Mildura Rural City Council: The Mildura Arts Centre Redevelopment

Mar 11, 2013 by     Comments Off    Posted under: Capital Projects Over $1M

The Mildura Arts Centre will remain the home for visual and performing arts for generations to come with the marking of an important milestone for Mildura’s new $8.7M state of the art performing arts venue. This project, completed in January 2013, is stage one in the transformation of the Mildura’s Arts and Cultural Precinct and is an icon in Northern Victoria for the local community.  A jointly funded project with the Australian Government, the Victorian Government and Mildura Rural City Council, the Mildura Arts Centre Theatre Redevelopment will provide a facility that meets the demands of future generations of our community. It will also be a state of the art venue in regional Victoria where local, national and international performers can take to the stage.


The Mildura Arts Centre Theatre Redevelopment is an integral part of realising Councils vision to build a sustainable reputation for Mildura as a leading regional centre for arts recognised for embracing its isolation; its ‘river of life’; and the indigenous and diverse multicultural heritage by developing a continually progressive and forward thinking regional cultural precinct”. Katherine Armstrong, Managing Director of Lateral Consulting and part of the project delivery team, best described the importance of this project to Sunraysia and surrounds:
“Theatres are iconic buildings and statements for a community. We think that legacy that the community 44 years ago invested, is something that still runs really strong within this community in terms of its pride, and I think that is something that we want to make sure we are able to deliver on in the quality and the functionality.”

This project is part of a larger master plan for the redevelopment of the Mildura Arts and Cultural Precinct where stage one focuses on the theatre and prepares the site for future expansion, while stage two focuses on the gallery and additional cultural facilities. This staged approach is being implemented in order to meet the immediate needs of the community whilst providing a sustainable foundation for expansion to realise future master plan goals. In association with Mildura Rural City Council and Williams Boag architects, Kersulting undertook the design and oversight during the construction stage of the redevelopment of the Mildura Arts and Cultural Precinct. The redevelopment has created a new 444 seat theatre with a larger stage, the latest staging equipment, a fly tower and orchestra pit to allow the region to play host to the best touring shows.
Mildura has been active on the touring circuit but this redevelopment will ensure that the Centre can attract larger-scale productions by the best Victorian, Australian and international acts. The physical commencement of the project began with demolition of the existing theatre site in November 2010 kicking off a two year project timeline before the scheduled “soft opening” in early2013. Construction at the site began in mid 2011 after an extensive planning and feasibility stage that looked to meet the expectations of the community and key stakeholder groups. At a cost of nearly $8.7m, the construction program involved establishment of the site, including upgrades to the foundation, sewer, stormwater and electrical services. Another key distinguishing feature of the innovative design was the venues ability to integrate with one of the earliest home sites in the district, Rio Vista house.  Rio Vista, the imposing home of one of the two brothers who founded Mildura, William Chaffey, has been developed into an Arts and Heritage Centre. The beautifully restored mansion is a fine example of very early Queen Anne architecture. Adjacent to the original building are an art gallery, museum and amphitheatre. In addition to the merging of a modern theatre with historically significant architecture, a number of key technical and design challenges presented throughout the project progress. The largest hurdle was to satisfy the heritage and environmental aspects of the site. The façade of the theatre contains clean, uninterrupted lines with feature timber integrated into various aspects of the elevation. This, combined with a significant river red gum post and beam sculpture and various art works, blends seamlessly with the historic sites frontage.
From and environmental perspective, the performing arts theatre has set the standard for incorporating environmental sustainability in the design and construction of major public buildings.
The $8.7 million proscenium theatre features a range of initiatives to limit the impact its operation has on the environment. Environmental sustainability considerations were paramount in the design
solution not only to benefit the environment, but also reduce the overall running costs of the facility.
Underground stormwater capture, treatment and recirculation systems ensure that water consumption is kept to a minimum via re-use in water features ad septic systems. The site now featured tanks with the capacity to store up to 30,000 litres of rainwater, which can be used to flush toilets and water the gardens throughout the Mildura Arts centre precinct.
“Wherever possible, we tried to make environmentally responsible decisions and to reduce both the environmental and monetary burden that can come from operating such a facility”

The reticulated heating and cooling system located underneath the seats is an energy efficient approach to cl imate control in a large auditorium. The displacement system allows direct heating and cooling to the audience from the floor up; rather than trying to heat or cool the entire auditorium volume from the ceiling down. This reduces load on the mechanical heating and cooling and reducing power consumption and operating costs and ultimately the facilities carbon footprint.

The new theatre’s foyer, which is also now the entry to Mildura Arts Centre’s adjacent galleries, also features energy efficient climate control options through an integrated building management system. This system optimises the climate in the foyer and adapts to constantly changing airflow and occupancy levels. During the spring and autumn months the foyer can be ventilated naturally with ceiling fans instead of air conditioning. The opportunity was also taken to link the adjacent gallery to better regulate ambient environmental conditions in spaces where artworks are displayed.
Insulated wall panels throughout the construction will further help reduce heating and cooling costs and the building’s overall energy consumption and the new theatre also features a solar hot water system and energy efficient LED lighting. Future works scheduled include the installation of a 10kW Solar System to generate electricity for the facility. The solar option is essentially mandatory for all buildings in Mildura’s climate.

All abilities access design was crucial to the success of the project. The ground floor is all accessible on one level and the auditorium features a cross aisle which enables access to both sides of the theatre. There is also ramp access, designated amenities and seating for people who use wheelchairs or mobility supports. All up, the auditorium has space for nine wheelchairs, which is above the 2 per cent quota required by DDA. The seating bays have adjacent companion seating and there are a number of fixed seats with swing-out arm rests to allow for safe transfer from a mobility device, throughout the theatre. Also, a drop-off point at the front of the theatre is also available so people using wheelchairs or mobility aids don’t have to navigate the car park area. A hearing loop has also been fitted in the auditorium for use by people with hearing aids or cochlear implants.


The $8.7 million Centre – a partnership project between the Mildura Rural City Council, the Victorian Coalition Government and the Federal Government has successfully integrated a new performing arts theatre, as well as the art gallery, the historic Rio Vista house and a sculpture park. The honourable Peter Walsh, Minister Water, Agriculture and Food Security represented the Premier and Minister for the Arts Ted Baillieu at the official opening:
The arts have a great capacity for bringing a community together, for attracting tourism and for enhancing livability. The new Mildura Arts Centre will make a significant contribution to the local community, not just by being a space for arts events, but also through its commitment to delivering public and education programs. “It will be a place where artists, community members and visitors of all ages can get involved. While Melbourne is widely considered Australia’s arts and cultural capital, this region, this centre, and the community that has already embraced it, are testament to the fact that the arts in Victoria are thriving right across the state,” Mr Walsh said. The new Mildura Arts Centre is an exciting addition to our State’s cultural infrastructure and the Coalition Government is proud to have contributed to its redevelopment.”

The long term vision, culminating in a three year project build has been a magnificent success for the local community of Sunraysia and brings world class facilities to regional Victoria. The new theatre facility at Mildura Arts Centre is open for business — and another creative era will begin in Sunraysia.  After several years of planning and building, Mildura Rural City Council will welcome artists and audiences to Victoria’s most ambitious regional cultural facilities. The theatre redevelopment was made possible generous support from the Council, the Australian Government, the Victorian Government, and a growing list of local sponsors representing a truly collaborative effort from the people of the region.

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