A behind-the-scenes look at major upgrades to Arts Centre Melbourne

A behind-the-scenes look at major upgrades to Arts Centre Melbourne

Since it first opened in 1984, Arts Centre Melbourne’s Theatres Building (under the Spire) is undergoing its most significant refurbishment as part of the Victorian Government’s Melbourne Arts Precinct Transformation project.

Important works have already begun as part of the package and are set to include new state-of-the-art amenities backstage, technology upgrades, improved accessibility, as well as new dining and hospitality outlets.

In addition to upgrading Arts Centre Melbourne, the $1.7 billion Melbourne Arts Precinct Transformation project also includes delivery of The Fox: NGV Contemporary, and a new 18,000-square-metre urban garden connecting the precinct. When complete, the project will attract millions more tourists to the Arts Precinct each year to enjoy the best of Melbourne’s cultural and creative offerings.

A major part of the works will be upgrades to Arts Centre Melbourne’s Theatres Building. These developments will improve back-of-house facilities including an expanded underground loading dock, a new rehearsal space, and an event space. When complete, patrons taking in a show in the State Theatre will be able to enjoy greater comfort and accessibility with new seating and improved acoustics.


Concept render of the State Theatre redevelopment.


Specific accessibility changes include increasing the number of positions for wheelchair users, enhanced amenity seating (wider rows between seats), as well as adding swing-away arms where possible to make access easier for mobility impaired people. Parts of the interior design in the auditorium will also be improved such as the carpets and lighting to be sensitive to people with sensory needs. Technology improvements will include advanced hearing augmentation systems and broadcast capability, which will allow audiences to experience the shows in different ways.

From an operational perspective, the expansion of the loading dock is a critical part of the works package.

Arts Centre Melbourne’s technical director for the Reimagining Project, David Harvey, shared, “the loading dock is the hub of our three theatre venues in the Theatres Building – all the scenery, lighting, AV and broadcast equipment goes into and out of the theatres from here. Some of our shows require up to 25 semi-trailer loads to bump into the theatre. By increasing the size of the loading dock by almost double, we’ll be able to load and unload more efficiently, with improved safety for back-of-house teams.”

Already, the works have removed more than 2000 tonnes of concrete from the rear of the Theatres Building to make way for the expanded loading dock, all while Arts Centre Melbourne has continued to present an exceptional calendar of shows. The changes are set to bring the State Theatre up to global contemporary standards, helping to attract more world-class performances for the public to enjoy.

Arts Centre Melbourne chief executive officer Karen Quinlan AM said these important refurbishments, new spaces and improved accessibility were significant steps towards transforming the visitor experience.

“The work that we’re doing is really setting the scene for the future. It positions us as having a unique offering in Melbourne,” she said.

Arts Centre Melbourne remains open throughout the construction works, so you can still enjoy shows, events, and its restaurants throughout the lifecycle of the project. •

For more information: artscentremelbourne.com.au/about-us/reimagining


Main Caption: CONCEPT ONLY. Arts Centre Melbourne's Reimagined western entry. NH Architecture.

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