The spectacular monolithic building that was once the engine room for Brisbane’s tram networks is today the engine room for Brisbane’s fringe arts scene. Designed by substation architectural guru Roy Ogg and built between in stages 1928 and 1940, for decades it not only powered the largest tram network in the southern hemisphere but also provided electricity for many of Brisbane’s nearby suburbs.
After being decommissioned in 1979 it fell into disrepair and became a hub for society’s disenfranchised, its walls a canvas for their self-expression until its purchase by BCC and reinvention as an arts hub by Mayor Jim Soorley. Much of this graffiti has been retained along with the industrial relics from its Powerhouse days, thereby providing a poignant and gritty backdrop for the artistic pursuits within.
As a multi arts venue incorporating two theatres (the Visy a 200 seat and the Powerhouse a 400-700 seat ‘black box’ theatre) and a central open performance platform, the Powerhouse hosts everything from World Theatre and film festivals to stand-up comedy, cutting edge and children’s theatre, International musical acts, dance and circus. And during school holidays it is home to the sometime Powerkidz programs.
As far as entertainment goes, few things can match a night at the Powerhouse, with drinks and supper overlooking the river, the after dark atmosphere of the moodily lit once abandoned building and the intimacy of the shows in the little downstairs theatres.