, been its lack of clear address, carpark, wayfinding inside and limited disability accessibility. This latter concern extended to the main Lyric and Concert Theatres with few positions for wheelchairs, leading to a complaint to the Anti-Discrimination Commission.

Our commission began with the task of resolving the disability access issues, however, given that performing arts centres have little opportunity for temporary closure, the brief was extended to improve QPAC’s address, and to enlarge its foyers, bars and amenities.

Our aim for the Lyric Theatre and Concert Hall was to implement the accessibility alterations with as little modification as possible to Gibson’s interior design. However, to install multiple points of wheelchair access required the complete removal of the floors and seats. It was decided to also replace the stage and under-stage facilities to improve their versatility and to incorporate digital performance capacity within the acoustic wall linings.

During the design process, feedback from musicians using the concert Hall suggested the theatre needed to be lightened to create an environment of greater visual interaction between the players and audience. Conversely actors in the Lyric Theatre requested darkening so that they were less aware of the audience and so that the audience gained better focus on the stage. These changes have dramatically altered the atmosphere of the theatres while reinstating their articulation.

In addition to expanding and revitalising the foyers and bars, and to inserting expanded amenities into the building fabric, a new street address was created through a pavilion and colonnade. A café was inserted into a stair undercroft to activate and strengthen the existing entrance’s identity. These elements were designed to avoid overt impact on the building but also to add a layer of human scale to it, with timber and zinc the predominant materials.

Changing and adding to revered pieces of architecture is not the easiest of tasks, even where as is often the case, there are a number of functional issues. Our task here was one of selective incursion, the building retaining its graceful patina of age.

Queensland Performing Arts Centre Refurbishment
Concert Hall Section
Queensland Performing Arts Centre Refurbishment
Central Lobby
Queensland Performing Arts Centre Refurbishment
Lyric Theatre
Queensland Performing Arts Centre Refurbishment
Queensland Performing Arts Centre Refurbishment
  • Technical Information
  • Cox Team
QPAC and Arts Queensland
Project Status
Completed, 2008-2009
Key Consultants
Arup, Opus Qantex McWilliams, MRP, AECOM, Marshall Day Acoustics, Eric Martin & Associates, Donald Cant Watts Corke, Riddel Architecture, Deparment of Public Works
Contractor / Builder
Abigroup Contractors
Gross Floor Area
Annette Culhane
Joanna Newton
Arlyn Mangabat