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In the Space: Incinerator Theatre

The Incinerator Theatre in Ipswich, Queensland, is a unique example of how history, architecture, and the arts can intertwine to create something truly special. Originally a municipal waste incinerator designed by Walter Burley Griffin, the mind behind the design of Canberra, this site has transformed into a cherished performance space, embodying a remarkable story of adaptation and resilience.

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The incinerator’s story began in the 1920s with the collaboration of engineers John Boadle and Vasilie Trunoff and entrepreneur Nisson Leonard-Kanevsky. Their innovative reverberatory incinerator design led to the formation of the Reverberatory Incinerator and Engineering Company (RIECo) in 1929. Griffin, along with his partner Eric Nicholls, was later commissioned to design the Ipswich incinerator, which became the only Griffin building in Queensland.

Despite Griffin never seeing his creation due to his untimely death, the incinerator was completed in 1936 with distinct features like its orange and mulberry bricks, Art Deco elements, and a functional design catering to a population of 20,000. However, the rise in population and changing waste management practices led to its closure in the early 1960s.

Abandoned and at risk of demolition, the Incinerator’s fate took a positive turn thanks to the protests of local groups and the vision of the Ipswich Little Theatre Society. The building was reimagined as a theatre, a transformation that not only preserved Griffin’s work but also gave the community a unique cultural venue.

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Modern Use

Today, the Incinerator Theatre stands as a proud example of adaptive reuse in architecture. The building’s layout, originally designed for industrial efficiency, now provides an intimate and atmospheric space for performances. The theatre features a stage installed in the tipping area, dressing rooms, actor facilities, and storage for scenery flats, creatively utilizing every aspect of the former incinerator.

The Incinerator Theatre, now a part of Ipswich’s vibrant cultural scene, offers an array of plays and performances in its 80-seat venue. It is a testament to the community’s commitment to preserving history while fostering the arts. The Ipswich Little Theatre Society, established in 1946, continues to thrive, using the theatre to bring diverse artistic experiences to the region.

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More than just a performance space, the Incinerator Theatre is a living monument to innovative design, community action, and cultural enrichment. It stands adjacent to the picturesque Queens Park, integrating nature, history, and art. The theatre’s journey from an industrial incinerator to a beloved cultural hub reflects the dynamic evolution of Ipswich itself, showcasing the power of vision and perseverance in transforming spaces and communities.

To find out more about using the space or to see an event, visit the Ipswich Little Theatre.

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