ESSO BHP Billiton Wellington Entertainment Centre

ESSO BHP Billiton Wellington Entertainment. 2004 AIA Architecture Regional Prize
City Councils
Wellington Shire Council
ESSO BHP Entertainment Centre. 2005 Interior Design Award Commendation Public / Institutional Interior Design

esso bhp billiton wellington entertainment centre

The centre affectionately known by locals as the wedge is diagonally aligned on the site to enrich the public realm. This orientation provides a physical link and axis between the town and the port of Sale. The centre thereby reveals all of its activities to the main street and to the north sun. The palette of materials and boardwalk express the idea of a waterfront building. The interior incorporates spaces for temporary and permanent artwork alongside a vital programmes for the performing arts.



Client Statement

The Esso BHP Billiton Wellington Entertainment Centre is a project driven by community interest and lobbying over a 25 year period. The feasibility report by the Dramatic Group identified that Wellington Shire residents have significantly lower than average attendance at arts events, the report attributes this to lack of infrastructure and therefore reduced opportunities to participate. 

The opening of the centre and to now has seen significant change in the landscape of arts access as well as other activity. From October to June there were 11,530 ticketed attendances at arts events as well as an estimated 20,000 attendances at meetings, functions, café and free events, outdoor events, and exhibitions.

Visitors to the centre have expressed extremely high levels of satisfaction with the centre  both as a place to visit, a space to enjoy and a facility that has changed both the view and outlook and experience of the town as well as the opportunities to engage in seeing great quality performance, conferences and other events.

The opening of the centre engaged the community in three weeks of activity from the fanfare work Aerotechnica that bought the RAAF Roulettes together with electronic composer Steve Adam through kids carnival, Opera Australia,  Flat on Your Bacharach and the local Eye2Eye production of Rocky Horror, the community was transformed.

The centre continues to attract high satisfaction and a great variety of events including theatre, comedy, music, conferences, dance, meetings, and functions and exhibitions. The artists and performers love the space and the atmosphere of the centre. The integrity of the open spaces in the building, capturing light and view, all contribute to the centre’s functionality, accessibility, usability and the sense of the environment and has been embraced by users of the centre. The centre achieved 59% utilisation in its opening year and continues to grow.

Kirsty Ellem,
Centre Manager

Comments from visitors

“Well done, something needed in Sale long time coming but worth the wait”

“Fantastic to have a venue of such quality in our area”

“It’s lovely. The place invites you to dress up and feel like it’s a special night out”

“We think you’re doing a wonderful job, the entertainment centre is an asset to the whole shire”

“It’s a fantastic centre – super lay-out and interval function … brilliant, vibrant great composite design and materials. We’ll be back again and again”

2004 Regional Prize

The architect, Philip Harmer, has responded beyond the brief to provide an urban building that opens vistas and routes from the main road through to the historic but neglected Port of Sale.

We visited on a Sunday and found a building alive with activity.  The architect has dealt expertly with difficult scale issues.  The high mass of the theatre envelope is modulated down to a relaxed transparent street frontage and boardwalk.


Robust industrial details sit alongside more streamlined, elegant finishes with occasional references to the port beyond.  The darker facade to the carpark frames a Hasegawa sculpture from Sale’s sister city.  The client group appreciated the theatre design skills that Harmer brought to the project.

The Entertainment Centre is a significant contribution to the Sale community.

RAIA Awards 2004, Regional Prize , 
Awards Jury Citation



  • 2004 Australian Institute of Architects – Regional Prize
  • 2005 Interior Design Award Commendation – Public / Institutional Interior Design


  • ARCHITECTURE AUSTRALIA. March/April 2002. “Radar Projects. Sale Performing Arts Center”
  • MONUMENT. Issue 61 2004. Love for sale “Esso BHP Billiton Wellington Entertainment Center by Graham Crist