Walsh Bay Arts Precinct Construction Complete
After the completion of major construction works in December 2021 on Pier 2/3 at the Walsh Bay Precinct, some of the nation’s leading performing arts companies are beginning to move into their new premises.
The Walsh Bay Arts Precinct redevelopment has been a complex and rewarding journey for RCC and our project partners. Refurbishing these historic wharves over Sydney Harbour has been challenging, however we have been privileged to work with the NSW Government and a talented team of contractors and consultants to deliver these state-of-the-art facilities.
Protecting and honouring the heritage of Pier 2/3 required significant structural repairs and retaining as many heritage features as possible. We also designed bespoke acoustic solutions to meet the performance and rehearsal standards required by each resident art company, whilst maintaining the intended design aesthetic.
Constructing within a 100-year-old timber pier on Sydney Harbour meant that acoustic solutions had to be well-planned and constructed.
- A solid steel plate floor was installed in the ACO auditorium, instead of the more traditional concrete slab floor, to meet height restrictions whilst maintaining the mass required for low frequency acoustic performance.
- All walls, ceilings and equipment in theatre and rehearsal spaces were installed on acoustic mounts, reducing the impact of vibrations through the structure from passing harbour traffic and other activities in the precinct.
- Bespoke acoustic timber cladding has been installed in all performance and rehearsal spaces, not only achieving acoustic outcomes but adding to the interior design.
- The ACO Performance space is fitted with a state-of-the-art Yamaha Active Architecture System, called Active Field Control (AFC) Enhance, creating a full sound experience within this space. AFC Enhance controls the acoustic environment via 16 microphones and 79 loudspeakers which are strategically located throughout the ceiling space.
Construction challenges were turned around to deliver high-standard facilities with innovative features.
- Large sections of the roof in the central valleys were raised to facilitate more room for lighting and sound equipment inside the ACO and ATYP performance spaces, increasing the usable space.
- The roof was also raised in common areas to allow space to install the major equipment for services including air-conditioning and water heating.
- To lessen the extent of exposed ductwork on the roof, large open-air rooms were constructed in the major plant rooms with custom perforated roof sheets to match the existing roof profile and colour to allow air into and out of the building for air conditioning.
- Retractable seating banks have been installed in the ACO and Bell Shakespeare performance spaces to allow for multiple seating arrangements for flexibility in performances.
- The design has considered the operational needs of theatre staff improving the safety by providing a wire mesh ‘floor’ above the ATYP performance space to allow complex rigging and lighting setups.
HERITAGE AND SUSTAINABILITY:
The heritage value was carefully protected during construction with substantial remedial works undertaken to repair the heritage structures.
- We worked with Tropman and Tropman to identify heritage items to retain. Prior to internal works, items were carefully labelled and tagged for retention.
- Some of the superfluous hardwood floorboards were recycled into joinery units in common spaces and used by tenants.
- Over 230 heritage light fittings were refurbished and reused throughout the pier.
- The heritage nature of the pier was honoured as much as possible in the large event area, ensuring any new installations reflect the previous industrial use of the wharf.
- Being over water has allowed the installation of a seawater cooling system for air conditioning services, rather than a traditional rooftop air-conditioning unit. This system reduces power usage and noise levels, whilst maintaining the visual impact of the building.
- Nearly 300 state-of the-art solar panels have been installed on the roof, making it a more sustainable precinct.
INNOVATION IN CONSTRUCTION:
Working over water on an over 100-year-old pier presented unique challenges which were overcome in a variety of ways.
- The majority of essential services have been fed from a central plant room in the Wharf 4/5 Shore Sheds, meaning services were installed from a boat, under the wharf in special trays and pipes for proximity to the sea.
- Strict load limits on the old timber structure meant that deliveries had to be broken down into multiple small loads and barges were utilised to deliver important features such as whole lift shafts and the 21-tonne shared stairway.
- The old timber members required extensive rectification including the replacement of 24 storey posts, new steel piles, strengthening or replacement of deteriorated beams and joists and the shifting of existing piles, all while the building remained a live construction site.
In an opening media event in February 2022, Minister for Infrastructure, Cities, and Active Transport, Rob Stokes thanked Richard Crookes Constructions for our work on the redevelopment.
“This is a pivotal project for Sydney and 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 still having its iconic heritage preserved.”
Rob Stokes – Minister for Infrastructure, Cities, and Active Transport
Ben Franklin, Minister for the Arts reflected on the delivery of the precinct;
“After two years of carefully transforming an empty wool store into a premium 21st century space for the arts, Pier 2/3 welcomes the Australian Chamber Orchestra, Australian Theatre for Young People and Bell Shakespeare as its new resident companies.
Ben Franklin – Minister for the Arts
Mr Franklin also said that the evolving story of the Walsh Bay Arts Precinct now shifts to the hands of the many artists who will transform this precinct in new and unforgettable ways. He looks forward to seeing the reactivation of the Precinct from March when the resident arts companies on Pier 2/3 welcome audiences and participants into their new spaces.
Having completed the refurbishment of neighbouring Wharf 4/5 in 2020, we are now honoured to announce the completion of major constructions works at Pier 2/3 and looking forward to seeing the precinct come to life as the resident art companies start to operate in their new spaces.
Over the coming months, the Australian Chamber Orchestra, Australian Theatre for Young People and Bell Shakespeare will move in and refine their theatre and rehearsal spaces, and visitors will be able to attend events at Pier 2/3 early this year.