Sydney Festival: Students reimagine the Famous Spiegeltent

9 January 2012

Architecture students had to reimagine Sydney Festival venues like the Famous Spiegeltent.
Architecture students had to reimagine Sydney Festival venues like the Famous Spiegeltent.

Imaginative designs by University of Sydney architecture students for a captivating sister venue to the Sydney Festival's Famous Spiegeltent will be exhibited in January 2012 at the Tin Sheds Gallery.

Part of Sydney Festival 2012, the Youtopia exhibition will showcase the kaleidoscopic design alternatives for the iconic venue, as well as Master of Architecture students' designs for two other Sydney Festival performance spaces: the Turbine Hall on Cockatoo Island and the Quadrangle at the University of Sydney.

The exhibition results from a challenge laid down by the Festival team in January 2011 to reimagine the performance venues as part of the three-year partnership between the University and the Festival.

"The Famous Spiegeltent is now such a beacon for Sydney Festival as a popular social hub and one of our favourite play-spaces for both audiences and artists," says Festival Director Lindy Hume.

"She's been seducing audiences all over the world for nearly a century so naturally we wondered what a 21st-century Spiegeltent design might look like."

The Festival team briefed the group of Master of Architecture students and their leader, Dr Dagmar Reinhardt, to create a new demountable version to complement the Spiegeltent's elaborate detail and fun-loving atmosphere.

The 90-year-old Belgian venue has appeared at festivals and fairgrounds throughout Europe and beyond, playing host to some of the world's greatest cabaret artists and musicians, including Marlene Dietrich.

"The idea was to create a demountable travelling theatre that could be lent out to other festivals in the same way the original one is," says Dagmar Reinhardt, a lecturer in Architectural Design and Digital Architecture. "And just like the Spiegeltent, our design had to be able to be disassembled and be placed into two containers."

The Spritz, one of the designs produced by the students.
The Spritz, one of the designs produced by the students.

The students in the Faculty of Architecture, Design and Planning's Digital Research Studio spent the first semester being briefed on the particularities of theatre spaces by the Festival's creative team and esteemed industry experts, including Legs on the Wall Artistic Director Patrick Nolan and National Institute of Dramatic Art (NIDA) Head of Design Michael Scott Mitchell.

The resulting 30-page design proposal for the reborn Spiegeltent presents an innovative performance space called the Spritz, a stunning 300-seat modular environment made from an ingenious construction of plywood, galvanised steel sheets and plastic.

Dome-shaped, using cones and caps, and designed to be assembled in stages, the detailed plans for the Spritz were presented to the Sydney Festival team in July and met with overwhelming praise.

"The Youtopia exhibition will feature works that represent Australia's most promising young architectural minds," Dagmar Reinhardt says.

"The exhibition will also present the application of digital technology by advanced design processes in 3D modelling and scripting environments, and the production of prototypes and models through the faculty's Digital Fabrication Lab."

While festival-goers contemplate the future of these performance venues, University of Sydney academics will feature in the current-day version of the Spiegeltent as they turn their hands to stand-up comedy in the 'Bright Club', revealing the comedic value of their areas of expertise.

Event details

What:Youtopia exhibition of alternative venues to the Famous Spiegeltent

When: 12 to 26 January, Tuesday to Saturday, 11am to 5pm

Where: Tin Sheds Gallery, 148 City Road, Chippendale. See map

Cost: Free

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Katie Szittner, 02 9351 2261, 0478 316 809,