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Sidney Myer Music Bowl, Linlithgow Av, Melbourne, VIC, Australia

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List National Heritage List
Class Historic
Legal Status Listed place (21/09/2005)
Place ID 105743
Place File No 2/11/033/0706
Summary Statement of Significance
The Sidney Myer Music Bowl is a rare example of a large scale sound shell in Australia. The originality of the design stems from the structural system which was the largest of its type at the time and also equal to anything similar in the world at the time.
 
The Sidney Myer Music Bowl (1956-59) with its associated landscaping was the first major purpose-built outdoor cultural venue constructed in Melbourne. It has remained in continued use as the venue for a wide range of memorable events and performances. The Music Bowl is an excellent representative example of the Late Twentieth Century Structuralist 1960- style. It demonstrates the broad characteristics of the style include large scale free, sculptural, non- rectilinear spaces floating above the site. The Sidney Myer Music Bowl is an exemplar of a free standing structure featuring its large landscaped setting for dramatic effect.
 
The Sidney Myer Music Bowl has the ability to illustrate the national story of creative technical achievement. It demonstrates creative technical design, being a notable experiment in structural engineering, especially the use of structural steel, the architectural expression of structure through form and the principles of a draped tensile structural form.
 
At the time of its construction the Sidney Myer Music Bowl was one of a small number of structures in Australia to combine a tensile structural system with a free form roof and was the most important in terms of scale, sophistication and structural expression. The Sidney Myer Music Bowl differed from the international concrete shell structures which may have partly inspired its designers, and which offered a challenge to traditional architectural forms during this period. Its structural design appeared to echo the thinking of German architect Frei Otto, yet it predated experiments in tensile-stress construction by Otto and others by almost ten years. It also demonstrates use of a particular material, Alumply cladding in preference to the preferred thin concrete shell cladding.
 
The Sidney Myer Music Bowl was the first major purpose built live outdoor cultural venue constructed in Melbourne. Since opening in 1959, it has been continuously used for a wide range of memorable events and performances for large numbers of the Melbourne community. The Bowl is of significance to Victoria as a major and long serving location for a wide range of open air cultural events and performances. It is recognised as a cultural venue throughout Australia.
 
The Sidney Myer Music Bowl is associated with the works of Sidney Myer and the Myer family. Named for its benefactor, the Sidney Myer Music Bowl is among the best known projects of the Sidney Myer Charity Trust. The Bowl is of historical importance to the state of Victoria for its association with the Sidney Myer Charitable Trust and its association with the Myer family.
 
Official Values
Criterion B Rarity
The Sidney Myer Music Bowl is a rare example of a large scale sound shell in the Australian context. The originality of the design stems from the structural system which was the largest of its type at the time and also equal to anything similar in the world at the time.
 
The National Heritage List values are expressed by the whole of the Music Bowl structure including stage, seating and the retaining walls to the side of the stage and rear of seating.

Criterion D Principal characteristics of a class of places
The Sidney Myer Music Bowl (1956-59), the first major purpose-built outdoor cultural venue constructed in Melbourne, is an excellent representative example of the Late Twentieth Century Structuralist style. It demonstrates the broad characteristics of the style include large scale free, sculptural, non‑rectilinear spaces floating above the site. The Sidney Myer Music Bowl is an exemplar of a free standing structure featuring its large landscaped setting for dramatic effect.
 
The National Heritage List values are expressed through the whole of the Music Bowl structure including stage, seating, the retaining walls to the side of the stage and rear of seating and the associated landscaping as an expression of the structure. The new works introduced below ground, during the 1998-2001 refurbishment, and the sculpture Maggiore are not included in the associated landscaping.

Criterion F Creative or technical achievement
The Sidney Myer Music Bowl (constructed 1957-59) demonstrates the national story of creative technical achievement. It is of national significance for its creative technical design, being a notable experiment in structural engineering, especially the use of structural steel, the architectural expression of structure through form and the principles of a draped tensile structural form.
 
At the time of its construction the Sidney Myer Music Bowl was one of a small number of structures in Australia to combine a tensile structural system with a free form roof and was the most important in terms of scale, sophistication and structural expression. The Sidney Myer Music Bowl differed from the international concrete shell structures which may have partly inspired its designers, and which offered a challenge to traditional architectural forms during this period. Its structural design appeared to echo the thinking of German architect Frei Otto, yet it predated experiments in tensile-stress construction by Otto and others by almost ten years. It also demonstrates outstanding use of a particular material, Alumply cladding in preference to the preferred thin concrete shell cladding.
 
