This impressive classical revival building, originally opened in April 1930, was threatened by impacts issuing from its surrounding environment and flaws inherent to the building fabric. Subsidence and water ingress had compromised the structural integrity of the building and fire detection and control systems had become outdated and inadequate, hindering potential fire-fighting efforts.
The interiors of the building had been progressively refurbished to accommodate different functions including the addition of inappropriate faux “heritage” detailing, mezzanines, and services.
The quality of many of the resulting interiors was poor in terms of architectural quality, natural light, circulation, and amenity.The city hall was closed to the public in December 2009 to enable the works program. It was rededicated on April 6th, 2013, after a comprehensive restoration program to conserve its significant spaces and fabric, to rectify its structural, fire, and life safety deficits, and to reequip it for its role as the focus for Brisbane’s civic, cultural, and social events.
TannerGHD (Tanner Kibble Denton Architects and GHD) leads the architectural and heritage design for the revitalization of the Brisbane City Hall from 2009 to 2013.
The revitalization of one of the most significant heritage buildings in Queensland involved conservation and adaptation works; refurbishment of existing and new interior spaces; upgrade of structure, fire resistance, equitable access and egress, and acoustics; new building services including five new lifts; reactivation of the lightwells for light and ventilation; and the design of new components including new galleries for the Museum of Brisbane at roof level and new catering kitchen within an excavated basement.
The success of this project owes much to the design team’s understanding of the original design intent and program of the 1930s city hall together with the potential of new technologies and materials.
Under the guidance of the TannerGHD design team, the introduced layers were removed to reveal the inherent qualities of the building including its natural lighting and ventilation. Contemporary and innovative technologies and materials were introduced to rectify the fabric, structural, fire, and life safety deficits of the existing building and to provide improved functional amenities.
A simpler interior color scheme was overlaid using a restricted palette of cool colors to enhance the original fabric of the building including marble, mosaic tile-work, silky oak joinery, bronzed coffered ceilings, decorative glazing, and plasterwork.
The result showcases the building’s original architectural qualities and its new contemporary amenity. Brisbane City Hall is now not only a restored and vibrant facility for the people and visitors to Brisbane; it is an outstanding example of contemporary heritage practice.
The Brisbane City Hall Restoration Project demonstrates that major structural, fire, acoustics, and equitable access upgrade works and new services installations can be integrated into an existing heritage building in such a way that balances the quality of the original design with contemporary interiors.
The interior design was coordinated with the major construction works from the inception of the project, including structural upgrades, the design of the new building services and services reticulation routes, the choice of products for fire resistance upgrades, and the fire suppression systems.
Contemporary materials, finishes, and fittings were selected to complement the building’s existing fabric, including Marmoleum flooring in circulation spaces with inlaid detail derived from the mosaic tiles in the entry foyers.
The new carpet also responds to the inherent colors and patterns within the building and the hierarchy and function of the various spaces within the city hall.AuditioriumThe auditorium is the focal point of the city hall and it has been completely reworked to improve its functionality, acoustic performance, amenity, and comfort while respecting its original architectural design and conserving its significant fabric.
The seamless integration of new structure, services, and fittings within the original space is a credit to the ingenuity and creativity of the architects.
The excavation below the auditorium for the new catering kitchen enabled the auditorium floor to be strengthened to facilitate the hosting of a greater range of functions and activities, the introduction of new services including displacement air conditioning, and to satisfy the fire safety upgrade requirements.
The existing lights have been restored and new lighting has been introduced to highlight the architectural qualities of the space including the Daphne Mayo frieze and the restored Father Willis organ. New audio-visual facilities have been integrated seamlessly into the Auditorium. The new balcony tiers and seating meet contemporary standards for comfort, amenity and equitable access.
The new tensile fabric (Barrisol) ceiling not only assists in improving the acoustics of the Auditorium, it also provides a lively focus to the space through the LED back-lighting, is part of the smoke exhaust system, and is integrated with the rigging points for stage performance services.
The new acoustic panels and blinds are located across three levels around the perimeter of the auditorium and have been integrated into the original geometry with new architectural elements of bronze mesh and timber trellis panels.A new color scheme based on the original design intent overlays the whole to enliven the auditorium as a sought-after major events space in Brisbane.Civic WorkplaceThe reestablishment of the civic office function of the city hall was a fundamental component of the conservation program.
Upgrades to the 80-year-old building have provided a contemporary workplace for the lord mayor, deputy mayor, and councilors and their staff, as well as the staff of the Museum of Brisbane. The quality of this outcome is a credit to the vision, creativity, experience, and perseverance of the whole project team.The reworked and new civic office areas exhibit the functionality and amenity of a contemporary workplace.
The civic offices are co-located with function rooms, meeting rooms and catering facilities used by council for conferences, training, and public meetings.The result showcases the original architectural qualities and fabric of the city hall enhancing its enduring role as the heart of Brisbane’s civic life.Community and Function (MICE) SpacesThe city hall is a community building and is available for a range of performance and event types for public, private (corporate), and government events and performances.
As part of the restoration program, the existing main auditorium and seven existing function rooms were refurbished and four new function rooms were created.
Each of the 12 function rooms have been equipped for multipurpose events (MICE — Meetings, Incentives, Conferences, and Exhibitions) and can operate independently, with food and beverage service pantry areas and contemporary audio/visual and information technology facilities.
Three of the function spaces have access through French doors into the new landscaped courtyards within the lightwells.The Red Cross café and the 50+ Centre have also returned to the city hall in refurbished facilities in the basement. The 50+ Centre opens into the East Lightwell landscaped courtyard.Museum of BrisbaneThe new Museum of Brisbane facilities replace the childcare center and former staff gymnasium and other ad hoc additions that occupied the roof level of the hall.
The new museum has been built behind the existing parapets fronting King George Square, Adelaide Street, and the rear laneway utilizing steel structure and lightweight floor, walls, and roofing.
The new MoB features:- Two large galleries and several smaller galleries and theatres linked together and integrated with the existing roof pavilions and clock tower;- Break-out spaces with views of the copper-clad dome over the auditorium;- MoB reception and clock tower visitor access linked; and- Back-of-house facilities for conservation and preparation of exhibitions.The design displays a contemporary architectural design, with the quality of the architectural resolution, detailing, and materials as high as that of the existing heritage building.The new facilities for the MoB provide state-of-the-art exhibition spaces to serve the museum into the future, accommodate prestigious international touring exhibitions while respecting and enhancing the significance of the existing building and its context, and complementing the architectural style, form, proportions, materials, and colors of the existing building.Architectural Project TeamTanner Kibble Denton Architects: Megan Jones, Scott MacArthur, David Earp, Ian Leung, Rosemary Lucas, Asta Chow, Branko Rilkovski, Emma Wingad, Vanessa HolthamTime Schedule• Design, documentation: 18 months• Construction: 40 months.