Waikato Regional Theatre

Overlooking the Waikato River, this world-class theatre will transform Hamilton’s cultural precinct, introducing a standout destination for the arts.

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Project Details

Clients Fosters Construction, Momentum Waikato Community Foundation
Sector Culture & Community
Location Kirikiriroa Hamilton
Discipline Architecture, Landscape Architecture, Interior Design
Status In progress
Design Collaborator Charcoalblue (theatre design consultants)
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An international-calibre theatre that celebrates its unique location

The Waikato Regional Theatre represents an arts-led urban regeneration project for Hamilton that will reconnect the city with the Waikato River, a treasured taonga of Waikato-Tainui and Ngāti Tūwharetoa. Integrating with the surrounding urban fabric, the theatre will form the civic heart of a cultural precinct undergoing a renaissance led by the local community.

With a majestic view overlooking the Waikato River, this centre for the arts will encourage creative innovation by accommodating a wide range of activities and events, providing a springboard for local talent, and celebrating the region’s vibrancy and cultural diversity. A new 1,300-seat lyric theatre has been uniquely designed to maximise use of the space, being able to operate in both theatre and orchestra modes.

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Celebrating Hamilton’s rich heritage

The Victoria Street site in the city centre has been home to the Hamilton Hotel since 1864, as well as the historic Embassy Theatre, the predecessor to the existing 50-year-old Founders Theatre, which this development replaces, and so has a rich and important history in Hamilton.

The new structure connects to the east side of the existing heritage hotel to address the river and reinvigorate the street frontage. By connecting the city with the river and retaining outstanding heritage and natural features, including mature native planting along the riverbank, the design delivers a distinctive experience to visitors that will be unique to Hamilton and its community. The proposed design will also include restoration of the hotel to incorporate a new gallery, hospitality on Victoria Street and a riverside café designed to inject new energy into the inner city.

The new theatre incorporates a series of integrated indoor and outdoor courtyard gathering spaces able to be used for events and informal performances. These include an internal planted atrium flooded with natural light, a new foyer which introduces a generous visual link to the river, and a sculptural stair connection between the Victoria Street entry and the riverside promenade one level below.

River views from this foyer are strategically framed by striking blade walls set at right angles to the river, designed not just to strengthen the verticality of this spectacular space and frame a series of outdoor garden rooms, but to emphasise the omnipotent presence of the mighty Waikato River and its importance to the city of Hamilton.

“People will soon realise it’s been the best thing that’s happened to the CBD in a long time”

Paula Southgate, Mayor of Hamilton