Designs expand State Theatre Orchestra Pit for Arts Centre Melbourne and the Melbourne Ring
Expanded to coincide with the upcoming Opera Australia performances of Wagner’s Ring Cycle, the innovative re-development at Arts Centre Melbourne has significantly increased the State Theatre orchestra pit capacity from 65 to 110 musicians, and provides the opportunity to host further large scale productions in Victoria.
As principal consultant on the project, Arup provided acoustic, structural andfire engineering
advice to the Arts Centre Melbourne, as well as contract administration services for the
Commencing on 18 November, The Ring Cycle is an epic four-part opera - an extraordinary and
magnificent work performed over fourteen hours. For these special performances, the newly
expanded pit will provide improved acoustics for performers and patrons, and improved orchestra
layout allowing for better musician ensemble, access, and circulation.
The design involved removal of the existing cantilevered concrete slab under the first two rows of
seats, which were replaced with movable seating wagons on an operable lift platform. The
dynamic platform can be lowered to provide an expanded pit, moved to floor level to retain the
existing seating configuration and pit size, or raised to stage level for an extended stage.
Arup’s design for a new modular pit handrail situated between the front row patrons and the pit
also allows users to now select three configurations - acoustically transparent, reflective or
absorptive – dependent on the performance.
“This project represents the culmination of several years of work with Arts Centre Melbourne in
redeveloping the orchestra pit. We are delighted with the resulting space which now offers greater
comfort for users as well as an improved acoustic experience for both performers and audience.”
– Andrew Nicol, Arup Australasia Acoustics Leader.
Working within a tight timeframe of three weeks to accommodate the theatre’s performance
schedule, the main demolition and building works were successfully completed on time and under
budget, with key stakeholders very pleased with the redevelopment works.
The project also recently won the Construction/Engineering Award for projects under AU$100m
at the 2013 Australian Institute of Project Management, Project Management Achievement
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