The National Heritage List values are expressed through the whole of the Music Bowl structure including stage, seating, the retaining walls to the side of the stage and rear of seating and the associated landscaping as an expression of the structure. The new works introduced below ground, during the 1998-2001 refurbishment, and the sculpture Maggiore are not included in the associated landscaping.
 
Criterion G Social value
The Sidney Myer Music Bowl was the first major purpose‑built live outdoor cultural venue constructed in Melbourne. Since opening in 1959, it has been continuously used for a wide range of memorable events and performances for large numbers of the Melbourne community. The Bowl is of significance to Victoria as a major and long serving location for a wide range of open air cultural events and performances. It is recognised as a cultural venue throughout Australia.
 
The National Heritage List values are expressed through the whole of the Music Bowl structure including stage, seating, the retaining walls to the side of the stage and rear of seating and the associated landscaping as an expression of the structure. The new works introduced below ground, during the 1998-2001 refurbishment, and the sculpture Maggiore are not included in the associated landscaping.
 
Criterion H Significant people
The Sidney Myer Music Bowl has a special association with the works of Sidney Myer and the Myer family. Named for its benefactor, the Sidney Myer Music Bowl is among the best known projects of the Sidney Myer Charity Trust. The Bowl is of historical importance to the state of Victoria for its association with the Sidney Myer Charitable Trust and its association with the Myer family.
 
The Sidney Myer Music Bowl is a fine example of one of Australia's leading architects, Yuncken Freeman Brothers, Griffiths and Simpson, and particularly the work of architect Barry Patten. However this recognition is not of outstanding heritage value to the nation.
 
The National Heritage List values are expressed through the whole of the Music Bowl structure including stage, seating, the retaining walls to the side of the stage and rear of seating and the associated landscaping as an expression of the structure. The new works introduced below ground, during the 1998-2001 refurbishment, and the sculpture Maggiore are not included in the associated landscaping.
 
Description
The Sidney Myer Music Bowl is set within 2.734 hectares of landscaped parkland located in the King’s Domain. The slightly modified natural slope was used to provide the amphitheatre form. The Sidney Myer Music Bowl is a canopy of aluminium-faced plywood supported by steel cables and tapered steel masts, stretched over a stage and orchestra pit with some fixed timber seating, and a sloping lawn area. Service and support rooms are located at the rear of the stage and underground, including beneath the stage.
 
The construction system consisted of a framework of Newcastle-manufactured pre-stressed steel wire cables and tapered steel masts, covered with aluminium-faced plywood ‘Alumply’ sandwich panels to form an acoustically correct shell, stretched over a stage, orchestra pit, timber seating and underground supporting facilities. The large primary catenary cable, slung between the two fibreglass and steel masts, was buried deep in the ground on either side; it supported 27 cables that swung down to a very large concrete and steel anchor buried in the ground more than 200 feet behind the masts. While the canopy is held down on the west, north and east sides by the cables and tubular steel window frame mullions, all of the primary structural joints and the joints between the plywood panels were designed to be flexible to allow the structure to act as a dynamic form and for limited movement under wind loads. The primary support cable is a bundle of seven steel cables, with a total diameter of 254mm (10 ins), anchored to the ground on each side of the open end of the Bowl and draped between two cigar shaped masts. The masts are 22.8m (75ft) high and spaced 33.5m (110ft) apart. They are circular in cross-section and have a parabolic tapering form reducing from 914mm (36ins) diameter at the centre to 406mm (16 ins) diameter at each end. The initial proposals for a hollow tubular steel construction were later changed, possibly at the instigation of the fabricator Fleet Forge Pty Ltd, to a composite construction comprising a welded square box form structural core and fibreglass cladding. The masts have hemispherical pivot mountings at the bases, supported on concrete pad footings, and cast steel top caps and pin jointed cable support shoes. The primary cables are encased with concrete below ground level at each end and are anchored to large reinforced concrete blocks buried some 12m below ground level.
 
A series of secondary cables is draped from the primary cable converging on a ground anchor located to the north of the stage approximately 60m behind the main support masts. The rear ground anchor is of pre-stressed reinforced concrete construction, with an inverted L-shaped cross section, and is sunk nearly 12m into the ground. The secondary cables are fixed to the primary cable with pin-jointed connections to large cast steel clamps fixed around the primary cable.
 
Transverse tertiary cables are draped over the secondary cable system and are fixed to individual ground anchors on each side of the Bowl. Their function essentially is to provide lateral stability to the structure and to counteract wind uplift forces on the canopy. They are also used to secure the Alumply cladding panels.
 
