A tight timeline, a global pandemic and an aging heritage-listed 1475m2, two-storey 1888 building in the inner-city suburb of Woolloongabba has set the stage for a testing yet triumphant project for Brisbane architects JDA Co.

JDA Co. Director James Davidson credits tenacity and teamwork as the key ingredients responsible for completing such a complex project so swiftly.

“This is an iconic Brisbane building and we carefully selected our collaborators to ensure they shared our enthusiasm to not only preserve but really revive this landmark,” Davidson says.

In a nod to The Princess’s theatrical beginnings, JDA Co. has incorporated curves throughout the design of the new bar, café and gallery. “To add a sense of playful theatrics, we’ve also used a variety of heights to subtly accentuate the arches,”

JDA Co.’s Project Lead, Sam Bowstead says that "By opening up the gallery to the lobby and creating a central doorway to the mezzanine, Sam was able to create a new sightline for audiences."

“From the lobby and the upstairs gallery, patrons now catch a glimpse of the stage and ceiling — that creates a great sense of anticipation."

The introduction of a new dress circle was also made possible by reconfiguring the shape of the mezzanine space, including the addition of a front-row bench seat that provides a new viewing experience.

Meanwhile, the introduction of dark timbers and brass reflects the classical materials found in the original colonial design.

Forced to close in the verandah and block out elevated windows for acoustic purposes, JDA Co. went on to reimagine the windows as lightboxes.

“By adding lights behind the glass panes of the windows, we’ve transformed the architecture into part of the production equipment!," Bowstead says.

Outside, JDA Co. has introduced a new terrace that’s been fitted with a small platform lift to provide wheelchair access to the theatre.

The new terrace, that adjoins The Princess’s café ‘Fables’, is part of a much larger plan to enliven the streetscape.