A mix of public and private investment will deliver state of the art acoustics for the new Ian Potter Centre by 2018.

The Victorian Government has today announced a new $45 million arts complex to be developed as part of Melbourne’s Monash University. A mix of public and private funding will see the government committing $10 million while $5 million will come from the Ian Potter Foundation. The rest of the monies will come from the university itself. In recognition of the substantial private philanthropy, the new complex will be named The Ian Potter Centre for Performing Arts.

The cornerstone of the new project will be a revamp of the existing 586-seat Alexander Theatre and the addition of two new performance venues: a 130-seat Sound Gallery and a 200-seat Jazz Club. In order to accommodate both dramatic and musical performances, the theatre will benefit from in installation of a swanky new Meyer Sound Constellation System (what is known as an ‘active acoustic system’). Considered one of the best ways today to achieve state of the art acoustics, the Meyer system allows a venue’s soundscape to be digitally adjusted in real time to achieve optimal results. The Monash project will be the first time such a system has been installed in a traditional Australian proscenium arch theatre.

The new foyer entrance (Artistic impressions, subject to ongoing design resolution)

The technology will enable the space to adapt within minutes to the different sound needs imposed by a wide range of events from jazz, classical, chamber, contemporary, theatre and cinema, at the flick of a switch. Composer and jazz luminary Paul Grabowsky, who is also Executive Director of the Monash Academy of Performing Arts, is clearly excited at the prospect of the new system, created by California’s applauded Meyer Sound Laboratories. “It’s fantastic to see our iconic performing arts venue progress to the next stage and further widen its offering across a diverse spectrum of artistic genres,” he said. “We will continue to attract the highest calibre of performers to this exciting new space which will provide endless opportunities for our students, staff and the surrounding community into the future.”

Built at the height of 1960s modernism, the Eggleston MacDonald Seacomb designed Alexander Theatre is considered one of the finest examples of that style of architecture and has played host in its 50-year history to companies from Melbourne Theatre Company and Bell Shakespeare to Bangarra Dance Theatre and Chunky Move.

Building the original Alexander Theatre

The venue, which was closed early this year, is being redesigned by Peter Elliott Architects and is expected to re-open in January 2018 to be followed by the Sound Garden and Jazz Club in 2019. The new Sound Gallery will not have a stage as such. Instead it is intended to be a versatile flat floor performance space that can be transformed to suit a variety of needs. It will seat 130 people or accommodate 150 standing. The Jazz Club will be a brand new live music venue that can function as a cafe during the day and a “fully catered” venue at night. With its north facing glazed wall opening onto an outdoor terrace, it aims to accommodate up to 200 guests.

Monash University President and Vice-Chancellor, Professor Margaret Gardner AO, thanked both the Victorian Government and The Ian Potter Foundation for their generosity and ongoing commitment to arts and culture. Approximately 600,000 non-student visitors attended events at the campus last year, and thanks to the new development it is hoped that those figures will grow to over one million in the years ahead. “Monash University’s arts facilities are vital to the cultural life of the University and to the community in this rapidly growing corridor of Melbourne,” said Ian Potter Foundation Chairman Mr Charles Goode. “This redevelopment will completely revitalise the Monash arts precinct, extend the uses of its existing facilities, enhancing their appeal and creating a dynamic space for the University and the hundreds of community groups that rely on its venues. We commend the Victorian State Government for recognising the importance of the arts and music in their support of this initiative.”