The Alumply panels comprise 12.7 mm (0.5in) thick plywood sheets clad on both sides with aluminium sheet. The panels are fixed between the tertiary cables and are bolted to rectangular galvanised steel brackets fixed to the tertiary cables with U- bolts. Washers fixed between the panels and the fixing brackets act as water seals and absorb movement. Joints between the panels were originally covered with flexible aluminium strips. The south edge of the cladding next to the primary support cable is reinforced against wind loads with full strength steel tube fixed on top of the panels with U-bolts.
 
During renovations of the Music Bowl the shell, apart from the original steel cables, was reconstructed. The aluminium and plywood cladding was replaced and clear glass used between the walls and the roof. Girders and stage rigging have been inserted for lighting infrastructure, and a new central control room behind the seating. High, textured concrete walls have replaced the original entries to the area. A walled court leads to the Green Room and a network of new rooms, including dressing rooms and a long rehearsal room have been constructed behind the stage. Under the shell new seating, wider aisles and disabled access have been inserted. The sprayed concrete retaining walls have been replaced with textured concrete ones which curve out to form balconies on each side. The refurbishment also included excavation of the hill to provide a café and amenity area. It is faced in concrete, with large glazed doors which fold back into the cafe.
 
The Music Bowl site includes the area to the south and on each side of the Bowl within the current fence line and an area to the north including the sloping access roads. The Bowl is oriented on a north-south access facing the upward slope to the south. The natural slope of the site was modified by construction of large earth mounds on either side and to the south of the Bowl to create an amphitheatre form and to provide additional shielding from outside noise. The amphitheatre is covered with lawn and is crossed by asphalt paths with brick and terracotta spoon drains on each side of the Bowl. The grassed slope south of the canopy was made steeper in 1989 to improve sight lines. Simple galvanized tubular steel railings line the sloping paths on each side of the Bowl. Trees are planted around the perimeter of the amphitheatre to the south and on top of the mounds. A cast bronze sculpture Maggiore (Pino Conte) is located on the lawn south-west of the Bowl. The undated sculpture, comprising a seated female figure supported on a steel and concrete base, appears to date from the 1950s (RAIA Register of Significant Australian 20th Century Architecture UIA Nomination).
 
The compositional integrity of the building and its setting is articulated by the contoured landscaping. The surrounding landscaped parkland mostly comprises expanses of mown grass and groups of mature eucalypts and other native and exotic tree species.
 
History
The Myer Music Bowl project was initiated by the Sidney Myer Charitable Trust which was established upon the death of the founder of the Myer Department Store empire, Simcha Baevski (Sidney) Myer. The Trust’s philanthropic donation enabled the construction of this purpose built outdoor venue for the public to enjoy live outdoor performances. Myer's nephew Norman Myer oversaw completion of the project in his role as chairman of the Trust. In 1980 Sidney Myer’s son, Kenneth Myer transferred the management of the Bowl from the Sidney Myer Charitable Trust to the Victorian Arts Centre Trust.
 
In 1922, Harold Desbrowe-Annear, in his book For Every Man his Home, published a plan for the redevelopment of Melbourne in which the King's Domain was the new cultural heart of the city, flanked by the city's major arts institutions. One of these was to be an open-air auditorium for about 5,000 people situated where the Sidney Myer Music Bowl stands today. Desbrowe-Annear chose the site as it was visible from Flinders Street and the city. In 1929 Sidney Myer, a lover of music, established the ‘Music for the People’ series of free open-air concerts by the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra in the Botanical Gardens, and had expressed a wish that a permanent home for such performances be constructed in Melbourne. It has been suggested that this act was inspired by Desbrowe-Annear's earlier city plan (Dr Harriet Edquist, Architecture Australia January/February 2002 Sidney Myer Music Bowl).  By the late 1940s the provision of a sound shell in the Domain was being publicly discussed but this had not amounted to any substantial action. In 1956 the Sidney Myer Charitable Trust invited the two architectural firms of Yuncken, Freeman Bros., Griffiths and Simpson and Grounds, Romberg and Boyd to participate in a joint design exercise. In September 1956 Yuncken Freeman Bros. Griffiths and Simpson took control of the project following a joint meeting of the two firms. The project architect was Barry Patten and the design model he presented to the joint meeting was influenced by the work of German Architect Frei Otto whose influential work, Das Hangende Dach (the Hung Roof) on tensile structures, was published in 1954. Patten, assisted by Angel Dimitroff, designed a notable experiment in the use of structural steel, which predated experiments in tensile-stress steel construction by Otto and others by almost ten years (htpp:// www.architecture.com.au 7 most significant buildings of the 20th century, Sidney Myer Musical Bowl, Melbourne, printed 16/08/2004).
 
