The Best Place to Hear

A world-class facility for the performance of music.

Melbourne Recital Centre comprises two of the finest acoustic spaces in the southern hemisphere, carefully crafted to present the best music the world has to offer.

Drawing fundamental influence from the traditional box shape of European concert halls, Elisabeth Murdoch Hall is lined with striking plywood panels of Australian plantation Hoop Pine timber, designed to resemble the back of a beautiful instrument and provide greater acoustic intimacy across the 1000-seat auditorium. Featuring a raked stalls level, circle, distinctive split-level balconies and a stepped-platform ceiling at 6m, 9.5m and 13m intervals, the platform acoustics enrich the strength, clarity and blending of instruments as well as the delicate communication between ensemble players on stage, with a mid frequency reverberation time of 1.6 – 1.8 seconds.

The superbly organic acoustics of the hall extend to the Salon, a uniquely intimate 150-seat space that can also act as a companion room to the hall. Comprising a series of diffusing timber panels with tessellated plywood faces tipped in and out to form a modulated wall and ceiling, Percy Grainger’s 1937 graphic score, Free Music No. 2 is inscribed across the surface to inspire players and audiences alike.

Music is central to all our lives. Visit us at Melbourne Recital Centre and experience one of the finest live music venues in the world.

Building Awards

The Melbourne Recital Centre has won the National Award for Public Buildings at the 2009 Property Council of Australia Rider Levett Bucknall Awards for Innovation and Excellence.

The development was a clear standout amongst category finalists at the gala event held at Sydney’s Convention and Exhibition Centre.

Property Council of Australia National President Daniel Grollo said “the Melbourne Recital Centre is an internationally acclaimed performance venue, recognised for its architecture and state of the art acoustics”.

“Developed by Bovis Lend Lease and designed by Ashton Raggatt McDougall, this beautifully crafted development is one of a kind, reflecting both a passion for music and design through construction,” Mr Grollo said “This world class venue opened its doors in February this year and was delivered three months ahead of schedule, allowing tenants more time to prepare for an intense 2009 performance program.”

“The Melbourne Recital Centre more than satisfies the needs of its audience, through state of the art facilities spanning 4,000 square metres, while incorporating the very latest in stage technology and performer amenities,” Mr Grollo said.

The Melbourne Recital Centre and Melbourne Theatre Project also won the Victorian Architecture Medal, the William Wardell Award for Public Architecture and the Joseph Reed Award for Urban Design at the Australian Institute of Architects Victorian Architecture Awards.

At the ceremony held in Melbourne on Friday 10 July 2009 the Judges commented: “This project offers a significant architectural experience that successfully crosses design boundaries, having achieved accolades in the diverse categories of urban, interior and architectural excellence”.

Professor Philip Goad encouraged Victorians to visit the Melbourne Recital Centre: “Most people really ought to make a visit to the Recital Centre, they will be amazed at the interior, which is like a beautiful violin”.

Design and Construction Credits

Yarra Arts Project Control Group

Jim Cousins AO
Chairman, Melbourne Recital Centre

David Percival
Vice-Principal & Chief Financial Officer, University of Melbourne

John Wiles
Deputy Director, Major Projects Victoria

Dennis Carmody
Deputy Director, Agencies & Infrastructure, Arts Victoria

PROJECT MANAGER
Major Projects Victoria

DESIGN TEAM
Architect: Ashton Raggatt McDougall (ARM)
Acoustic Consultant: Arup Acoustics

BUILDER
Bovis Lend Lease

Architecture

Ashton Raggatt McDougall

“The design challenge was both aesthetic and technical. Post war halls, according to our listener reference group, have been mostly disappointing for players and audiences. It appeared that these were unsuccessful in both acoustic and architectural character. So our first task was to decide on the typological shape of the Hall, since this seemed to focus the history, culture and science of acoustic music performance. Was the new Hall to be a variation of the egg, the fan shape or some similar modernistic geometry? Would functional analysis, sightline diagrams, acoustic modelling, or neo-plastic expression, compulsorily generate the space? Or alternatively, would the shape of the Hall be something developed from traditional models such as the shoe-box? At the beginning of the project, recital venues such as Wigmore Hall (1900, Collcutt), Musicvereinsaal (1870, Hansen) and Concertgebouw (1883, van Gendt), were nominated as the benchmarks for Melbourne’s new Hall. These are the great centres of music performance in the world – but they are 19th century buildings. And in the case of the Viennese and Dutch halls, replete with lumpy luxury, gilded caryatids, friezes, dentils and coffers et al.

