Described by the Sydney Morning Herald as “timber cathedrals,” the Walsh Bay Arts Precinct is a sight to behold.
Last year, the project secured the Australian Timber Design Awards for Interior Commercial and the People’s Choice Award – awarded to the project that received the most votes from the public.
The development has five new theatres, concert halls, vast exhibition spaces, rehearsal rooms, bars, administration, and workshops for wardrobe, scenery, and props.
The timber, mostly preserved from its original installation 100 years ago, contrasted beautifully with the modern theatre and dance stage.
Before the redevelopment, the Walsh Bay wharves were a departure point for World War Two soldiers and wool merchants.
Tonkin Zulaikha Greer was appointed by the NSW government in 2016 to redesign Pier 2/3 as a location for performances by Bell Shakespeare, the Australian Theatre for Young People (ATYP), and the Australian Chamber Orchestra (ACO) and to renovate Wharf 4/5, which will be finished in December 2020 and was formerly home to the Sydney Dance Company (SDC), Gondwanna Choirs, and Bangarra Dance Theatre.
In an interview with Architecture AU in 2021, studio Peter Tonkin called “that raw industrial sense of the timber cathedral” – while fulfilling demanding briefs for multiple cultural institutions’ long-term homes.
Tonkin Zulaikha Greer put boxes into the rooms to allow each institution to manage its acoustics to achieve acoustic separation within the old buildings.
The boxes’ exterior mirrors reflect light from the bay and give the appearance that they are not there.
Large elevated ceiling parts to accommodate lighting and sound equipment and movable seating to create versatile performance areas are further changes.
“It’s fabulous,” Tonkin said.
“You can walk around directly on the water, yet you’ve got these amazing high-quality performance companies doing their stuff. […] Not only is this synergy of all these companies working, but you can also get a little glimpse of it.”
According to former New South Wales Minister for Infrastructure Rob Stokes, the restoration is an important cultural link to Sydney’s waterfront.
“It’s [an] amazing achievement to have a public arts and cultural hub right on Sydney’s famous waterfront with new state-of-the-art facilities while preserving its iconic heritage,” Stokes said.
Judging for the 2023 Australian Timber Design Peoples Choice Award is underway, with submissions closing on Saturday, September 30, 2023.
About the People’s Choice Awards
The People’s Choice Award competition is intended to raise the profile of the Australian Timber Design Awards participants within the general public and the built environment industry.
It is intended for participants, friends, family, and industry affiliates to cheer the Australian Timber Design Awards participants on and show their support for our Awards!
Supported by Pentarch Forestry, the People’s Choice Award has been held every year since 2000 and is open yearly once the blind judging is completed for the Australian Timber Design Awards (ATDA).
About the Awards
There are 11 categories: commercial, fit-out and joinery, residential, public buildings and standalone structures.
“If unsure of your category, please email your brief description and image to our email, and we will direct you to the correct grouping.”
For 2023, award winners will be featured permanently on the Australian Timber Design website, whilst runners-up and all participants will be acknowledged in the yearly ATDA e-Book.