The best seat in the house … always

Built in 1995, as a 2000 seat venue, the Sydney Lyric Theatre had numerous design flaws including many seats with restricted views, seats too far from the stage, an overall lack of intimacy and a lack of private box seats or pre-show function rooms.

Theatre owner, Stephen Found knew how much the physicality of a theatre space can affect your experience of a production and his brief was to transform the venue so that every audience member could have the best possible experience of a show, and that the space would also accommodate the needs of international productions allowing the theatre to attract productions that had been off-limits in the past.

To overcome the issues of sight lines and intimacy, we added additional rows of seating to the dress circle and the grand circle whilst maintaining the overall capacity of 2000. This allowed us to eliminate the seats with poor site lines and to bring in the side walls of the theatre creating a sense of intimacy.

A sense of intimacy

To further enhance the intimacy, three operable walls were introduced to allow the theatre to be reduced from 2000 seats to 1750, 1500 and 1350 depending on the requirements of the show and ensuring the theatre will always feel full even in quieter mid-week matinée shows. The final alteration was to reduce the height of the ceiling by three metres which again helped provide an intimate setting for both actors and patrons.

In addition to the reduction of scale, the finishes and their application, the use of a dark palette and a hierarchy of what is lit and the levels of lighting all help not only with intimacy, but to also draw the patron’s eyes to the stage instead of having visual bleed to the periphery of the auditorium.

The $7.5M Sydney Lyric Theatre project required a complete mix of both technical and aesthetic design. Technical considerations such as site lines, working around an existing structure, and providing a space to meet the functional requirements of a working theatre such as lighting, sound systems etc. had to take equal importance, without detracting from the overall feel and experience of the space for the audiences and performers alike. Achieving this fine balance is the element that has given us most satisfaction in this project, and one only has to go along to a show to feel how well this has worked.

The $7.5M Sydney Lyric Theatre project required a complete mix of both technical and aesthetic design.