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Competition: Sydney Rehearsal Follies

An international ideas competition has been announced for a 1,200m² performance stage and rehearsal complex for musicians in Sydney (Deadline: 27 March)

The ARCHmedium-organised contest is open to students and young architects, and seeks proposals for a temporary pavilion within the Royal Botanic Gardens next to Jørn Utzon’s iconic Sydney Opera House.

The speculative project, which marks 60 years since Utzon’s competition-winning scheme was first announced, explores the potential for introducing integrated rehearsal rooms and performance spaces for music and theatre within the waterfront green space.



Royal Botanic Gardens

According to the brief: ‘ARCHmedium proposes the creation of a new integrated pavilion dedicated to music and the scenic arts under the centennial trees of the Botanic Gardens park. The programme establishes a series of independent follies for the rehearsal of students and young bands.

‘At the same time, we propose a set of small rooms for musical and theatrical shows to introduce the new generations to the population. ARCHmedium calls for proposals that efficiently integrate into the set, making ties between both historic institutions and that add value to the emblematic whole.’

Utzon’s expressionist concrete design was chosen following a design competition for the venue which received more than 230 entries. The building completed 16 years later, in 1973 following Utzon’s resignation from the project. It was made a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2007, and today receives more than 1.2 million visitors every year.

The Royal Botanic Gardens, which sits alongside the opera house, is home to the Sydney Conservatorium of Music which was founded in 1915 and has around 750 students. Other nearby landmarks include the 19th-century Government House, the Art Gallery of New South Wales and the Museum of Contemporary Art Australia.

Proposals for the pavilion should feature three rehearsal rooms, three performance halls, a ticket hall, café and WC facilities.

The overall student winner, set to be announced on 24 April, will receive €2,500. There will also be a second prize of €1,000, third prize of €500, 10 honourable mentions and a young architect prize of €2,000.

How to apply


The deadline for submissions is 27 March


Special registration from 25 November to 15 January: €60.50
Early registration from 16 January to 12 February: €90.75
Regular registration fom 13 February to 12 March: €121

Contact details


Visit the competition website for more information

Acoustic Shells case study: Q&A with Jason Flanagan

The design director at Flanagan Lawrence discusses lessons learned designing an outdoor performance space for Littlehampton, England

Jason flanagan

Jason flanagan

How did your Acoustic Shells project deliver a suitable outdoor performance space for Littlehampton’s sea front?

The Acoustic Shells act as a stage and a shelter for the local community, sited in a sunken garden beside the beach in Littlehampton. The concept for the shells is derived from the notion of a traditional bandstand. They are used by all sorts of local acoustic bands and choirs, and occasionally for amplified events and parties.

One shell faces the town and forms the principal bandstand. The acoustic design of the interior creates a reflective concrete surface to project the sound of the performers to the audience in the sunken garden. The other shell faces the beach and forms a more intimate structure as a shelter for listening to the sound of the sea or for buskers to perform facing the promenade.



Acoustic Shells by Flanagan Lawrence

Which architectural, material and other considerations are important when designing small-scale performance spaces such as these?

The needs of the different types of performers are an important consideration. Our acoustic shells are designed to function as natural projectors of the sounds created within them. The spaces need to be extremely easy to use without requiring a lot of effort to set up events. The durability of the concrete structures was also a key consideration given the harsh maritime climate on the beach in Littlehampton as well as the risk of vandalism.

What advice would you have to participants on designing a rehearsal folly for Sydney’s Royal Botanical Gardens?

A response to the remarkable context is obviously crucial, but my advice would be to focus on how any architectural response creates an acoustic interior that works for the musicians; allowing them to hear themselves and play as an ensemble while projecting a high quality of sound to any audience.



Acoustic Shells by Flanagan Lawrence