The Sidney Myer Music Bowl was constructed by John Holland Construction and ASCOM Construction throughout 1958 to Patten's design and involved the integration of a tensile structure and landscape into an organic and harmonious relationship. Many new techniques were developed throughout construction to ensure that the structure remained aerodynamically stable yet flexible and watertight. Ground anchors were developed to be corrosion resistant. The shell was also required to be acoustically correct and ASCOM Construction, a company employing mainly Italian migrant riggers who had previously worked on the construction of Australian television towers.
 
Documentation of the Music Bowl, in the form of the architects’ and structural engineers’ design development and working drawings produced in 1957 and 1958 are held by the City of Melbourne Building Control Department. Some drawings showing subsequent works, including the 1984 alternations to the dressing rooms, are also held by the Department. The 1957 architects’ drawings differ from the building constructed in a number of areas, and appear to show the scheme as developed before the detailed structural design was undertaken. The structural engineers’ drawings include a number of drawings showing earlier proposals for cable fixings and the cladding and indicate the process of refinement of details that took place during the documentation and construction phase. Photographs showing the construction of the Bowl and the structure following completion are held by the Coles Myer archives.
 
The Bowl was officially opened by Prime Minister Robert Menzies on 12 February 1959 to an audience of some 30,000. Later the same month the American evangelist Billy Graham drew crowds in excess of 70,000 to the Bowl. The Sidney Myer Music Bowl has remained in continued use since it’s opening and has been the scene for many memorable events, drawing large crowds to cultural and sometimes evangelical events. Carols by Candlelight has been staged at the Bowl annually since 1959. In 1967 more than 200,00 people attended a concert by The Seekers at the Bowl. At the time this was one-tenth of the population of Melbourne, and featured in the 1993 Guinness Book of World Records as the largest Australian musical event (The Arts Centre. http:www.vicartscentre.com.au, 16/08/04).
 
The Sidney Myer Music Bowl was awarded the prestigious Reynolds Metals award in 1960, confirming the Bowl’s international standing (Allow, Lovell & Associates, p 46).
 
Structural engineers, Scott Wilson Irwin Johnston completed a detailed existing conditions report in 1995. In 1998 the Victorian Arts Centre Trust commissioned Gregory Burgess Architects to refurbish the Sidney Myer Music Bowl, which was re-opened in October 2001. The brief called for improved audience facilities, technical facilities, back of house facilities and infrastructure.
 
While the original steel cables of the shell remain, it has new aluminium and plywood tile cladding, fabricated by the original manufacturers. Clear glass has replaced the former painted glass between the walls and the roof. Massive girders and stage rigging have been inserted for lighting infrastructure, and there is a new central control room behind the seating. Much of the refurbishment is hidden below ground. The original entries to the area have been replaced with high, textured concrete walls. A walled court leads to the Green Room and a network of new rooms, including dressing rooms and a long rehearsal room with an undulating roof to relieve its length, forming an interconnected infrastructure of spaces behind the stage. Under the shell new seating new seating, wider aisles and disabled access have been inserted. The original sprayed concrete retaining walls have been replaced with textured concrete ones, which curve out to form balconies on each side. The refurbishment also included excavation of the hill to provide a café and amenity area. It is faced in concrete, with large glazed doors which fold back into the cafe.
 
The structure, which appears to float above the landscape, has extensive underground facilities and much of the refurbishment is in fact hidden. The original entries to this area, curving around the grassy knoll, have been enhanced with high, textured concrete walls that provide a dramatic entrance. A walled court leads into the Green Room and several new rooms, including dressing rooms and a long rehearsal room with an undulating roof to relieve its length, form an interconnected infrastructure of spaces behind the stage.
 
Taylor Cullity Lethlean undertook the landscape works which included re-contouring the lawn to improve sight-lines and outlining the curving edges in concrete, to highlight their counterpoise to the curve of the shell, enhancing the reciprocal nature of the two structures. The shell's close relationship with the lawn area is also apparent when viewed from the stage. Rising up, its far edge defined by a concrete platform, the lawn is framed by a screen of trees closing the far vista. Beneath the lawn's concrete platform, marking the southern boundary of the site, the hill was excavated to provide a cafe and amenity area. It is faced in concrete, with large glazed doors that fold back into the cafe. Under the shell itself new seating, wider aisles, and disabled access have been inserted. The original sprayed concrete retaining walls have been replaced by more elegant textured concrete ones that curve out to form balconies on each side.
 
