Ian Potter Centre for Performing Arts, Monash University
- Peter Elliott Architecture + Urban Design
The Ian Potter Centre for Performing Arts is a new contemporary live performance venue at the Clayton campus of Monash University. The Centre provides facilities for a full range of performing arts and university activities, including music, drama, comedy, classical theatre, dance, lectures, multi-media, functions and conferences. This heralds a new era for the performing arts in Melbourne’s south east by providing state-of-the-art facilities for professional productions, students and local community groups. The Centre contains three different performance spaces, a refurbished Alexander Theatre, a Sound Gallery and Jazz Club café bar along with new front and back of house amenities.
The Alexander Theatre is one of the universities most important foundation buildings. This popular venue has consistently featured in the life and creative energy of students, professional performers and the local community for over 50 years. It was nearly demolished, but sense prevailed, and in spite of a 2 year difficult rebuild program the new complex has recently reopened to much acclaim. It is a welcoming place that is easy to navigate, whether for the traditional theatre experience, the experimental and intimate Sound Gallery or the lively Jazz Club, there is something for everybody in the heart of the campus.
The three venues can work independently or in conjunction to host to all forms of creative venture. A large linear foyer linking all spaces, forms effectively a fourth performance space. The new complex not only serves the needs of the university but is a popular venue for amateur community groups, local schools and professional organisations. The new Jazz Club is a live music venue, daytime café and evening club lounge. It also provides much needed function and café facilities serving the Sound Gallery and Alexander Theatre as well as dedicated music events and casual student activities.
Theatres by their nature are intensely complex buildings and never more so than in recent times, given the extent of the digital transformation of all facets of the performing arts. The Alexander Theatre, affectionately known as the ‘Alex’, was a crucible for the 1960’s avant-garde theatre scene and student events. The building opened to much acclaim in 1967 and has been transformed and expanded to serve a new generation. This is a heroic piece of architecture with great presence. It is a strong monolith of a building with three tapering block-like forms sitting on a grassy plinth.
The refurbished Alexander Theatre and new Sound Gallery have installed a Meyer Constellation active acoustic system, which enables the auditorium’s acoustics to be digitally adjusted to suit a wide range of musical performance, not otherwise possible to accommodate in a theatre originally designed for the spoken word. John Meyer, the inventor of the system refers to it as another instrument rather than just a piece of sound equipment. The venues can be programmed for spectacular immersive light and sound performances or used as a teaching and research tool. The facility is at the cutting edge of innovation in theatre design.
The venue is programmed, operated and managed by the Monash Academy of Performing Arts (MAPA) Headed by Prof Paul Grabowsky, MAPA is host to an exciting annual season of performances known as MLive. MAPA aims to foster new and emerging talent and has philanthropic funding to commission new Australian works including musicals. Upwards of 40,000 people attend events at the Alexander Theatre each year. This is set to grow with the improved and expanded facilities now including the Sound Gallery and Jazz Club