Adelaide Festival Centre

Adelaide Festival Centre

The first Adelaide Festival of Arts was held in 1960 as a bold attempt to promote Adelaide’s place as a centre for the arts within Australia. It became a biennial, and from 2013 annual, event. Its focus is now the Festival Centre built above Elder Park and the banks of the River Torrens.

This site has been associated with entertainment since the creation of the Torrens Lake and Elder Park with its rotunda in 1881. The Festival Centre complex covers the site of the City Baths, Cheer-up Hut and Advertiser Sound Shell as well as the Government Printery, and Lands Department stables.

The construction of the Festival Centre represented a milestone in South Australian history. It was a dramatic expression of the state’s role in Australian cultural development, and of local political commitment to that development. It was built by the state government as the centre for performing arts in South Australia and was officially opened on June 2, 1973. The architects were Hassell and Partners and the builders A.V. Jennings Industries (Australia) Limited.

The Centre is a modern complex notable for its bold structuralist form. The multi-purpose Festival Theatre, the more intimate drama theatre (Playhouse), the experimental theatre (Space) and the Amphitheatre are integrated successfully by the roof form and the formality of the dominant octagonal module. The individual components of the complex are noted for their versatility, the appeal of internal spaces, the quality of finishes, the good acoustics, and the planning of seating and facilities, which are held in high regard by artists and patrons alike.

The complex has been criticised as “strident” in colour and finish. There has also been concern that the Festival Theatre and Playhouse Theatre express themselves as concrete buildings when they are in fact steel framed. There are also some serious structural faults. Yet as a whole the Centre is genuinely historic and the architecture may be regarded as progressive, while reflecting the period in which the concept was first mooted.

The Centre’s striking form contrasts with adjacent buildings in the classical idiom and it dramatically punctuates the Torrens Lake. The Hajek sculpture plaza and additions such as the larger restaurant and conference centre are not as happily related, the plaza in particular butting uncomfortably against the exposed northern wall of Parliament House.


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The Adelaide Festival Centre is significant due to it's modern architecture and it's progression into an Adelaide landmark.

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Images of Adelaide Festival Centre

  • Adelaide Festival Centre
Frank Hassell
A V Jennings Industries
Building materials
Architectural styles
5 Late Twentieth-Century Period 1960–2000, 5.8 Post Modern
1973 -
Architecture and design features
Progressive design
Engineering features
Council Ward
Alternative Addresses
Town Acre
Planning Zone or Policy Area
Original owners
State Government of South Australia
Original occupant
Later occupant/s
Purposes and use
Recreational, Theatre
AS2482 classification
13040 - Theatre - Cinema
Public Access
Business/trading hours
State Heritage ID
ACC Reference No.
DPTI Heritage No.
Certificate of Title No.
CT 5895/158 D59055 A100
NTSA file exists
Heritage Status
State Heritage listed
State heritage listing
State Heritage listed
Date of State heritage listing
Local heritage listing
Date of Local heritage listing
NTSA listing
Date of NTSA listing
Section 23 (4) crtiteria
Risk status
Historic Themes
3 Developing a City Economy
3.1.10 Moderism
5.2 State Government
5.2.1 Creating State Government Institutions and Facilities
6.2 Recreation and Entertainment
6.2.1 Theatres
Arts, accoustics
Australian Curriculum references
Year 6: Australia as a Nation


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