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Burrinja Cultural Centre

A refurbishment that reorganises and updates the experience of a diverse group of public activities.

  • Design Response

    This refurbishment reorganises and updates the experience of a diverse group of public activities. The Burrinja Arts Centre consists of a 600 seat theatre, artists’ studios, a gallery, administration, multipurpose and meeting spaces, a café, community kitchen and a community arts workshop.

    Equally diverse is the existing architecture that houses these activities. Originally the re-purposed Sherbrooke Shire Offices, the 2010 additions of a theatre, together with many small internal rearrangements had created a discordant architecture. The scale of the 2010 addition had also swung the identity of the centre towards the theatre leaving the remaining visual arts areas hard to notice and difficult to navigate.

    This project provides an opportunity to recast the relationship between the performing and visual arts at Burrinja. Design workshops with centre staff mapped out the richness of Burrinja’s creative activities, but also identified an openness between the visiting public and users of the facilities such as studio artists. This generosity allows a different experience of the centre to be appreciated with each visit.

    Responding to this, the critical task of the refurbishment design is to bind all the visual arts activities together and bring them into the foreground of a visitor’s experience – to present what is on offer and invite visitors to explore further.

    This goal is strongly related to circulation, the configuration of movement and what is seen when moving through the building. For our primary design concept we chose a part of every public building that is distinctly circulation, a part only briefly experienced and largely ignored: the entry airlock

    An airlock required to separate the gallery’s environmental system from the rest of the building is stretched to become a circulation spine that sits between the theatre foyer and the visual arts spaces. This provides a threshold between the performing and visual arts spaces, one that can also be used as an informal exhibition space for studio artists.

    On the first floor an existing flat floor theatre space is renovated as a multipurpose space for performances, events, conferences and workshops.

    A new entry annex orients visitors to the ground floor new studio, gallery and café spaces and provides a sheltered gathering space. As another layer of architecture to the centre’s existing collection, the design is a thin expression in a monochromatic palette, offering a pause between the noisiness of colours, surfaces and materials that surround it.

  • Services Provided

    • Full Services


    Workshop Architecture


    Project Director: Simon Whibley
    Project Team: Simon, Whibley, Gab Olah, Jacqueline Tang
    Photographer: Workshop Architecture

    Date completed



    Upwey, Victoria 3158

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