The timber cladding installed as an acoustic solution in the Australian Chamber Orchestra’s auditorium also gives the space a refined warmth.

Large historic wooden beams unique timber cladding are among the components featured in the now completed works undertaken at the 100-year-old historic pier building at Walsh Bay on Sydney Harbour.

Emerging from a caravan of masterplans, “cultural ribbons,” policy and regulation, Pier 2/3, in Sydney’s Walsh Bay has joined Wharf 4/5, whose refurbishment was completed in 2020, to become “a premium twenty-first-century space for theatre and music performance”.

The overall precinct, including the original Pier 2/3 “finger wharf,” is listed on the New South Wales State Heritage Register. The original development, constructed between 1913 and 1920, comprised 10 wharves of cargo sheds. The nearly 200-metre-long, predominantly timber structure survived relatively intact for a long time, despite many attempts to revitalise the precinct.

Now a series of repairs to critical building components has been undertaken alongside consolidation work and has given the building, which is a theatrical home, and new lease of life.

The surprisingly delicate steel strongback trusses, which form an important part of the building interior, were repaired and augmented. These trusses are an interesting counterpoint to the large timber bracing elements, which have been repaired by resplicing new timbers into the vertical trusses that traverse the structure.

Considerable unseen work was done to consolidate the structure of the building. Prior to the commencement of work, the building could be described as permeable and the harbour could be easily seen through the gaps in the diagonal grey ironbark floorboards (which were an integral part of the structural bracing system). Isolating the inhabited spaces from the exterior to different degrees, in accordance with their performance requirements, was a critical part of the design response.

Finely detailed glass, steel, brass and timber amplify the human scale and establish a harmonic interplay throughout the building. Belonging to the Australian Chamber Orchestra (ACO), The Neilson is an auditorium lined in calibrated timber (Queensland maple), while the finely detailed Rehearsal Room has a perforated ceiling and staccato timber and brass walls with integrated instrument shelving.

The complete redevelopment which showcases many timber elements is not only providing a sustainable location for the arts sector in Sydney, it’s preserving and utilising an historic site and will visually provide enjoyment for decades to come.