Work begins on Arts Centre Melbourne’s iconic Theatres Building

New Theatres Building Western Entry– artists impression courtesy of NH Architecture scaled
New Theatres Building Western Entry– artists impression courtesy of NH Architecture scaled

Construction has begun on early works for the Melbourne Arts Precinct Transformation, a $1.7 billion investment by the Victorian government in Australia’s largest cultural infrastructure project. Arts Centre Melbourne’s Theatres Building, renowned for its sparkling Spire, will commence its most significant refurbishment since opening in 1984.

The long-term project, delivered as part of the Melbourne Arts Precinct Transformation, will include completely refurbishing the State Theatre, Playhouse and Fairfax Studio, adding in new scenery lifts, loading dock, green room, stage door, studio and function spaces, and a new western entrance onto the new 18,000 square metres of public parkland connecting Hamer Hall to the new The Fox: NGV Contemporary art and design gallery, and beyond.
In the State Theatre, there will be improvements to accessibility and audience comfort, upgrades to lighting, acoustic and digital streaming technology, and restoration to the venue’s much-loved heritage-listed interiors. For the first time, wheelchair positions will be added across the stalls, serviced by two new DDA compliant lifts, so that wheelchair users and people with other mobility challenges can easily move from the foyers to their seats. There will also be 68 new enhanced amenity seats with wider row and seat options.
Elsewhere in Theatres Building there will be expanded back-of-house facilities – including new rehearsal spaces, green rooms for artists and a new loading dock with additional scenery lifts. There will also be an opportunity to view artists at work from a new event space above the new State Theatre Rehearsal Studio. These updates will equate to a 15 per cent increase in the potential number of performances.
Two new restaurants and bars will also be built, one at the building’s new western entry, and the other at the northern façade overlooking the Birrarung (Yarra) to Federation Square, at the start of 18,000 square metres public parkland.

“We are thrilled to see work begin on this incredibly exciting chapter of Arts Centre Melbourne’s history that will see our beloved building thoughtfully and respectfully refurbished and made accessible to even more people – a gathering place for all Victorians,” says Arts Centre Melbourne Interim CEO Leanne Lawrence.

The full vision for Arts Centre Melbourne will ensure we retain our reputation and positioning as Australia’s best theatres, cementing our competitive advantage and securing our long-term sustainability.”

Arts Centre Melbourne Reimagining Project Director Chris King said the redevelopment honoured the architectural and design legacy of Sir Roy Grounds and John Truscott while working to meet contemporary standards and access needs.
“The State Theatre and the Theatres Building have worked hard over the past 40 years. They’ve seen thousands of artists, millions of visitors and countless performances. The building has great bones and it’s served us well, but our assets are deteriorating, and our visitors, artists, team and wider Victorian community expect a world-class venue that’s accessible to everyone,” says King.


Arts Centre Melbourne will remain open as usual throughout the works with events and shows on stages, The Protagonist and The Barre operating as well as the car park.

Contractor Lendlease have already begun early works which are due to be completed by early 2023, preparing for major works to deliver the broader Melbourne Arts Precinct transformation. This includes clearing an area behind the Theatres Building and towards Hamer Hall of plants, trees, landscaping and paved outdoor areas. Several public art sculptures around the Theatres Building have been removed to keep them safe during the work, which will be displayed in temporary homes at other public locations. To keep Arts Centre Melbourne open to the public throughout the project, utilities and services will be moved temporarily above ground.

The State Theatre will close for auditorium and stage house refurbishment in 2024 and reopen in December 2026.

Photo credit: Arts Centre Melbourne’s Reimagined northern aspect featuring new restaurants and parkland. NH Architecture

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