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Her Majesty’s Theatre Redevelopment

Adelaide, South Australia

Her Majesty’s Theatre, constructed in 1913, is Adelaide’s oldest continually operating performance venue. Described upon opening as ‘the most luxuriously appointed theatre in Australia,’ ‘Her Maj’ is the last surviving example of the Tivoli chain of theatres in Australia.

In the 60s and 70s, redevelopments removed some original architectural features and lowered the seating capacity to 900.

COX was engaged in 2017 to redevelop the theatre to meet the needs of a dynamic and evolving arts industry. The community has long been calling for bigger shows with increased seating, improved back of house facilities, and better integration within the bustling market and Victoria Square precinct.

The theatre now features a 1467-seat auditorium and brought back the notorious grand circle after its removal over 50 years ago. The heritage façade and eastern wall were preserved, adding a new west wing with a striking glass facade. Bold balconies, pressed metal ceiling and architraves have been reinstated, paying homage to the original 1960s Edwardian plans.

David Penberthy, The Australian

In a stunning refit headed by COX Architecture and built by Hansen Yuncken, the building’s Edwardian facade and entire eastern wall were retained, with the rest of the theatre rebuilt from scratch in the art nouveau style.

Both historic fabric and new built form are seamlessly integrated through careful planning and design. Diagrid framed glass allows the public to see into the venue from the streetscape, showcasing three levels of bars, entertainment, and exhibition spaces – introducing a new chapter for HMT.

A notorious signature wall, covered with the names and messages of some of the stages’ biggest stars, was deconstructed and reconstructed by hand – brick by brick.

From bold balconies that pay homage to the curved lines from the 1913 theatre interior plans, to faceted timber surfaces comprising of complex curves, every design element in this project was considered to create a sense of excitement and nostalgia.

SA Premier, Steven Marshall

This redevelopment will attract world-class productions and provide a massive boost for our arts sector. Her Majesty’s has served the city well for more than a century, and it will continue to be a cornerstone of our creative industries for many years to come.

Function and form were carefully balanced to ensure the success of the redevelopment. The original design posed many non-inclusive access issues for patrons, performers, and crew. The design addressed this issue through extensive planning to ensure everyone can move around the building freely. The introduction of elevators, additional amenities, and new bars on all levels, added a much-needed program for the venue.

The Dress and Grand Circle foyers are vertical extensions of the Ground Level foyer, connected through a large atrium and two feature staircases. The elaborate stairs were placed centrally, designed to encourage patrons to rediscover and inhabit the upper levels.

Peter Goers

The gods have returned to Her Majesty’s Theatre in Grote St. The completely new theatre within two heritage-listed walls (including the grand facade) is magnificent. It now returns to its original design of three tiers including “the gods”, or highest seats. Thank Gods …This brand-new theatre is a triumph and a gift to all South Australians. It shows us what we can do.

‘Her Maj’ was a truly collaborative project, bringing together the client, contractor, engineers, architects, interior designers, and specialist theatre consultancies. Schuler Shook was critical to the technical excellence of this highly dynamic arts environment.

Environmentally conscious decisions were made throughout the process. The Timber selection was Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) rated for low environmental impact. Design decision were carefully considered for longevity, waste reduction and address healthy working environments.

Her Majesty’s Theatre marries best practice design principles with exceptional design outcomes. The public and media acclaim to date, and successful performances, strongly point to the significant improvement this project has had on the performing arts and cultural life of South Australia and beyond.

The Advertiser, 12 June 2020

The transformation of the Adelaide venue is truly remarkable and arguably situates the Maj as the premier theatre in the country.

From its gleaming new Grote Street foyers, through the breathtaking expanded auditorium, to hidden backstage technical facilities, everything is state of the art.

Awards

City of Adelaide Prize, AIA SA, 2021
Jack McConnell Award, Public Architecture, AIA SA, 2021
David Saunders Award, Heritage AIA SA, 2021

Technical Information

City
Adelaide, South Australia
Year
2019
Client
Department of Planning, Transport and Infrastructure, South Australia
Status
Completion in 2019
Cost
$66.2M
Gross Floor Area
8,000m2