Edquist, in a review of the refurbishment, noted that ‘one of the great successes… is that, at a glance, as one approaches across the lawn, much seems unaltered, when in fact almost everything is new. One of the chief qualities of a successful renovation of an old building for reuse is that the renovation brings new clarity to the original design. A defining characteristic of the Bowl is its dual nature - it is both an entertainment place for the people (who have sometimes reached 200,000 in number) and an integral part of the gardens of the Domain. Neither of these functions should dominate the other, and it is in the new relationship between them that much of the success of Burgess's intervention lies’ (Equist, Architecture Australia January/February 2002, Sidney Myer Music Bowl).
 
Gregory Burgess was awarded the RAIA Golf Medal in 2004 being recognised by the jury as an architect of great distinction not just by followers of his work in Australia, but throughout the world.  The citation included the refurbishment of the Sidney Myer Music Bowl as being among his best known works (http://www.architecture.com.au/i-cms?page=4676)
 
Gregory Burgess was also awarded the Melbourne Prize for the Sidney Myer Music Bowl Refurbishment. The jury was impressed by the skill and delicacy with which this difficult task had been carried out, and by the unflustered, imaginative integration of essential new technical equipment, backstage facilities and public service spaces (http://www.infolink.com.au/articles/2d/0c00e92d.asp).
 
The Sidney Myer Music Bowl was awarded an Architecture Award in the Institutional – Alterations & Extensions category. Consulting engineering company Arup was awarded a 2003 ACEA Gold Award for Excellence for the refurbishment of the Bowl.
 
Taylor Cullity Lethlean won a 2003 landscape architecture commendation from the Victorian Group of the Australian Institute of Landscape Architect Victoria & Tasmania for landscaping at the Sidney Myer Music Bowl in the Public Open Space and Recreational Facilities category.
 
Condition and Integrity
Good. The building underwent major conservation work from 1998 – 2001 (refer to the History section for more detailed information).
Location
Off Linlithgow Avenue, Kings Domain, Melbourne, being the area entered in the Victorian Heritage Register as H1772.
Bibliography
Allom Lovell and Associates Pty Ltd, Sidney Myer Music Bowl Conservation Management Plan, Victorian Arts Centre Trust. Goad, Philip Allom Lovell & Associates, Melbourne, 1996.
 
Apperly, Irving and Reynolds, A Pictorial Guide to Identifying Australian Architecture Styles and Terms from 1788 to the Present, Angus and Robertson, Sydney, 1994
 
Architecture Australia, July/August 2003 Obituary: Barry Patten, Architecturemedia.com http://www.archmedia.com.au/aa/aaissue.php?issueid=2000307&article=16+typeon=3, 16/08/2004
 
Architecture Australia January/February 2002 Sidney Myer Music Bowl, review by Harriet Edquist, Architecturemedia.com http://www.archmedia.com.au/aa/aaissue.php?issueid=200201&article=6&typeon=2
 
htpp:// www.architecture.com.au 7 most significant buildings of the 20th century, Sidney Myer Musical Bowl, Melbourne, printed 16/08/2004

Architecture.com.au
http://www.architecture.com.au/i-cms?page=4676
 
Boyd, Robin, The Australian Ugliness, Penguin Books, Ringwood, Victoria, 1972
 
Gregory Burgess Pty Ltd, Refurbishment of the Sidney Myer Music Bowl: strategy plan for the Victorian Arts Centre Trust and the Office of Major Projects / Gregory Burgess (Firm) ; Victorian Arts Centre Trust Victoria. Office of Major Projects, Hawthorn, Vic., 1998.

Freeland, J M, Architecture in Australia A History, Penguin, 1972.
 
Info Link.com.au Australian architecture - building – construction – design http://www.infolink.com.au/articles/2d/0c00e92d.asp
 
Sidney Myer Music Bowl
http://www.architecture.com.au/i-cms?page=1.22.50.219.227
 
Significant Buildings of the 20th Century
http://www.architecture.com.au/i-cms?page=219
 
Taylor, Jennifer, Australian Architecture Since 1960, Second Edition, National Education Division, The Royal Australian Institute of Architects, Red Hill, ACT, 1990
 
The Arts Centre. http:www.vicartscentre.com.au, 16/08/04
 

Report Produced  Thu Oct 2 01:58:48 2014