Architecture studio HASSELL relied on five guiding principles while designing The Australian Ballet’s facilities located in the heart of Melbourne’s Arts Precinct.

One of the world’s leading ballet companies, The Australian Ballet has delivered sell-out performances for over 50 years. The $13 million refurbishment by HASSELL had key design objectives – it not only needed to reflect their rich legacy but would also allow the facilities to operate at the same level as their performances. The new design would also create a space that will support the development and long-term needs of The Australian Ballet through a functional yet inspiring environment.

The five guiding principles, transparent, bold, form, Australian, and layered, allow The Australian Ballet staff and dancers to express their talents on and off the stage, while reflecting the Ballet’s disciplined, ambitious, and flexible nature.

HASSELL senior architect, Greta Stoutjesdijk says, “This was such a unique opportunity to not only work with, but contribute to the future of a world leading performing arts institution. These projects don’t come along often, so ensuring we successfully delivered the individualised facilities and personality of The Australian Ballet’s new home was imperative.”

Subtle details of the design emphasise how the architects factored in the unique needs of both the dancers as well as the production staff. The centralised white circular staircase connecting the two levels is specifically designed wide enough for two dancers in tutus to pass each other without a costume disruption. There are plenty of open-plan common areas and workstations visible from public areas, allowing both staff and dancers to cross paths throughout the working day. The frosted glass pavilions create silhouettes of movement through layers and openings, heightening the mystery while respecting the privacy of the dancers.

HASSELL worked closely with Fibonacci Stone to develop a bespoke terrazzo tile inspired by the soft pink hues and silk of the ballet shoe. These terrazzo tiles connect the different levels and functional spaces.

HASSELL senior interior designer, Leah Hudson-Smith says, “The material choices had to be hard wearing, high performing and functional in nature. We used the colour pallet of these materials to soften the space throughout, adopting a minimal frosted white, light grey and salmon hue with the occasional bold accent of deep navy blue.”

Key elements of the refurbishment also include a large rehearsal space the size of the State Theatre stage to ensure fluid correlation between rehearsal and performance; a higher roof to ensure plenty of room for lifts by the dancers; the pointe shoe store that combines functionality and theatre to demonstrate the cycle of a dancer’s tour schedule; a variety of different spaces catering for 110 staff members and 79 dancers (with capacity for future expansion); a public boutique café; specialist medical facilities; and a world-class recovery room.

“The Australian Ballet has so much colour and life themselves; we saw the building as a canvas and an opportunity for their personality to take centre stage. We are proud of the result and can’t wait to see what magic is produced within the space,” Hudson-Smith added.

Image credit: Lillie Thompson