Ian Potter Southbank Centre
John Wardle Architects and Lendlease
Maison Blackbutt engineered timber flooring
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Located in the very centre of Melbourne, Ian Potter Southbank Centre’s accordion-like profile is a real centrepiece of the Melbourne University campus. Designed on a small footprint, the compact tower is organised across eight levels – all created with both silent focus and energising interactions in mind.
Designed by John Wardle Architects, the contemporary design of the conservatory embraces the all-encompassing power of music. While there are spaces designed for solitary practice that provide respite from fellow students and music aficionados, the venue is designed to let sounds travel into the common spaces and various break-out areas, embracing the informal and playful character of the space.
The state-of-art facility fosters curiosity and interaction through various innovative spatial solutions. Numerous windows with acoustic glazing encourage the eye to wander and be immersed in the activity within learning and rehearsal rooms without affecting the acoustics of the space. Pedestrians too can experience the inner workings of musical education as they get a glimpse of the orchestra practice through a large and inviting oculus window on the ground floor.
Each space at Melbourne Music Conservatory was designed to maximise acoustic performance and to allow control over critical acoustic metrics. For instance, the specification of high ceilings helps reduce sound level exposure while the modular acoustic treatments enable the occupants to use one room for different purposes.
Similarly, interior surfaces specified as part of this project have a role to play in creating the best possible acoustic experience. In the large rehearsal halls built as box-in-box structures to isolate any vibrations and external sounds, the linings, textures and patterns either reflect or absorb sound – and elevate the sensory experience through their visual appeal.
Aesthetic appeal was one of the reasons the designers selected George Fethers’ Maison Blackbutt flooring. The timber floor with subtle natural features has added softness and warmth to the performance setting. In contrast, the matte and low VOC finish, in combination with a bespoke figuration of the boards, has elevated the ambience of sophistication. But the aesthetics were not the only driver behind Maison Blackbutt’s selection for the conservatory. The flooring stands out as it also offers the required level of toughness for rolling musical instruments.
An ideal choice for this purpose-built state-of-art musical institution in its aesthetic and performance characteristics, George Fethers’ Maison flooring fits in perfectly with the environmental credentials of the space. Built by the Lendlease construction team, the design uses PEFC-certified Australian wood sourced from a sustainable local forest.
As Ian Potter Southbank Centre celebrates the activities of music rehearsal and practice, it is no wonder the venue is known as the green room for Melbourne’s arts precinct. With its three main venues accommodating almost 800 audience members and a design that prioritises the highest quality of acoustic performance, there is no doubt that Ian Potter Southbank Centre is Melbourne’s musical heart.
Photography by Trevor Mein
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