Those unfamiliar with the city of Brisbane and its local environs (visitors, in other words) may not be sure what to expect when they head to New Farm, a suburb of the city, for a trip to the Brisbane Powerhouse. As the name suggests, this structure was originally built as a power station in the 1920s, and for several decades it provided energy for the trams traversing the city, with power supplied by coal fuel. But thanks to changes to the transportation system in the late ’60s, resulting in the replacement of trams by a network of city buses, the station was decommissioned in 1971 and fell into disrepair, becoming a mainstay for vagrants and street urchins.
At this point you may be wondering why you would want to visit a run-down, industrial structure that plays home to a population of transients. But there’s a lot more to attract you to this historical building these days. Thanks to reclamation and refurbishment that allowed the building to be reopened as an arts centre in 2000 (not to mention an endowment of $3.5 million from the Brisbane City Council in 2006 for further renovations), the monolithic masterpiece of architecture that was once a functioning power plant has been transformed into a performing arts centre known simply as the Powerhouse. And if you’re looking for a unique venue in which to experience the artistic and cultural scene in Queensland, then this is one site you’ll surely want to visit.
The architecture itself is enough reason to make the trek to New Farm. When architect Peter Roy was commissioned to turn the site into a venue for the arts, he quickly realized that preserving the structure and all of its history was of the utmost importance. Thankfully, most of the original site was still intact, and Roy utilized collapsed portions of the structure as part of his new creation, transplanting materials from damaged sections to new construction meant to make interior spaces more conducive to hosting the public. However, he left several historical throwbacks in evidence, including a gantry crane used by the power station and graffiti walls (or “aerosol art”) courtesy of the parade of squatters and artists who called the space home. In short, the rich history of this building can still be found throughout the structure for viewer enjoyment.
Of course, the main reason why most people visit the Brisbane Powerhouse is to take advantage of the many entertainment opportunities centred on its artistic offerings. This multi-arts plaza presents an assortment of contemporary performance arts, as well as a wide range of events and activities for public consumption. In addition to performances held in the Powerhouse Theatre and the Visy Theatre, as well as visual art installations, the centre offers all kinds of workshops for children and the community at large, not to mention a weekend farmer’s market.
With both indoor and outdoor spaces to accommodate performances, classes, and other events, a rooftop terrace, and a bar and restaurant, the Brisbane Powerhouse is truly a powerhouse of possibilities when it comes to entertainment options. So if you’re looking for a good way to spend the day engaging in artistic pursuits, or you’d like an evening out that includes both eats and visual treats, put Powerhouse on your list – it will certainly deliver the diversions you seek.