Winning design for new $188 million Riverside Theatres revealed

Artist impression of the new Riverside Theatre

A 1500 seat Broadway-style lyric theatre with First Nations inspired interiors is the hallmark of the winning design for $188 million plus redevelopment of Riverside Theatres.

The highly anticipated winning design, led by COX Architecture with 3XN Architects, Aileen Sage, Turf Design Studio, and Bangawarra, will more than double Riverside Theatres’ current capacity to 2,780 seats. The iconic design and increased capacity will help establish the venue as a world-class performing arts centre, welcoming more than 400,000 visitors per year.

Along with the new 1,500-seat lyric theatre, the venue includes a refurbished 760-seat Riverside Playhouse theatre, an all-new 420 seat black-box drama theatre and state-of-the-art 80 seat digital studio and cinema and enhanced public spaces.

City of Parramatta Lord Mayor Cr Pierre Esber said the Riverside redevelopment is a monumental step in Parramatta’s journey to become a global city.

“Parramatta is already the geographical heart of Sydney and the redevelopment of Riverside Theatres will create an iconic architectural landmark that honours our First Nations heritage and connects deeply with the cultural fabric of our city,” Cr Esber said.

“Once complete, Riverside Theatres will be a world-class performing arts centre featuring state-of-the-art facilities and enhanced public spaces that will double its capacity and supercharge the City’s night-time and visitor economies.

“The reimagined Riverside Theatres will attract talent to Parramatta as we become an epicentre for creativity with our deep roots in arts and culture alongside the new Powerhouse Parramatta.

“Our community will soon have access to a state-of-the-art facility that will attract major Australian works and the best of Broadway and the West End shows to Parramatta for the first time.

“It also offers more opportunities for local and international talent to amplify their stories in a soon to be brand new modern theatre.

“We are committed to providing a thriving cultural precinct in Parramatta and this new design for Riverside brings us one step closer to our end goal.”

The winning design was selected unanimously by the jury from a field of five final entries by internationally acclaimed design teams. The cohesive team crafted the reimagined Riverside Theatres to global best-practice standards, with a strong focus on accessibility and artistic flexibility.

NSW Minister for the Arts, John Graham said: “Riverside Theatres has a rich and important history in Western Sydney. The redeveloped theatres will open across the river from the Powerhouse Parramatta, two significant landmarks that will transform and reimagine Parramatta’s cultural precinct.

“The redevelopment will ensure people across Western Sydney have a new and reimagined performing arts centre that will allow the arts community and audiences to enjoy more performances on a far bigger stage.

“This was a key election commitment and is essential for Western Sydney’s cultural potential and economic prosperity.

“I’m also excited about the flow-on benefits for the night time and visitor economies, particularly with the opening of the Western Sydney Airport.

“The Riverside Theatres redevelopment stands as a testament to this commitment, offering a state-of-the-art facility dedicated to the arts, for generations of artists and audiences to come.”

Riverside Theatres Director Craig McMaster said the new Riverside Theatres will build on the venue’s 35-year, award-winning history as a cultural anchor for our community.

“Our redevelopment’s incredible new design and facilities will open the door to bringing the best in international and Australian performances directly to audiences from Parramatta and across NSW,” Mr McMaster said.

“Our project is not just about creating an iconic new building; it’s about creating a true centre for the performing arts in Western Sydney, a space where everyone feels welcomed and inspired and which embodies our commitment to cultural inclusion and creative excellence.”

Joe Agius, Design Director with COX Architecture, said on behalf of the winning design team, “The reimagined Riverside Theatres will be a major uplift in the cultural capacity for Parramatta and Greater Western Sydney. Guided by a commitment to the location’s First Nations origin and sense of place, our goal was for a design that sensitively responds to both the natural beauty of the river and the site’s city context. Our team of creative collaborators are honoured to be part of this transformative project for the City of Parramatta and New South Wales”.

Chair of the Design Excellence Jury Chair and NSW Government Architect, Abbie Galvin said, “Design competitions provide us the privilege of hearing from the deep and diverse talent in the design industry. The five submissions each proposed exciting, thoughtful and highly original designs for this special river site. Thank you to all the design teams who invested their energy and talents with such generosity, and thankyou to the City of Parramatta Council for running a very professional process.

“Congratulations to the winning team for their sophisticated and expressive design which has cleverly combined the complex requirements of state of the art performance spaces with a dynamic form that twists, shapes and modulates to respond to the river and welcomes the community.”

The Riverside redevelopment project is funded by City of Parramatta and the NSW Government’s Western Sydney Infrastructure Grants.

Construction for the reimagined Riverside Theatres will start in late 2025 with doors to the new multi-million performing arts facility set to open in 2028.

/Public Release. View in full here.