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Key details

Location
Southbank, Melbourne

Client
Melbourne Arts Precinct Corporation (MAP Co) 

Project partners
National Gallery Victoria
Arts Centre Melbourne

 

 

 


 


Overview

The Melbourne Arts Precinct is being transformed into one of the great creative and cultural destinations in the world thanks to a bold, city-shaping Victorian Government vision. 

Development Victoria is delighted to now commence delivery of Australia’s largest cultural infrastructure project, following the Victorian Government’s $1.46 billion commitment to the project in the 2020-21 State Budget. 


Situated in Southbank, the Melbourne Arts Precinct already has one of the highest concentrations of arts, cultural and creative organisations anywhere in the world – and presents up to 3000 performances and exhibitions in a typical year.

It’s home to the most visited art gallery and busiest performing arts centre in the country, the best arts education and training institutions, iconic architecture, galleries, theatres, music venues, studios, creative co-working spaces and more.

However, most of this activity happens behind closed doors, the precinct is disjointed and difficult to navigate, there is limited outdoor public space, and our major cultural institutions are bursting at the seams.

Australia’s largest cultural infrastructure project, the Melbourne Arts Precinct Transformation will be delivered in two phases:
Phase one
  • a unique new 18,000 square metre immersive public garden in the heart of the precinct, including space for outdoor art and performances
  • NGV Contemporary, a new gallery dedicated to contemporary art and design – set to be the largest of its kind in Australia
  • new connections and improved access into and through the precinct
  • underground shared services infrastructure that will ensure the seamless and sustainable operations of the precinct and its venues, as well as foundational works for Phase Two.

This phase will create 5000 jobs during construction. Early works are scheduled to commence in late 2021.

Phase two
  • an upgraded and reimagined Arts Centre Melbourne Theatres Building, beneath the iconic spire
  • a new Centre for Creativity, run by Arts Centre Melbourne, with spaces and facilities for Victoria’s small to medium and independent arts sector, a new performing arts gallery and an expanded Australian Music Vault.

Location

The Melbourne Arts Precinct is located in the central Melbourne suburb of Southbank in Victoria.

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The people of the Kulin Nations have gathered on this site for thousands of years and continue to do so today.

History

1877
  • Cooper and Bailey’s Great American International Circus first pitch their tent next to St Kilda Road
1901
  • Fitzgerald Brothers’ take over the site, first opening the Olympia circus building and later the “fashionable rendezvous” Prince’s Court, which included a Japanese tea-house, toboggan, a huge water chute and an open-air theatre
1906 
  • The Glacarium ice skating rink opens on City Road. Dancers skate to orchestral music, and the rink later plays host to the first game of ice hockey in Australia — it's also used for dancing and film screenings
1907
  • Wirths’ Circus takes over from Fitzgerald Brothers’ — they become a mainstay of Melbourne entertainment for the next fifty years, adding a roller skating rink and cinema
1926
  • Olympia is converted into the Green Mill dance hall, replete with replica Dutch windmill and a grand ballroom graced with a fernery and waterfalls where 3000 patrons could dance the night away under a ceiling of twinkling stars
1946
  • Wirths Park reserved for cultural purposes — it would be more than 20 years before the first cultural institution opens on the site
1960
  • Architect Roy Grounds’ master plan for the Victorian Arts Centre Complex is completed, including a new gallery, concert hall and theatres building topped with a landmark spire
1968
  • NGV opens — such is the public affection for the water wall and the world’s largest stained-glass ceiling that it is heritage listed just 14 years after it was completed
1973
  • The Victorian College of the Arts is established — unique among Australian art schools, the VCA offers experimental studio and performance-based tertiary courses in visual arts, music, dance, drama, film and television, and creative arts
1982
  • Melbourne Concert Hall opens (now Hamer Hall) — the city’s premier venue for orchestral performance seats 2,500 people
1984
  • Arts Centre Melbourne theatres building opens — under the city’s landmark spire you’ll find the State Theatre, Playhouse, Fairfax Studio, Australian Music Vault, and a host of other exhibition and performance spaces
1988
  • Australian Ballet House opens — home to the Australian Ballet and Australian Ballet School
1990 
  • Playbox Theatre is renamed Malthouse Theatre after its new home on Sturt Street, which was once a brewer’s malthouse
1990 
  • Southbank Promenade opens, facilitating the urban renewal of Southbank that continues today
1992 
  • Southbank footbridge opens (now Evan Walker Bridge) — this dedicated pedestrian bridge over the Yarra is the first of several to connect the city to the emerging arts precinct of Southbank
1994 
  • ABC Southbank Centre opens — in launching the centre Prime Minister Paul Keating predicts that Southbank will one day become a significant arts precinct
1996 
  • New Arts Centre Melbourne spire completed — changes to the original design of the Theatres Building meant the spire was not constructed as envisaged, but today it reaches 162 metres as originally intended
2002 
  • The Australian Centre for Contemporary Art opens on Sturt Street after almost 20 years in a former gardener’s cottage on The Domain
2003
  • NGV International reopens after a three-year redevelopment, following the construction of a dedicated Australian gallery at Federation Square
2009
  • Melbourne Recital Centre and Southbank Theatre open — it's the city’s second-largest classical music auditorium
  • Southbank Theatre is home to the Melbourne Theatre Company, the oldest professional theatre company in Australia
2013 
  • Testing Grounds opens — an experimental outdoor arts space activates the vacant site at 1 City Road
2014 
  • The Melbourne Arts Precinct Blueprint is released, identifying key Southbank sites for potential development including the Victoria Police stables, the CUB/Fosters building and 1 City Road
2018 
  • The Victoria Police stables reopen as 170 studios and flexible exhibition spaces for VCA students
2018 
  • Buxton Contemporary opens, a gift of philanthropist Michael Buxton and family
2018 
  • The Victorian Government announces an investment of more than $200 million over the next two years to reimagine the Melbourne Arts Precinct, including the purchase of the former CUB/Fosters building

Updated on 11 October 2021