The Glasshouse: Arts Conference and Entertainment Centre comprises a 600-seat performing arts theatre, a 600m2 Regional Art Gallery, a studio theatre, conference facilities and a community workshop located in the centre of Port Macquarie, a rapidly-growing coastal city north of Sydney. The project brief was to establish the Cultural Centre as the pre-eminent performance and exhibition arts facility in the region.
The design takes advantage of a view of the Pacific Ocean and is based on ‘openness’ and accessibility. The gallery is located to share the foyer space of the theatre, allowing appropriate exhibitions to fill the public spaces of the building and, in low-visitation days, the centre to be operated with minimal staff.
Wrapped around the sculpted form of the tall auditorium, the foyers are open and glassy, and are naturally ventilated. The foyer and building expression is generated by the contrasting orders of the city grid and the voluminous form of the theatre shell, with it's level 3 echo, the glass 'skirt' cantilevering over Clarence Street. Shaped voids and overhangs are created to facilitate street shade, airflow and an exciting architectural journey from street to auditorium. The auditorium is a semi-traditional proscenium horseshoe, with a fully equipped lyric stage and fly tower. Operable sound-screens enable the space to be used for classical concert music. The orchestra pit is hydraulically raised and lowered to increase the flexibility of the space. All sightlines have been computer modelled, and the sound performance designed to exacting standards.
The design anticipated significant archaeological relics from the Governor Macquarie convict era, in the form of footings of a series of 1820's cottages. They were not fully revealed until the existing site buildings were demolished, and once exposed the footings were preserved and revealed to the public in the basement and interpreted on the ground floor of the foyer.