Arts Centre Melbourne

Arts Centre Melbourne, Melbourne - Australia, Roy Grounds
Construction year: 1984
Address: 100 St Kilda Rd | MELBOURNE | Australia | Visit Website
Latitude/Longitude: -37.82121, 144.96849

The Arts Centre Melbourne, originally known as the Victorian Arts Centre and briefly officially called the Arts Centre, is a performing arts centre consisting of a complex of theatres and concert halls in the Melbourne Arts Precinct, located in the central Melbourne suburb of Southbank in Victoria, Australia.

It was designed by architect Sir Roy Grounds, the masterplan for the complex was approved in 1960 and construction began in 1973 following some delays. The complex opened in stages, with Hamer Hall opening in 1982 and the Theatres Building opening in 1984.

The Arts Centre site has long been associated with arts and entertainment and has previously been home to circus, theatre, roller and ice skating, cinema and dance. Coincidentally, as noted in the building’s big top shape, the site was known as Canvas Town during the early years of the Victorian gold rush.

After World War II the Victorian Government decided that Melbourne needed a cultural centre. After many years of discussion, a master plan was approved in 1960, with Sir Roy Grounds as the chosen architect.

During the ensuing years, and to accommodate difficulties associated with the geology of the site, changes to the original plans were made and eventually the Arts Centre emerged as two buildings – now known as the Theatres Building and Hamer Hall.

Responsibility for the project lay with the Building Committee, established in 1956 and chaired by Kenneth Myer from 1965 to 1989. For twenty five years the committee was a consistent force in the completion of the complex. Actor and film director George Fairfax, having joined the project in 1972, was appointed the first General Manager of the Building Committee and then the Trust, a position he held until 1989. As a result, Fairfax played an influential role in administration of the Arts Centre’s development.

Work had begun on the theatre site in 1973, with excavation work not completed until 1977/8, two years later than expected, and on the concert hall site in 1976. During the first phase of the project from 1972–1979 responsibility was with Rupert Hamer as Minister for the Arts and during the main construction phase from 1979–1982 with Norman Lacy as Minister for the Arts.

An Academy Award-winning expatriate set designer, John Truscott, was employed to decorate the interiors. His work was constrained only by a requirement to leave elements already constructed, such as Ground’s faceted cave concert hall interior, to which he applied jewelled finishes, and his steel mesh draped ceiling in the State Theatre, to which he added perforated brass balls.

During his tenure, Norman Lacy was constantly called on to defend the Victorian Arts Centre Trust and its construction program during some highly charged public debates in the Parliament. He had to defend the acoustics, the design of the spire, the rejection of the proposed changes to the Concert Hall interiors, the BASS ticketing system of the project, as well as its delays and cost over runs.

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