Monday, October 22, 2012

Hamer Hall Reopens: Is it $136 Million Well Spent?

Riverside entrance with access from water transport
The $136 million refurbishment of Hamer Hall (formally the Melbourne Concert Hall) has been delivered on time and within budget, and is now open to the public after two years labour. But what will patrons, performers, production and technical teams get for the money?

The Hamer Hall renovation has seemingly touched every aspect of the venue, with improvements made backstage, front of house, in green rooms, to technology and even in the delivery dock. Arts Centre Melbourne says an expected annual increase of 600,000 new visitors to the precinct justifies the cost.

Schuler Shook was the theatre-planning consultant engaged for the project. Their work represents the greatest cost portion at $128.5 million, and the most extensive. Company partner Robert Shook said the company’s contribution included planning the auditorium and stage, front-of-house and back-of-house areas, and designing and specifying the special theatre equipment systems such as audience seating, stage rigging, stage lifts, and stage lighting. 

“Our planning work includes studying audience sight lines and ensuring that all audience members have the best possible view of the stage,” he told Stage Whispers. 

When Hamer Hall opened 30 years ago, some regarded the structure to be dull and austere. Recent changes to access and aesthetics should make the arrival experience gentler and more user-friendly.

City view from riverside entrance
Conceptually the building has been ‘turned around’ 90 degrees. Patrons are drawn to the vast glass walls and walkways on the north side, offering a pleasing view of the Melbourne skyline, riverside access, and boulevard walk along the river to Southgate. A new ramp from the river-boulevard to street level improves access.

While the St Kilda Road entrance remains, an additional entrance from the river enables access to and from Southbank restaurants. If you have a boat, presumably you can now paddle to concerts via the Yarra, alighting at the new riverside entrance. It’s all so Venetian, darling!  Continue reading

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