The arts architect

With new Fringe venue The Depot, architect Steve Grieve continues his three-decade career of combining two loves – the arts and architecture.


Since moving to Adelaide from Sydney in 1978, Steve Grieve, Director of Grieve-Gillett, has been a major part of the arts fabric of Adelaide. He has been involved in major arts projects such as the Lions Art Centre, Tandanya, JamFactory and Adelaide Studios, as well as Fringe and Festival venues such as Adelaide Festival’s infamous Red Square for the 96 Festival. Red Square influenced new major Fringe venue The Depot, an open-air hub located on the site of the old Franklin St bus depot.

Grieve, who was recently named the AIA President (SA Chapter), joined the Fringe board last year. He was the Chair of Country Arts SA for six years and a Director of Regional Arts Australia, as well as a participant on a host of other arts boards.

“It’s a sense of community responsibility,” Grieve explains about his arts affiliations. “Why do people stand for parliament? Why do people join councils? You just develop an interest and get involved.”

Grieve says completing jobs that combine the arts and architecture, such as Glenside’s recent Adelaide Studios for the South Australian Film Corp and the new home for the Adelaide Central School of Art, which is in the same precinct, is “enriching and important”.

“I happen to enjoy being involved with the arts, so the projects we tend to do are involved with that. But we, Grieve Gillett, do a lot of infrastructure projects; railway stations, lots of stuff in the public realm, work in universities, I’m working on the new hospital, so they are typically in the public realm.”

The Depot, an open-air Fringe venue that hosts entertainment facilities, bars, pop-up food stalls and more, continues the Red Square tradition of using shipping containers to build walls and define space.

“There’s a connection in that we used shipping containers at Red Square and basically that’s because they were cheap. You can use shipping containers really effectively to define space. Not only are you building walls and defining spaces but also you’ve got all these containers that you can use for storage. It makes sense. There were a number of things we looked at but shipping containers were readily available and a logical thing to use. It certainly has a connection back to Red Square but it’s certainly not based on Red Square, as such.”

Grieve Gillett joined The Depot project after David O’Sullivan rang Grieve to say he was part of a group interested in developing the former Franklin St bus depot into a multi-purpose arts venue.

“He knew of my involvement in earlier Fringe and Festival projects over the years such as Red Square and things like that. He sent me a brief and invited me to have a discussion about it.”

Grieve invited two of his younger staff members, Dino Vrynois and Jessica MacDonald, to join him for the discussion, as they had their “fingers on the pulse”. Vrynois is now deeply embedded in the project as The Depot’s Creative Manager.

“He’s [Vrynois] been able to bring in an array of different people. The graphic designers, fashion industry people and all these different food stalls. He’s got connections with those guys and brought them in and made them all work together, which is great.”

The Depot has been able to tap into different communities by hosting the food truck expo Fork on the Road as well as pop up stalls such as Bar 9 and Cantina. Then there are the nightly local and national bands and events such as Colourpalooza. This sense of bringing together different communities is an important part of what makes arts venues work, according to Grieve.

“No matter if you are in the city, the country or wherever, to get arts venues to work, and I think The Depot fulfills this, it must have a multi-faceted appeal. It must appeal to different groups in our community, so they all go to one place for different reasons but then they intermingle and cross-pollinate. Location is really important, as well as the connection to different communities.”

Grieve believes that Adelaide can host three major Fringe and Festival hubs (Barrio, the Garden of Unearthly Delights and now The Depot) over the Mad March period, not forgetting other venues such as Tuxedo Cat, Arcade Lane and Gluttony.

“If we go back to the early 80s, it was either the Fringe or the Festival where it happened. It was one of the other. In some ways the Fringe started to be the focal point of that March period for quite a while from 84 to the mid-90s and really Red Square gave the Festival its big focal success, in my view. It appeared there was only enough audience for one or the other. From 96 onwards the audiences were building and you could sustain two focal points and they could co-exist. After Red Square the Festival had the Squeeze Box then the Persian Garden and now Barrio and they’ve all been really successful. The audiences are built, so Adelaide can sustain a much larger arts festival audience. Now we’ve got the Garden, Barrio and The Depot as three different focal points and they’ll be others that grow and develop.”



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