Eric Strauss Specialist Performing Arts Centre

Hampton SHS, Morley Drive East, Morley, Western Australia

Lights, camera, access! The High School Performing Arts Centre project which became a full-scale infrastructure upgrade.

Hampton Senior High School’s Eric Strauss Specialist Performing Arts Centre was in need of a substantial upgrade. Its dual purpose as both a place for learning and a venue for performance placed unique requirements on the new design. It would need to be functional and hard-wearing enough for the school’s requirements, as well as offering a comfortable, visually appealing space for the visiting public.

We took our cues from the surrounding school buildings. Built in the 1960’s, they were simple Brutalist structures with a raw, functional feel and the new theatre is similarly pragmatic. We remodelled the exterior of the building with a dramatic new canopy, which gives the Centre real presence from the street and leads visitors up from the car park below. Inside, we installed a full-size dance floor for students and a public theatre with full theatre lighting, a proscenium arch, a sprung timber floor and retractable tiered seating. The interior walls are ‘dressed’ with bright shards of colour to add a sense of movement and excitement. The behind-the-scenes areas were equally important; new dressing room facilities were included and we positioned the loading and back-of-house zones for easy servicing during school hours. Flexibility is also built into the project, with the provision of operable walls and zoned lighting enabling the hall to be used as two classrooms when required.


We also faced some unforeseen challenges, as sometime happens. Midway through the design process, significant additional requirements pushed the time and budget of the project to their limits. Hampton SHS’s basic infrastructure was very outdated and needed to be brought up to current code as part of the job. We connected the school to sewer (previously it had been on a leach drain system), provided a new Western Power substation and implemented a fire service where previously there was none. Those parts of the school included in the theatre upgrade were also brought up to current accessibility requirements with the provision of ramps and a unisex equal access toilet.