Located on the corner of Burton and Palmer Streets, the Burton Street Tabernacle operated as a Baptist Church from 1887 until 1996.
The Tabernacle was a favourite place of worship for many Sydneysiders for decades and was the source of inspiration for pavement scribe Arthur Stace’s most famous message, ‘Eternity’, which he wrote on Sydney footpaths for over 30 years.
The City of Sydney purchased the Tabernacle in 2004 and commissioned TZG to adapt the building as an intimate 200-seat theatre for a rapidly-growing professional company specialising in new drama.
The complex and detailed requirements of the brief strained the capacity of the building, requiring the 1920s rear wing to be replaced by a totally-new four-level addition, containing back-stage facilities, dressing rooms, administration and plant, linked by a glass foyer with a sculpted steel stair and lift.
The main entry uses the original church doorways to Burton Street, where the arched openings have been restored.
A generous new stair descends to the lower level where the old dank space is now daylit and open, accommodating the foyer, café bar and box office.
The new rake of the seating, lined with the reused timber from the church floor, forms the ceiling to this space.
The theatre, with excellent acoustics and sightlines, a large stage and extensive control of noise breakout, is reached by a dramatically experiential steel stair and a public lift.
Internally and externally, original finishes have been conserved intact, and new elements reuse salvaged material where possible.