This project began with a brief to work on a dressing room annex; however utilising existing buildings and by managing a tight budget, the project became a fully fledged performing arts and conference precinct, including a fully restored 1000 seat lyric Opera House, conference suite with a 500 person ‘ballroom’ as its main function space, and flexible break-out rooms. It also has a new reception and foyer building with a retractable fabric roof over a multi-purpose exhibition and events plaza. Shand Shelton managed the project from conception to completion providing both the brief and design concept together with a fundraising template. The project was staged around maintaining operations and funding availability.

The $13 million development involved two Historic Places Trust Category One heritage building restorations, an art deco car sale showroom / yard and motor engineering workshop. This was a challenging project, demanding that whilst the Spanish mission façade of the Opera House remained pre-eminent, the new entry was to be celebrated and welcoming. The essence of the design solution was to extend the Spanish mission analogy with a shaded plaza surrounded by a Colonnade.

The new build spaces were created as a multi-level three sided adjacent structure providing for reception and Foyers. This released spaces in the Opera House for restoration. The Art deco showroom transformed into a cafe, the workshop recycled into exhibition, catering kitchen and amenities. The latter spaces reinforces enclosure around the Colonnade and the Plaza, which links directly to the new reception Foyer and hospitability spaces. The Plaza can (using theatre rigging technology to lift the counterweighted glass screens), be either a protected public space offering a seamless transition between Colonnade and street, or a closed separate entertainment space, or link as one space both Foyer and Plaza. The retractable fabric roof over the Plaza employs America’s Cup sail technology and hydraulics to open and close a fabric roof at the push of a button. Public space architecture, art and technology were combined to deliver a very flexible award-winning solution.



This Theatre was built in 1886 and was once the flagship of the empire of J. C. Williamson’s theatrical empire. It was the original home of the Royal Australian Ballet and National Opera Companies. Shand Shelton over saw the conversion of the ‘suspect’ stage house and manual hemp theatrical flying system to arguably the best,1600 seated lyric theatre in Melbourne.

The rich ambience and intimacy of the auditorium, great sightlines, good acoustics and exceptional dress circle make it the theatre of choice for many production companies and theatre entrepreneurs. The front-of-house has a sense of arrival, with welcoming and effective bars and hospitality areas. Its new stage-house complements the auditorium, making it accessible to touring companies. The project involved restoration of the auditorium and front-of-house including hospitality café and amenities; a back-of-house upgrade and the rebuilding of the stage-house.

Construction was in two stages with completion in 2004 at a cost of approx $7.3 million, on time and on budget despite the difficulties of dealing with a building dating back 1886 as well as a heavily unionised working environment. A design solution was devised to counteract the minimal site access and address the new structural requirements and loadings, involving replaned the access to the stage-house, improving backstage facilities, adding technology and new heating ventilating and fire systems.

The new structure for the counterweight flying system also served as structural strengthening for the existing stage house masonry walls. Brickwork needing to be removed was recycled as paving. In the front-of-house new crush bars were designed with one doubling as a café during the day. The main street façade was opened with offices to house ticketing and a florist, and enlivened for the street with tables and chairs for the café.

Shand Shelton were engaged for the architecture, theatre engineering and technology and as project managers, but also were appointed construction managers for all of the works. After the departure of the Theatre’s Managing Director just prior to opening, Roger Shand was asked to manage the Theatre from opening for a period of 14 months.

SHED 6 Wellington Waterfront


Shed 6 and the adjacent Arcade situated on Wellingtons waterfront where transformed from an underutilised exhibition space for the Plimmer’s Ark and an ageing, empty Shed to a multifunctional performance and events venue in just under 16 weeks of construction time.

The entire wharf that supports the Shed and Arcade was seismically strengthened; all the while the demolition and refurbishment for both the Shed and Arcade’s interiors occurred concurrently to meet the tight timeframe. Having withstood two major earthquakes and one of the greatest storms Wellington has had to offer in recent times throughout the construction phase, it is assured to outlast its initial 9 year lifespan to continue to provide an inviting, functional and fully adaptable venue for performances, concerts and conferences alike for many years to come.

ST JAMES THEATRE Wellington Central


The St James Theatre was one of J.C. Williamson’s premier theatres in New Zealand, a typical Victorian theatre with minimal front-of-house amenities and class conscious access for patrons. However architect Henry White’s original design was advanced for its day with a cantilevered dress circle and gallery, passive ventilation, good site lines and a good natural acoustic.

Shand Shelton was appointed by the Trust as the Development Manager and together with the Trust created the vision and took the project from a business plan through feasibility, land acquisitions, design and construction to opening night. Shand Shelton were also responsible for fundraising the capital cost. The project budget was $21.8 million. Final cost was just under this figure.

Today the St James is considered the best touring house in the country. The theatre has 1600 seats, a new flexible stage house and excellent back of house facilities. The fully restored auditorium provides patrons with a ‘night to remember’, as the original shallow horse shoe dress circle, (typical vaudeville design), provides great sight lines and powerful interaction between patron and performer. New foyers built around and within neighbouring buildings deliver all the pre-requisite amenities for modern hospitality and catering requirements and these spaces double as performance spaces in their own right for seminars, dinners and exhibitions.

The home of the Royal New Zealand Ballet was included as an integral part of the redevelopment, with three large studios, administration offices, costume manufacture and dancers’ common areas and meeting rooms.

It is one of the few venues in the country that operates without subsidy from its local Council.

T. +64 4 801 5170     F. +64 4 801 5172     E. Website Developed By Peter Onoufriou