Brisbane’s Princess Theatre wins Australian Good Design Award 2022

Brisbane architecture firm JDA Co. has received a Gold accolade in Architectural Design at the 2022 Australian Good Design Awards for its meticulous refurbishment of Queensland’s oldest-standing theatre, The Princess.

Built in 1888, the heritage-listed Woolloongabba building was underutilised for 30 years before an extensive restoration by JDA Co. allowed the curtain to be drawn once more at the live music venue late last year.

The complex two-storey heritage renovation involved a redesigned interior fit-out, four new bars, a reimagined mezzanine, new gallery and additional amenities, including a new green room and rehearsal space.

JDA Co. Director James Davidson commended his team’s tenacity to preserve the much-loved arts institution under the constraints of a global pandemic and a tight timeline of nine months – all of which set the stage for a “testing yet triumphant project”.

“The chance to help reintroduce live music and theatre productions to a venue outside of Fortitude Valley was irresistible,” Davidson said.

“We feel honoured to be granted the opportunity to revitalise one of Brisbane’s iconic landmarks.”

The Good Design Awards Architectural Design category recognises excellence across all areas of architecture with an emphasis on good design principles that deliver a positive impact and contribute to better economic, social and environmental outcomes.

“The architects did an exceptional job, within a very tight timeframe, to overcome the challenges of a complex refurbishment that demanded Brisbane’s beloved Princess Theatre not only be preserved but revived,” the Jury said in its comments.

“The architects deserve the highest praise for their beautiful and thoughtful architectural design.”

The pandemic’s devastating impact on the arts – and those who rely upon it for their livelihood – has been felt around the world. In Brisbane, the revitalisation of The Princess Theatre has helped meet increasing demand for performing arts’ venues on the city’s south side.

The Princess is situated within the Clarence Corner precinct — much of which was recently reimagined by JDA Co.

Davidson said the reopening of the 134-year-olf theatre signalled a new dynamism and vitality for the streetscape.

“The addition of a front terrace on Annerley Road has created new outdoor spaces that have sparked a fresh buzz and enthusiasm for the area,” he said.

Inside, the state-of-the-art performance auditorium designed for a standing capacity of 900 and a seated theatre capacity of 500, offers a whimsical, intimate and sophisticated escape, with the theatre’s restored heritage ceilings a captivating focal point.

The newly constructed mezzanine provides exceptional stage sightlines, and the re-opened gallery offers additional space for functions.

“From the lobby and the upstairs gallery, patrons now catch a glimpse of the stage and the restored ceiling — which creates a great sense of anticipation,” Davidson said.

Balancing the new with the old, the architects incorporated curves, lashings of brass and dark timber trimmings throughout the design of new auditorium bars, café and gallery in a nod to The Princess’s theatrical origins.

“The bars were designed like stage sets — complementing the heritage theatre yet bringing new drama to each space through a series of mirror-backed brass arches playfully undulating behind curved service points,” Davidson said.

JDA Co. deployed 3D laser scanner technology to capture 3D architectural models of The Princess, as well as document a valuable timestamp of the historic building for the future.

The Princess was acquired by Brisbane businessman Steve Wilson, together with Steve Sleswick and Dave Sleswick (who both own The Tivoli venue) in early 2021.

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