Already, in the architectural world, there are explorations into the new music space. Most of these new buildings have been concert halls – a type less restricted than the Recital Hall. Frank Gehry in Los Angeles and Rem Koolhaas in Porto have attempted such reinventions. We too searched for a meaningful architectural response to classical and acoustic music performance in the 21st century.

Surprisingly we began with the shoe-box – the shape that the experts say guarantees/predicts acoustic perfection. Once adopted, the formal issue becomes a non-battle. We escape the desperate attempt to deny the box. Instead, the resolution of the Hall becomes one of the creation of room-ness, a remarkable room of spectacle, surface and sound.

There is no proscenium, just a stage. The performers are in the same place as the audience. The traditional box has been nudged out of box-ness. The space is symmetrical like the old halls. But it is not planar, nor is it articulated by panels of textured surfaces and flying reflecting plates. It looks like a basic room but it is in reality, a complex space.

Elisabeth Murdoch Hall is lined with timber. Ply-wood panels are routed to create the grain, like wooden ivy over the walls, which in turn makes the architectural character of the space – like the back of a beautiful instrument, or the lining of a luxurious suite.”

Acoustics

Arup Acoustics

“Melbourne’s Recital Hall will be ranked amongst the world’s great halls for its uncompromised acoustic, architecture and artistic program.” Excerpt from The Recital Hall Brief; December 2003.

Arup Acoustics leads the international consortium providing acoustics, theatre planning and theatre technical systems advice for Melbourne Recital Centre. Lead Acoustic Engineer is Dr Raf Orlowski, based in ‘Arup Acoustics’ Cambridge UK.

After a rigorous 2-year design phase, which included extensive consultation with Melbourne Recital Centre’s Industry Reference Group, construction of Elisabeth Murdoch Hall is almost complete.

Acoustic design for Elisabeth Murdoch Hall.

Chamber music is the most intimate of musical performance genres. The role of the recital hall is to promote intimate communication between the players and to allow the audience to share the intensity and dynamics of the performance.

The fusion of architectural and acoustic design throughout the development of Elisabeth Murdoch Hall has produced a visually and aurally exciting hall. Based on the proportions of the classic shoe-box shaped European concert hall, the geometry has been enhanced to provide greater acoustic intimacy and improved sightlines for the entire audience.

The entire timber interior forms a unique instrument, purpose designed to complement and enhance chamber music performances. The interior surfaces incorporate an organic texture that diffuses the sound to enhance the timbre and blending of instruments. This form is further diffused by the pixelation effect of the upper surfaces and rear wall. The integrated design results in excellent strength and clarity with a rich, reverberant response that is unique to this hall.

The mass of the timber lining has been designed to achieve strong bass response within the hall. This enhanced low frequency response provides a musically rich timbre to music presented in the hall, particularly for cello and bass. The most critical area in the design of a recital hall is the platform acoustics. The surfaces surrounding the platform must promote the delicate and immediate communication between ensemble players. Elisabeth Murdoch Hall has a unique, stepped ceiling surrounding the platform that has been carefully designed to provide strong acoustic reflections to support musicians hearing themselves, and to assist with ensemble with other players.

The design of Elisabeth Murdoch Hall provides excellent acoustic strength and clarity with a rich, reverberant response.

Southbank Cultural Precinct Redevelopment

The Southbank Cultural Precinct Redevelopment is an initiative of the Victorian Government through Arts Victoria, the Office of the Victorian Government Architect, and the Department of Planning and Community Development.

The Southbank Cultural Precinct Redevelopment will reinvigorate Melbourne’s cultural spine as the vibrant cultural and community heart of Southbank. It will give Melbourne the cultural precinct it deserves – an open, accessible, integrated, imaginative precinct that connects the arts to people and people to the arts.

Click here for more infomation about the Southbank Cultural Precinct