by Meghna MehtaJun 03, 2020
The Ian Potter Centre for Performing Arts, designed by Melbourne -based firm Peter Elliot Architecture + Urban Design, is a contemporary live performance venue at the Monash University in Clayton, Australia. The centre has been redesigned and rebuilt using the same original forms and architectural semantic of the complex, and as the architects share, “the architectural language of the complex owes much to the original heroic forms of solid tapering shapes set on a base plinth”.
Apart from the complete refurbishment and repurposing of the existing Alexander Theatre with modern and contemporary features, new structures such as the side galleries, stage door and delivery dock pods have been added, along with extensive associate facilities located under the grass clad plinth. The Jazz Club extension replaces the old Rotunda building with a combination of rampart walls situated under a giant circular disk.
The Centre has been designed to provide all the facilities required for performing arts and university activities, including music, drama, comedy, classical theatre, dance, lectures, multi-media, functions and conferences. The patron’s intent and the architect’s designs are aimed at heralding a new era for the performing arts in Melbourne’s South east by providing state-of-the-art facilities for professional productions, students, community groups and local residents.
The Centre contains three different performance spaces - a refurbished 586-seat Alexander Theatre with two adjoining newly added dynamic venues, a 130-seat Sound Gallery, and a 200-seat Jazz Club café bar along with new front-and-back of house amenities. A large linear foyer has been juxtaposed to link all spaces that effectively create a fourth performance space. The multiple venues have been designed in a way that they can be used independently or in conjunction to host all forms of creative ventures.
The ‘Alex’, as it is affectionately known, was a crucible for the 1960s avant-garde theatre scene and student events. Designed by Eggleston MacDonald & Secomb Architects, the building opened to much acclaim in 1967. “This (Alex) poses as a heroic piece of architecture with great presence. It is a strong monolith of a building with three tapering block-like forms sitting on a grassy plinth,” inform the architects.
The existing Alexander Theatre has been extensively refurbished and expanded. This popular venue has been updated to cater for new audiences with improved accessibility, supporting facilities and new foyer and function rooms.
The Alex is the first proscenium theatre in Australia to install a Meyer Sound Constellation active acoustic system, which enables the auditorium’s acoustics to be digitally adjusted to suit a wide range of musical performance, not otherwise possible to accommodate in a theatre originally designed for the spoken word.
The new Sound Gallery is a versatile flat floor performance and event space. The format is a rectangular black box with an 8-metre ceiling and specially designed shadow-box wall panelling to enhance the interior acoustics. The venue can be programmed for spectacular immersive light and sound performances or used as a teaching and research tool.
The new Jazz Club is a live music venue, daytime café and evening club lounge. It also provides much needed function and café facilities serving the Sound Gallery and Alexander Theatre as well as dedicated music events and casual student activities. The café has a north-facing outdoor terrace connected to the Matheson Library forecourt and the Forum beyond.
The project showcases that though a building can be a celebrated piece of architecture in the city during the time it was built, it requires timely and apt rejuvenation for it to be further used, rejoiced and valued for the generations to come.
Name: The Ian Potter Centre for Performing Arts
Location: Monash University, Clayton Campus, Melbourne, Australia
Gross floor area: 4210 sqm
Time taken from conception to construction: 2014-2016
Time taken for construction: 2016-2019 across three project stages
Design firm: Peter Elliott Architecture + Urban Design
Project value: $54 million
Commencement: November 2014
Completion: March 2019
Design team: Peter Elliott, Jude Doyle, Daniel Bennetts, Sean van der Velden, Hosna Saleem, Shigeru Iijima and Geoff Barton