The Princess Theatre

  • 2022

  • Architectural
    Architectual Design

Designed By:

  • JDA Co.
  • Sam Bowstead
  • James Davidson

Commissioned By:

The Tivoli, Wilvest

Designed In:


Built in 1888, The Princess Theatre is a two-storey State Heritage listed building and Queensland’s oldest-standing theatre. After 30 years of underutilisation, JDA Co. was tasked with designing its refurbishment — so performers and audiences could once again enjoy a world-class performing arts venue in the inner-city suburb of Wooolloongabba.

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  • A tight timeline, the global pandemic and an aging heritage-listed building of 100+yrs, set the stage for a testing yet triumphant project for Brisbane architects JDA Co. Beginning the project in January 2021, the new owners of the venue were eager to raise the curtain on the refurb in time for end-of-year shows. Meanwhile, given the theatre is a beloved Brisbane icon, the architects were challenged by a complex refurbishment that demanded the building be preserved yet revived.

  • JDA Co. completed the refurbishment in nine months, by carefully coordinating a staged design and construction rollout. Prioritising roofing approvals ensured builders could get on site swiftly. Meanwhile, the team progressed design and documentation to expedite remaining works as soon as the roof was complete. In JDA Co.’s efforts to extend the life of the building, and its long-term sustainability, they focused on functional additions, rather than removing the theatre’s heritage fabric. The redesigned interior fit-out whimsically contrasts the theatre’s restored heritage ceilings. Meanwhile, a reimagined mezzanine provides exceptional stage sightlines, and the re-opened gallery offers additional space for functions.

  • The pandemic’s devastating impact on the arts (and those who rely upon it for their livelihood) has been felt around the world. In Brisbane, the revitalisation of The Princess Theatre has helped meet increasing demand for performing arts’ venues on the city’s south side. Situated within the Clarence Corner precinct — much of which was recently reimagined by JDA Co. — the refurbished design signals a new dynamism and vitality for the streetscape. In particular, the addition of a front terrace on Annerley Road has created new outdoor spaces that have sparked a fresh buzz and enthusiasm for the area.

  • JDA Co.’s primary design strategy opens up sightlines to The Princess’ prominent heritage features. How? By opening up a non-heritage wall at the top of the main lobby stairs, out to the mezzanine. Upon entering, through an archway, patrons now have a glimpse of the original ceiling and its gas lamps. This theatrical approach lifts the veil on the secrets of the auditorium beyond. Meanwhile, the arch also frames a view of the stage from the opened-up first floor gallery space. This space is styled brightly to break from the dark auditorium and performance spaces below. In a further nod to The Princess’s theatrical origins, JDA Co. incorporated curves throughout the design of new auditorium bars, a café and gallery. The bars were designed like stage sets — complementing the heritage theatre yet bringing new drama to each space through a series of mirror-backed brass arches playfully undulating behind curved service points. Meanwhile, the introduction of dark timbers and brass reflects the classical materials found in the original colonial design.