Sidney Myer Music Bowl
|Location||Kings Domain, Melbourne|
|Operator||The Arts Centre|
|Capacity||Up to 10,000 (2,030 fixed seats)|
The Sidney Myer Music Bowl is an outdoor bandshell performance venue in Melbourne, Victoria, Australia. It is located in the lawns and gardens of Kings Domain on Linlithgow Avenue close to the Arts Centre and the Southbank entertainment precinct. It was officially opened by the Prime Minister of Australia, Robert Menzies, on 12 February 1959, with an audience of 30,000 people. It is listed on the Victorian Heritage Register.
The businessman and philanthropist Sidney Myer inspired the construction of the building after attending the Hollywood Bowl in Los Angeles. A violinist who enjoyed music, Myer established free open-air concerts with the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra in 1929, which were always well attended by Melburnians. These free concerts continue to this day, now being held at the bowl itself. There are usually three or four concerts a year.
Upon his death in 1934, the Sidney Myer Fund was established to continue the tradition of philanthropy begun by its founder. The design and construction of a music bowl for the people of Melbourne was decided upon and funded by the fund.
The venue was officially opened by the Australian prime minister, Robert Menzies, on 12 February 1959, and was attended by an audience of 30,000. Later that month over 70,000 people attended to hear the American evangelist Billy Graham.
The largest crowd ever for a concert event in Australia was the 1967 Seekers homecoming concert at the Sidney Myer Music Bowl which an estimated 200,000 people attended. The 2007 Guinness Book of World Records lists it as the greatest attendance at a concert in the Southern Hemisphere in history. This attendance is also included in The Australian Book Of Records. Melburnians were celebrating the annual Moomba Festival, a free community festival, and many thousands were enjoying other attractions but are included in the crowd estimate. Since then, international performers have included: ABBA, AC/DC, Metallica, Wings, Blondie, the Beach Boys, Crowded House, Dire Straits, Neil Diamond, Bob Dylan, the Czech Philharmonic Orchestra, Merle Haggard, Pearl Jam, the Electric Light Orchestra, Paul McCartney, R.E.M., Kiri Te Kanawa, Daft Punk, Red Hot Chili Peppers and, in more recent times, Bon Jovi, Guns N' Roses, Soundgarden, Tool, Kanye West, Paramore, Neil Young, Lenny Kravitz, Swedish House Mafia, blink-182, the Black Keys, Lorde and the Chainsmokers.
In 1980, administration of the bowl was handed over to the Victorian Arts Centre from the Sidney Myer Fund by Ken Myer, Sidney Myer's son. In 1984 a temporary ice-skating rink was created on the bowl's stage for use during winter months. The venue was closed for a major renovation in 2000 to bring the facilities up to an appropriate standard, and was reopened by the Premier of Victoria, Steve Bracks, at Carols by Candlelight on Christmas Eve, 2002. Recent works on the lawns extending from the seating and stage, and the construction of a fence and gates has reduced the total capacity to a little over 12,000, however this has also improved the visibility and standard of facilities out of sight.
50th anniversary celebrations
In 2009 the 50th anniversary of the Sidney Myer Music Bowl was celebrated. The Arts Centre put together a four-day commemorative program of free events. From 12 to 15 February, the festivities featured two concerts from the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra, including a recreation of their 1959 opening concert of the bowl and a romantic Valentine's Day program; a salute to 50 years of rock and roll at the bowl from RocKwiz and an afternoon picnic of family entertainment. There was also an informative exhibition at the St Kilda Road Foyer Gallery of the Arts Centre and a commemorative website depicting 50 years of the bowl.
Design and construction
The bowl's canopy consists of a thin membrane made out of half an inch weather-proofed plywood sheeted on both sides with aluminium attached to a cobwebbed frame of steel cables and supported by 21.3 metres (70 ft) masts pivoted to the earth. The total area of the canopy is 4,055 square metres (43,650 sq ft). The main cable at the edge of the canopy comprises 7 ropes, each about 9 cm in diameter and 173 metres (568 ft) long, anchored deep into the ground in concrete blocks. Longitudinal cables hold up the roof and transverse cables hold it down.
Project design was by Yuncken Freeman and Griffiths and Simpson during 1956. The project architect was Barry Patten. Construction commenced in 1958 with an innovative system of cables laced together and covered with aluminium faced plywood sandwich panels. To ensure the structure would be watertight yet aerodynamically stable and flexible, new construction techniques were developed. Ground anchors were required to be corrosion resistant. The shell also needed to be acoustically correct. Construction entailed input from a number of engineering and scientific organisations including the Aeronautical Research Laboratories and Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) Forest Products Division.
Unlike the Hollywood Bowl's concrete shell structure in Los Angeles which inspired it, the Sidney Myer Music Bowl combined a tensile structural system with a free-form roof. The structural design predates by nearly 10 years noted German architect and engineer Frei Otto and his experiments in using lightweight tensile and membrane structures. Otto's design of Munich's Olympic Park for the 1972 Olympics and the temporary West German pavilion at the 1967 World's Fair in Montreal, Quebec, Canada, were heavily influenced by Patten's design of Melbourne's Myer Music Bowl.
The Sidney Myer Music Bowl is registered on the Victorian Heritage list for its cultural importance to Victoria, its architectural importance as the largest, purpose built, permanent outdoor performance venue in Australia and its engineering experimentation in new forms of construction involving use of membranes and a tensile structural system.
There is a fixed seating area which can hold 2,030 people. Behind this area are sloping lawns which can accommodate up to 10,000. The stage area is 27.4 metres wide by 19.5 metres deep (90 ft × 64 ft).
- Arts Victoria: "Sidney Myer Music Bowl", retrieved 28 February 2013
- "Sidney Myer Music Bowl", retrieved 28 February 2013
- Australian Institute of Architects: "Sidney Myer Musical Bowl, Melbourne", retrieved 28 February 2013
- McFarlane, 'The Seekers' entry. Archived from the original Archived 9 October 2004 at the Wayback Machine on 4 June 2004. Retrieved 23 September 2011.
- Kimball, Duncan (2002). "The Seekers". Milesago: Australasian Music and Popular Culture 1964–1975. Ice Productions. Retrieved 24 September 2011.
- International Who's Who in Popular Music (9th ed.). London: Routledge. 2007. p. 150. ISBN 978-1-85743-417-0.
- McWhirter, Norris; McWhirter, Ross (1968). Guinness Book of World Records. New York: Sterling Pub. Co. p. 155.
- Nimmervoll, Ed. "The Seekers". Howlspace: The Living History of Our Music (Ed Nimmervoll). White Room Electronic Publishing Pty Ltd. Archived from the original on 27 July 2012. Retrieved 11 February 2014.
- http://www.theartscentre.com.au/bowl50/ The Arts Centre website.
- "Sidney Myer Music Bowl". Greatbuildings.com.
Media related to Sidney Myer Music Bowl at Wikimedia Commons