Street view of The Hedburg, a performing arts venue in Tasmania; Street view of The Hedburg, a performing arts venue in Tasmania;

The Hedberg, University of Tasmania, Hobart, Tasmania

Integrating a new creative industry and performing arts precinct with a heritage treasure

Positioned in the heart of Hobart, The Hedberg provides new performance venues, creative hubs and unites the University of Tasmania’s (UTAS) new Conservatorium of Music facilities with the heritage listed Theatre Royal, Australia’s oldest working theatre dating back to 1837 and one of its most beautiful treasures. 

The Hedberg is a world class venue, supporting the flourishing creative arts scene in Tasmania including a new 290 seat Recital Hall, 350 seat Studio Theatre, versatile Salon and contemporary teaching spaces. New front of house space integrates these new facilities with the historic Theatre Royal and provides universal accessibility for audience members to all levels the heritage theatre for the first time.

Working closely with principal consultant LIMINAL Architecture with their collaborating partners WOHA Architects, we leveraged our global expertise in theatre planning to push the boundaries of building and venue design, supported by our multidisciplinary buildings and specialists teams for the $117 million project with our local partners, JMG and Gandy and Roberts. 

The Hedberg welcomed new students, researchers, educators, tourists, performers and audiences in 2020 prior to being formally opened in 2021.

Project Summary

290seat Recital Hall

2heritage structures integrated

2000+acoustic isolation bearings

International best practice in theatre design

The design team undertook a significant research project to inform the Project Brief, looking closely at the benchmark for international creative industries’ facilities. We examined technical and architectural influences and carried out a pedagogical study into progressive teaching environments. 

With our international experience in theatre planning, we explored how key back of house and front of house spaces could support performer, student, public experience and operations uses.  We planned the facilities with the needs of performers and efficient operation central to the design philosophy.

Street view of The Hedburg, a performing arts venue in Tasmania Street view of The Hedburg, a performing arts venue in Tasmania

Creating a venue for contemporary arts

New modern foyers, bars and box office connect the heritage Theatre Royal auditorium to the new versatile Salon space, Recital Hall and Studio Theatre. 

A feature of the four-storey open foyer, which connects to all the performance spaces, is the sandstone wall of the Theatre Royal auditorium which showcases the site’s archaeology and ties the old and new buildings together. To meet the design brief of the architects, our lighting designers worked with the team to accentuate the warm and comfortable atmosphere.

Image ©NatashaMulhall

The Recital Hall is an intimate, versatile and adaptable venue, designed to respond to the evolving creative educational aspirations of UTAS and local and global professional artists. Our acoustic design in the Recital Hall achieves excellent room acoustics for unamplified music that can be refined with extensive adjustable acoustic reflectors and sound absorptive banners to cater for contemporary music.  The space will soon be provided with a digital reverberation enhancement system which will add further flexibility to the room acoustic.

The Studio Theatre’s design complements the historic Theatre Royal auditorium. Equipped with modern lighting, rigging, staging and flexible layout provisions, the Studio Theatre can give additional space to the Theatre Royal to extend its programming and continue entertaining and delighting audiences. 

Inside view of the Recital Hall, The Hedburg, a performing arts venue in Tasmania Inside view of the Recital Hall, The Hedburg, a performing arts venue in Tasmania
Our acoustic design achieves excellent room acoustics in the Studio Theatre © NatashaMulhall

A building-wide fibre optic media distribution network links AV content between all the new spaces and to other UTAS campuses. UTAS can now offer a full teaching and research programme, with recording and production studios, adaptable teaching spaces, student lounge areas and administration rooms.

Site constraints and challenges

We supported LIMINAL with WOHA and worked collaboratively with the stakeholders to incorporate the existing heritage listed, independently operated Theatre Royal with The Hedberg. The core design team overcame various site challenges including:

  • consolidating utilities across multiple titles into a new integrated operating model 

  • incorporating accommodation requirements given geographic constraints with a limited plan area 

  • integrating complex building services and developing a construction methodology/foundation design for the existing flood zone and underground rivulet directly under the site 

  • maintaining operations for the Theatre Royal during demolition and construction 

  • minimising impact from new helipad serving the Royal Hobart Hospital adjacent

  • developing an evacuation strategy for all venues using computational fluid dynamics to determine the conditions in the adjacent foyer space. 

We delivered environmental sustainability and construction programming benefits through the use of Cross Laminated Timber as an internal material for the key performance spaces which was rigorously studied and tested to provide outstanding performance venue acoustics.

An acoustically sensitive design

Working in a detailed BIM environment, the structural engineers incorporated complex acoustic isolation details into the design, ensuring the structure could cope with a wide range of conditions to cater for potential artistic needs. All the performing arts venues and practice rooms are isolated box-in-box constructions to maximise the sound insulation between the different spaces.

Persons playing a piano, a guitar in a music room inside The Hedburg, Tasmania Persons playing a piano, a guitar in a music room inside The Hedburg, Tasmania
Clear sound is enjoyed in the practice rooms due to our acoustic design © NatashaMulhall

Combined with Arup’s fine acoustic work, the monitoring field is amazing. One can hear minute changes in the audible spectrum with ease, and phase anomalies are instantly detectable. ” Stewart Long University of Tasmania

Rigorous acoustic testing provided essential data on the acoustical properties of the materials used on site. The design incorporates custom variable acoustic elements specifically developed for this project which were prototyped and tested in acoustic laboratories to verify their acoustical performance.

For the heating, ventilation and air conditioning system, our mechanical and environmentally sustainable design engineers designed a low velocity displacement system which provides quiet cooling and ventilation in an energy efficient way. The riser requirements around the auditoria have been carefully placed to maximise spatial and acoustical efficiency.