Hobart College Theatre

TypeTheatreLocationMt Nelson, TasmaniaClient Department of Education TasmaniaYear2020StatusCompleteArchitectCumulus StudioImagesPaul Redding and Pat Black (Archives Office of Tasmania)

The robust brick and concrete buildings of Hobart College are loved by many, particularly within the architecture and design community. Constructed in 1972 as the Tasmanian College of Advanced Education, the school was introduced to Tasmania as an inspiring hub of design education and was once responsible for fostering some of the state’s most respected architects. As a former winner of the Australian Institute of Architects Enduring Architecture Award and a key example of 20th Century Tasmanian design, the guiding principle for our work on this project was to ‘tread lightly’.

While undeniably impressive, the 50 year old Hobart College Theatre was beginning to show its age when our work began in early 2019. Many of the surfaces, materials and finishes had simply reached the end of their functional life. Facilities were failing to meet code requirements and the aging technical infrastructure within the auditorium was hindering opportunities for eager performers.

The process of ‘de-aging’ the Theatre began with colour. We found inspiration within the existing terracotta floor tiles laid in the theatre foyer. The mix of bright oranges, reds and purples helped create a distinctive palette which we were able to extend through the new alterations. Using shades derived from the floor tiles, the new colours start off light within the open spaces, then grow darker and more intense as the user moves deeper into the theatre, eventually transitioning to a soft purple within the auditorium.

An overwhelming appreciation of the existing architecture kept any structural additions to a minimum. The primary intervention, a new kiosk and ticketing area, takes cues from the hardwood clad ceiling seen through many of the original College buildings. While similar in feel, the scalloped timber and curving form of the kiosk bar allows for a clear distinction between old and new.

New theatre seating, lighting and audio-technical equipment, including a hearing loop system designed to assist the hearing impaired, allow the College to reach new production heights within the updated auditorium. As a visitor and in practice the new works have reinstated the Hobart College Theatre as a place of fun and entertainment. A place of opportunities rather than compromises.