STC's Wharf Renewal Project


Since it opened in 1984, visiting Sydney Theatre Company at The Wharf has been a unique Sydney experience. Over that time, the Company has grown exponentially. Our needs and the needs of our audiences have evolved. It’s time for us to make some much-needed improvements to the audience facilities and theatre-making spaces here on Pier 4/5.
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 audiences.

This page outlines our plans and what we hope to achieve.

A unique heritage to be preserved
1984 - 2016: How times have changed
Project outcome: What we aim to achieve
The team of specialist consultants
Timeline: Where to from here
Funding of the STC Wharf Renewal Project
Artistic impressions
The Walsh Bay Arts Precinct

Above photo: Artistic impression of Hickson Road entrance to The Wharf



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.

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 experience 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.



Sydney Theatre Company was founded in December 1978, and took up its home at the Wharf in 1984, over 30 years ago. In that time, the Wharf has become an essential and beloved part of STC’s identity for artists, staff and audiences.

When STC moved into the Wharf in 1984, it presented 6 plays a year across 2 venues. Today, STC presents about 16 productions across 4 venues, plus regional and international tours, and runs a host of other programs and initiatives. All of this still happens on the Wharf, in the same workshop, production and rehearsal facilities as existed 30 years ago.

The STC workshop, where set and props are constructed, was the first part of the company to be housed at the Wharf – the team squatted in the empty shell of the building as early as 1980. From such humble, improvised beginnings, the sets built there have travelled to some of the most celebrated theatres around the globe. More than three decades on, technical and safety requirements have changed greatly. The growth in STC’s artistic output has also led to an increase in staff who are housed on The Wharf.

In addition, we recognise the need to improve accessibility and upgrade audience amenities at The Wharf to ensure our many visitors have the best possible experience now and in the future. 



Returning to the original vision

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.”

Better theatres and rehearsal spaces

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.

Enhanced visitor experience

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.

Improved facilities include new foyer spaces, rest rooms and more efficient paths of travel, especially for visitors requiring level access.

These enhancements ensure that STC can offer a great visitor experience for everyone in Sydney.

Behind-the-scenes improvements

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. Arts 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.



A development application (DA) for STC’s Wharf Renewal Project was lodged on 16 November 2016. This DA covers the internal areas of the Wharf, while Arts NSW and Infrastructure NSW will submit a corresponding DA that covers external changes to the building and the larger Pier 2/3 redevelopment. Both DAs will be on display at a public exhibition on 3 December 2016. A decision on approval is anticipated mid-2017.

To ensure that no scheduled STC shows are interrupted, work on the project will commence at the conclusion of the 2017 season, pending approvals.



STC is currently raising funds to realise the project, with some philanthropic funding already in place.

STC has received eight landmark gifts from long-time donors and supporters. These transformative gifts have enabled the first phase of STC’s Wharf Renewal Project.

We are immensely grateful for the leadership support provided by the following families who share our vision and commitment:




Artistic impression of external view of The Wharf at Pier 4/5.

Artistic impression of bar and function spaces inside The Wharf.

Artistic impression of workshop spaces inside The Wharf.


What is involved in Sydney Theatre Company’s development application?
An upgrade of Sydney Theatre Company’s existing facility at Pier 4/5. This proposal includes more flexible theatres, rehearsal and workshop spaces to help realise STC’s distinctive theatrical vision. Coming to The Wharf has always been a unique Sydney experience and improved facilities will ensure that STC can offer an even better visitor experience.

How is the project being funded?
STC is currently raising funds to realise the project, with some philanthropic funding already in place.

A final decision has not yet been made about Government funding towards the project.

Will the work by STC take place as part of the overall work on the Walsh Bay Arts Precinct?
It is intended that STC’s Wharf Renewal Project will be coordinated with the broader work on the Walsh Bay Arts Precinct, subject to planning approval and funding. See below for more info about the Walsh Bay Arts Precinct.

Will STC’s plays for 2017 still be at The Wharf?

Will parking and access be affected? Will Walsh Bay restaurants and bars still operate during construction?
If there are disruptions to access, parking and public transport, or changed opening times for restaurants and bars, we will keep audiences updated on our website and in our pre-show emails that are sent to ticket-holders.

How do I find out what’s happening in Walsh Bay before I come to the theatre?
The most convenient way to get up-to-date information sent to you before you visit is to ensure you are receiving our pre-show emails. If you do not receive pre-show emails, please sign up on our website or contact our Box Office on 02 9250 1777 to opt in. The pre-show emails contain important and useful information to ensure you have the best possible STC experience.

Where can I see the plans?




STC’s Wharf Renewal Project is part of the broader redevelopment of the Walsh Bay Arts Precinct.

A planning application has been lodged for Stage 2 of the Walsh Bay Arts Precinct redevelopment. The Stage 2 State Significant Development Application (SSDA) outlines plans for an integrated performing arts and cultural precinct along with an enhanced public domain in Walsh Bay.

The Walsh Bay Arts Precinct SSDA covers major construction work along with plans for new commercial and event uses. This application follows on from the Stage 1 Concept application approved in May 2015.


The detailed plans for the Walsh Bay Arts Precinct and STC Wharf Renewal Project are on public exhibition from Thursday 17 November to Friday 16 December.

Find out more about the plans for the future of the Walsh Bay Arts Precinct and STC’s Wharf Renewal Project and engage with us by:

  • Joining us at an upcoming Community Information Session at Pier 2/3, Hickson Road Walsh Bay. Drop in any time between 10am and 2pm on Saturday 3 December to see the project display and talk to our team.
  • Visiting the NSW Department of Planning and Environment website to see the detailed plans and make a submission majorprojects.planning.nsw.gov.au
  • Visiting the Arts NSW website arts.nsw.gov.au
  • Contacting Infrastructure NSW by phone or email 1800 960 550, walshbayinfo@infrastructure.nsw.gov.au