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 master plan for the complex (along with the National Gallery of Victoria) 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 is located by the Yarra River and along St Kilda Road, one of the city’s main thoroughfares, and extends into the Melbourne Arts Precinct.
Arts Centre Melbourne Spire
Roy Ground’s National Galery of Victoria (as it was known then) has been a locus for controversy ever since its commissioning. The project caused the 1962 split between Grounds and his erstwhile partners Robin Boyd and Frederick Romberg. At the gallery’s opening in August 1968, architectural critics alternately savaged and praised this bluestone treasure house. Much of the controversy has to do with Ground’s quixotic and arguably brilliant design-a giant Oriental palazzo with a geometric plan, a city block in length, and with three square courtyards inside.
On a 1960 trip to Europe and the United States with NGV Director Eric Westbrook, Grounds was inspired by the 18th-century Palazzo di Capodimonte outside Naples and the medieval Castello Sforzesco, Milan. Grounds was also keen to use a local stone and took the NGV Buildings Committee to look at the bluestone walls and great arch of the old Melbourne Gaol (a gesture ironically echoed in Premier Sir Henry Bolte’s opening speech, when he praised the gallery as a perfect place for ‘hanging’).
Ground’s design was like a renovated neo-classical palazzo/castle sitting in a moat, but with Oriental overtones, especially given the floating roof and its upturned eaves, the timber gridded ceilings and the Bamboo Courtyard with its fountains, black bamboo and bluestone pebbles, which was designed to relate directly to the collection of Oriental art encircling the courtyard. Other original features of the NGV include the state’s coat of arms above the Richardsonian entry arch designed by Norma Redpath; the waterwall, long derided as a fishmonger’s window, but loved for decades by the Victorian public; the circular lift within its bush hammered concrete core; the Victorian ash paneling in the galleries and foyer; and the Great Hall where Leonard French’s stained-glass ceiling, thought to be the largest in the world, is the baronial climax to this eclectic masterwork of the late Sir Roy Grounds (1905-1981).
In 1999 Mario Bellini and local firm Metier III designed alterations and additions to create more exhibition space. When the renamed NGV International opened in 2003, two of the courtyards were filled in, among many changes. The art collection was also split between international and Australian, with the Australian art moved to a new purpose built gallery, NGV Australia at Federation Square.
Arts Centre Melbourne Spire
As with a church steeple or spire, the purpose of the Arts Centre Spire is symbolic, providing a visual feature and signpost for the entire complex.
Sir Roy Grounds’ 115-metre space frame design included spectacular gold webbing around its lower section, stimulating the folds of a ballerina’s tutu. As a result of increasing structural deterioration of the original upper spire structure, with cracks discovered in four of its 12 largest stainless steel nodes, the centre trust’s engineering advisers recommended the upper spire be replaced.
Completed on January12, 1996, the new spire reaches 162 metres above St Kilda Road with a 10-metre mast at its peak.
The spire, with the capacity to create images that will glow, sparkle and twinkle, has 6600 metres of fibre optic tubing, 17,700 metres of power and control cables, 14,000 incandescent lamps, 150 metres of neon tubing on the mast alone, 496 computer control devices to manipulate the colours and movement of the lights, and 900 power and control plugs.
Arts Centre Melbourne - Spire
The complex features a large steel spire with a wrap-around base.
The original spire envisaged by Roy Grounds was 115 metres tall and because of its complexity was one of the first structures in Australia to rely on computer-aided-design (CAD). After significant public controversy, political inquiry and financial reassessment, the spire was completed by the Minister for the Arts, Norman Lacy, installing the lightning conductor rod at its pinnacle on 20 October 1981.
By the mid-1990s, signs of deterioration became apparent on the upper spire structure, and the Arts Centre Trust decided to replace the spire. The new spire was completed in 1996, and reaches 162 metres, though it is still based on Grounds' original design. The spire is illuminated with some 6,600 metres (21,653 feet) of optic fibre tubing, 150 metres (492 feet) of neon tubing on the mast and 14,000 incandescent lamps on the spire's skirt. The metal webbing of the spire is influenced by the billowing of a ballerina's tutu and the Eiffel Tower.
A wedge-tailed eagle and peregrine falcon were utilised in early 2008 to deter groups of sulphur-crested cockatoos from damaging the spire's electrical fittings and thimble-sized lights.
On 1 January 2012 the spire was accidentally set afire by New Year's Eve fireworks. Two sides of the structure were set ablaze by fireworks that apparently discharged improperly, causing flaming debris to fall to the ground. The fire burned for about forty minutes, causing only cosmetic damage to the tower.
Arts Centre Melbourne
It was designed by architect Sir Roy Grounds, the masterplan for the complex (along with the National Gallery of Victoria) 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.