The Cairns Performing Arts Centre and associated Parklands is the key new Civic offering for the culturally rich city of Cairns in North Queensland. The design responds to the city’s dramatic Tropical setting.

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Project Name: Cairns Performing Arts Centre
Studio Name:
Cox Architecture
Location: Cairns, Australia
Photography: Andrew watson
Completion date: 2018

Cairns Performing Arts Centre by Cox Architecture - Sheet1
Reception ©Andrew watson

The building is part of a Cultural Precinct with Munro Martin Parklands which combined delivers a main Proscenium Arch theatre of 950 seats, a 400 seat Flexible Studio and an external Performance Amphitheatre with capacity for 3,000.

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The project reflects a commitment to both residents and the broader region with links to the Torres Strait and the Islands of the Pacific Rim. Integrated indigenous Art was commissioned from distant Erub Island in the Torres Strait with the unique recycling of found nylon fishing nets.

Cairns Performing Arts Centre by Cox Architecture - Sheet2
Auditorium ©Andrew watson

Performance is integral to indigenous cultures in North Queensland and CPAC provides a support network for emerging talent, vocations in drama and for touring performances. The building is a form ‘in the round’ with sculptural massing that accommodates a tall flytower within a cohesive form.

The tropical response is distilled in the foyer’s solar screen that faces north west to the adjacent Parklands. Landscape colours and the traditions of weaving contribute to the complexity of a screen that changes expression through night and day providing diffuse light to the foyer.

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Cairns Performing Arts Centre by Cox Architecture - Sheet3
Gathering Space ©Andrew watson

The arrangement of the bar to work both internally and externally responds to both setting and a relaxed Cairns lifestyle. Interiors further explore a rainforest sensibility with a dramatic timber battened space that achieves acoustic tasks and contributes to the drama of performance.

“CPAC has significantly expanded the city’s capacity to host a wide range of performances and will offer a better venue for local artists. This building is a milestone in achieving our vision for Cairns to be recognised as the arts and cultural capital of Northern Australia. This strategy will change the soul and the character of our city and is a key step in advancing the evolution and progress of our city.” – Bob Manning, Cairns Mayor

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Rethinking The Future Awards 2022