Cox Architecture collaborated with CA Architects on the design of the Cairns Performing Arts Centre located in the culturally rich city of Cairns in North Queensland.

Part of the Cairns Entertainment Precinct, which also includes the redeveloped Munro Martin Parklands, the Cairns Performing Arts Centre (CPAC) replaced the Cairns Civic Theatre, which could no longer accommodate the needs of the local community or the functional and technological requirements of modern theatre productions.

Developed for the Cairns Regional Council, the $71-million theatre redevelopment responds to the city’s dramatic tropical setting. The cultural precinct comprises the main proscenium arch auditorium delivering 941 seats including balcony seating, a 400-seat flexible studio theatre that can be used for both performances and rehearsals, and an external performance amphitheatre with a capacity of 3,000. CPAC includes significantly increased foyer area and public amenities, improved back-of-house facilities, deeper stage and more spacious wings, and a much larger orchestra pit.

The design met the brief for an inclusive environment that addressed the needs of the diverse Cairns community, flexibility to allow both community and professional use, technology to support modern performances, and economically sustainable facilities to generate revenue and offset capital costs.

The final design outcome reflects a commitment to both the local community and the broader region with links to the Torres Strait and the Islands of the Pacific Rim.

Indigenous art made from recycled fishing nets was commissioned from the distant Erub Island in the Torres Strait. With performance integral to Indigenous cultures in North Queensland, CPAC provides a platform for emerging talent, vocations in drama, and for touring performances.

According to the architects, the building is a form ‘in the round’ with sculptural massing that accommodates a tall 9-storey fly tower within a cohesive form. The tropical response is distilled in the foyer’s solar screen that faces northwest to the adjacent parklands.

The CPAC was completed in 2018.

Photographs: Andrew Watson