Russell Yelland

Therese Sweeney Music Centre – Cabra Dominican College

Completed: 2018
Client: Cabra Dominican College, Cumberland Park
Awards:Colorbond Award for Steel Architecture, 2019 SA Architecture Awards
Commendation, Buildings or Renovation/Modernisation Under $2M, 2019 LEA SA Chapter Awards

A 130-year-old school with nationally renowned musicians deserves an inspiring music centre.

At Cabra Dominican College, we discovered a champion drum corps and an exceptional music curriculum in need of a new home. Presented with an ambitious brief, a modest budget, and some stakeholder apprehension about the process, we were determined to exceed the community’s expectations.

What we did: Secondary school upgrade
New build
Music Centre
Contemporary build in heritage context

The new music headquarters would have to satisfy contemporary learning needs but also sit happily within a commanding heritage context. Recognised with the Colorbond Award for Steel Architecture at the 2019 SA Architecture Awards, the Therese Sweeney Music Centre demonstrates the importance of restraint and simplicity in design. A recessed double-storey gabled window settles a simple, steel-clad box form against the 19th Century convent opposite; a contemporary form that asserts its place without diminishing established building hierarchies.

What started as a new rehearsal space quickly expanded to become an auditorium with associated areas for band and solo practice, storage and recording facilities. Importantly, each room needed to be acoustically isolated, allowing for simultaneous use of all facilities without sound interference.

A detailed planning phase revealed the school’s desires for a learning space flexible enough to support the broader school’s needs. The new centre’s green room and recording studio facilities connect effortlessly with drama facilities at St Dominic’s Hall next door, effectively extending the neighbour’s footprintThe upstairs performance space offers a multiplicity of usestoo, with audiovisual equipment supporting general classroom activities, concerts, recordings or larger assemblies.


An elevated footbridge is now an important connection between the existing convent and the new music facility. This striking element addresses earlier issues of poor fire egress for the heritage neighbourwhile also improving general circulation across campus at the first-floor level.


Photography credits:Sam Noonan