White Bay Power Station's Restoration Is Officially Complete Before It Reopens as an Arts Venue in March

The historic power station will open to visitors for the first time in 40 years as an artistic, cultural and community hub.
Ben Hansen
February 15, 2024

White Bay Power Station is ramping up to unveil its new look and new use as a bustling arts and community hub, with lead builder FDC announcing that the restoration and rebuild works are officially complete. The historic site will reopen in March, acting as a core site for the 2024 Biennale of Sydney — the first time the building has been operational in more than 40 years and the first time it's been open to the public in a century.

The power station has been in the lengthy process of being revitalised and transformed into an arts, culture and community hub as part of the Bay West precinct. First constructed in 1917, the massive 30,000-square-metre building has been closed since it was decommissioned in 1984. Now it's been transformed into a site for diverse and boundary-pushing art, with FDC leading the charge on the build following its work on other significant cultural projects in Sydney, including Carriageworks, Phoenix Central Park, Chau Chak Museum and the National Arts School.

Among the works that FDC completed in order to get the heritage-listed site ready for the public, 1.2 million litres of contaminated water had to be removed from the basement, the iconic chimneys were provided with extensive reinforcement and the 45-metre-tall boilerhouse received widespread work, including the installation of a new staircase.

"White Bay Power Station has been a once-in-a-lifetime project for many on our team," says FDC Managing Director Russel Grady.

"With any heritage site, and without that vital building blueprint to guide us, it required a high level of agility and creative problem-solving skills to address the many challenges in bringing the massive site to life."

Adam JWC

The first artists breathing life into the space will be working within the Bienalle's 2024 theme Ten Thousand Suns. Heat, power, light, summer, joy, strength, the changing climate — they're all notions that spring to mind. This is what artists are being asked to ponder when creating their pieces for the citywide event.

Running from Saturday, March 9–Monday, June 10 across Sydney, and free to attend as always, the Biennale will feature works by artists such as William Yang, Tracey Moffatt, Serwah Attafuah, Kirtika Kain and Kaylene Whiskey among the homegrown contingent, as well as Sachiko Kazama from Japan, Francisco Toledo from Mexico and Malaysia's Anne Samat.

In addition to ample art for attendees to experience, the 24th Biennale of Sydney will also feature a contemporary music lineup in partnership with Phoenix Central Park. The venue's curatorial skills will be taken to new locations beyond its stunning Chippendale site, responding to both Ten Thousand Suns as a theme and the works on display.

Alongside the changes to the White Bay Power Station, the long-term plan for the Bay West precinct includes new employment spaces, 250 new homes with provisions for affordable housing and a new Metro station. Overall, the planned changes to the area are expected to create over four hectares of new public and open space.

White Bay Power Station is located at 28 Robert Street, Rozelle. Read more about the plans for the massive structure via the NSW Government website and the Biennale of Sydney's website.

Images: Toby Peet.

Published on February 15, 2024 by Ben Hansen
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