INTRODUCING STC’S WHARF RENEWAL PROJECT
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.
For the past couple of years, we have been planning a Wharf Renewal Project, with the aim of making much-needed improvements to the audience facilities and theatre-making spaces here on The Wharf.
$60 million is required to fund our Wharf Renewal Project. On 5 April, 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.
This page outlines our plans and what we hope to achieve, and will be updated regularly.
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
The Walsh Bay Arts Precinct
Above photo: Artist's 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.
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.
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. 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. 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.
The remainder of this year: STC's 2017 Season
Everything remains the same at The Wharf for our 2017 Season. There will be no disruption to STC performances at The Wharf for the rest of this year.
Temporary closure of The Wharf
The Wharf will close for renovation midway through 2018.
$60 million is required to fund the Wharf Renewal Project. On 4 April, it was announced that the NSW Government has committed $30 million towards the project.
Sydney Theatre Company will raise the additional funds required to complete the project, matching this government funding dollar for dollar. The majority of this philanthropic funding is already in place.
STC has received landmark gifts from long-time donors and supporters. We are immensely grateful for the transformative gifts and leadership support provided by the following families and foundations who share our vision and commitment:
Artist's impression of external view of The Wharf at Pier 4/5.
Artist's impression of bar and multi-purpose spaces at the end of The Wharf.
Artist's impression of workshop spaces inside The Wharf.
What is involved in Sydney Theatre Company’s Wharf Renewal Project?
An upgrade of Sydney Theatre Company’s existing facility at Pier 4/5. This proposal includes modernised theatres and audience facilities, more flexible theatres, rehearsal and workshop spaces. Improved facilities will ensure that STC can offer an even better visitor experience.
When completed, how will The Wharf it be different for audiences?
We’ll be able to provide an improved visitor experience across The Wharf, while retaining the beautiful heritage features of the building. The Wharf Renewal Project will upgrade foyer spaces, toilets, accessibility, seating in the theatres, and there will be two new entry points.
How is the project being funded?
The NSW government has committed to funding of $30 million towards the project. This is being matched dollar for dollar by Sydney Theatre Company, who will raise the remaining $35 million. The majority of philanthropic funding is already in place.
Is this project 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. See below for more info about the Walsh Bay Arts Precinct.
Will STC’s plays for 2017 still be at The Wharf?
Yes. There are no changes to the 2017 Season.
When will The Wharf close?
The Wharf will close midway through 2018.
When will The Theatre Bar at the End of The Wharf close?
The Bar will close midway through 2018.
Will the 2018 Season be smaller or different in some way?
At this stage, we anticipate we will present a similar number of plays in the 2018 Season as we usually do. These will be presented at The Wharf, Roslyn Packer Theatre and the Drama Theatre at Sydney Opera House.
Have artists have been involved in the consultation process?
Yes. We have been consulting with a range of artists, including directors, set, lighting and sound designers, about our plans for the Wharf Renewal Project and what the renovation will mean for the theatre-making process.
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.
Is Roslyn Packer Theatre affected?
No. Roslyn Packer Theatre will remain open and operational throughout The Wharf Renewal Project.
Will STC’s Greening the Wharf initiatives still be in place after the renovation?
Yes, our greening initiatives including our solar panels and rainwater harvesting facilities will be maintained. Some changes may be made with the positioning of some of the solar panels.
Where can I see the plans?
- Visit the NSW Department of Planning and Environment website to see the detailed plans and make a submission majorprojects.planning.nsw.gov.au
- Visit the Arts NSW website arts.nsw.gov.au
- Join 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 ask questions.
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.
FIND OUT MORE ABOUT THE WALSH BAY ARTS PRECINCT PROJECT
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: