Hamer Hall: Before the Facelift
A look back at Hamer Hall and its luscious interiors.
Three weeks ago, Melbourne’s famous Hamer Hall hosted its final concert before closing its doors to make way for a $128.5 million renovation, funded by the State Government.
Originally known as the Melbourne Concert Hall, the complex was designed by Sir Roy Grounds and opened in 1982 after a lengthy land dispute with the City of Melbourne, ongoing engineering problems and industrial action that had hampered its construction for several years.
The exterior of Hamer Hall, illuminated at dusk
After its opening, the Melbourne Concert Hall became a much-loved cultural hub, playing host to the world’s finest performers, orchestras and groups from Australia and abroad.
Whilst the Melbourne Concert Hall wasn’t very striking from the outside, the interior was fitted-out by expatriate designer John Truscott, who created a distinctive and luscious environment in which the public could enjoy a ‘special night out’ in the city.
John Truscott’s opulent interiors are very special: The colours have been very carefully selected to create a rich atmosphere (a signature trait of Truscott’s).
From the box office with its gold-leaf ceiling to the lobby spaces with their rich red carpet or the verdant green of the Cadbury-Schweppes Room, Truscott created unique and distinctive interior spaces that contained only the finest of furnishings and fittings. The use of padded leather as a ‘wallpaper’ in many of the corridor spaces is certainly something I have never seen elsewhere, but suited the building extraordinarily well.
Sadly, it seems that most of Truscott’s legacy is to be destroyed during the renovations.
The huge glass chandelier in the foyer, created by Michel Santry and called Arcturus, is to be removed permanently. And if the official preview images are anything to go by, there won’t be much of Truscott’s work left when the renovation is complete. The Victorian Arts Centre website states rather vaguely:
“The important contribution made to the interiors by interior designer John Truscott has been a key consideration in planning the redevelopment of Hamer Hall. The proposed changes to the interiors, both in the foyers and the auditorium, have been arrived at following considerable thought and care to ensure that the existing interiors are retained as much as possible”
I don’t see much evidence of this.
Illustration of the planned refurbishment of Hamer Hall
Last year I made a detailed photographic study of Hamer Hall as part of Melbourne Open House. Recognising the significance of Hamer Hall’s interior architecture, and suspicious that the State Government would trash yet another of our modern architectural masterpieces in its never-ending quest for the “modern” , I made a studious attempt to capture the essence of Hamer Hall, before it was all destroyed.
And destroyed it will be.
The original plans showed a horrible glass shard that would pierce the rear balcony to create a new entrance, but the latest renders seem to have omitted this particularly ugly feature.
The latest render of the redeveloped Hamer Hall.
We can’t halt progress forever, but it seems a tragedy to me that we care so little about mid- to late- 20th century interior design. The National Gallery of Victoria had its interior destroyed, now it seems to be Hamer Hall’s turn. I wonder what we’ll have left from this period, if even John Truscott’s work is not considered significant enough to preserve?
Some pictures, for posterity: