The Playhouse refurbishment project has rejuvenated the 800-seat theatre in the Geelong Performing Arts Centre bringing a new life to arts culture in the city. The theatre is now a contemporary, warm, welcoming and exciting venue for performers, patrons and staff alike. The underlying concept for the design was heavily forged through the innovative use of timber.
Inspired by the nearby Otway Ranges State Forest, the main palette for the refurbishment consists of natural timbers and green fabrics. The remaining existing surfaces inside the theatre have been painted black to become recessive planes, allowing the timber to seemingly push forward and interact with the large spatial volume. ATKAR plywood panels were also fixed to the existing walls on the Stalls Level to assist with acoustic absorption. This hierarchy of materiality was enhanced with the strategic use of LED timber pelmet lighting that washes and highlights the timber linings with a beautiful even glow.
American Black Walnut (Juglans Nigra) was specified throughout the project. Walnut veneer was specified on the new theatre seating, ceiling-suspended sound deflectors and the theatre entry doors. Elsewhere, select grade American Black Walnut shiplap cladding was selected for its beauty and durability on the balcony balustrade. Along with excellent workmanship, this allowed the curving form to fold and wrap underneath to become the ceiling soffit to the stalls below. The curving Walnut lining was also meticulously faceted out to deflect sound and improve acoustics.
The many benefits that American Black Walnut has brought to this project include:
• Select grade for visual consistency
• Appropriate durability and hardness for vertical linings and ceiling soffits (Janka Rating 4.5).
• The rich mid-range colour toning and tight, delicate grain brings warmth to the theatre without detracting from the performance.
• A wonderful tactile quality.
• Is harvested from sustainably managed hardwood forests.
• Readily available at time of specification/construction in both veneer and solid shiplap cladding.
• Excellent acoustic properties.
• Fire hazard indices were ‘deemed to satisfy’ for BCA.
• Envirothane finish for a natural matte appearance to minimise lighting reflection during performance.
The consistent expression, detail and underlying conceptual use of timber and the recessive existing wall planes has led to a finely crafted and well-received result in this high-profile theatre redevelopment.