- Adelaide Festival Centre
The Adelaide Festival Centre, Australia's first multi-purpose arts centre, was built in 1973 and opened three months before the Sydney Opera House. The Festival Centre is located approximately 50 metres north of the corner of North Terrace and King William Street, lying near the banks of the River Torrens and adjacent to Elder Park. It is distinguished by its three silvery-white geometric dome roofs and its plaza consisting of lego block-like structures to the south and lies on a 45-degree angle to the city's grid. It is the home of South Australia's performing arts.
The Centre is managed by a statutory authority under the Adelaide Festival Centre Trust Act 1971 which is responsible for encouraging and facilitating artistic, cultural and performing arts activities, as well as maintaining and improving the building and facilities of the Adelaide Festival Centre complex.
As well as the now annual Festival of Arts, the Centre hosts the annual Adelaide Cabaret Festival in June and OzAsia Festival in September, and the biennial Adelaide International Guitar Festival.
The Adelaide Festival Centre was built in three parts from April 1970 to 1980. The main building, the Festival Theatre, was completed in 1973, remarkably within its budget of $10 million. (The Centre was completed for $21 million.) In comparison, the Sydney Opera House, also completed in 1973, cost $102 million. The Festival Centre is known for the excellent quality of its acoustics.
The Southern Plaza was completed in March 1977, comprising a then-controversial environmental sculpture by West German artist Otto Hajek. No longer intact, the sculpture was conceived as a concrete garden and iconic City Sign. The lego-like forms and colourful paint work across the Plaza were designed to conceal an air-conditioning vent at the same time as providing a playful place to congregate. However, Adelaide's citizens never warmed to the idea, and it remains one of Adelaide's most under-utilised public spaces.
The Festival Centre Plaza also serves as host to an outdoor collection of sculpture, including the prominent stainless steel Environmental Sculpture (also known as Tetrahedra), by Bert Flugelman.
In the 1960s, the Adelaide Festival of Arts started to outgrow the city's existing venues. Liberal Premier Steele Hall chose the banks of the River Torrens as the site for the Centre.
The Lord Mayor of Adelaide, Robert Porter, supported by Labor Premier and arts advocate Don Dunstan, launched a public appeal to raise funds to build the Centre and the appeal raised its target within a week. The centre was designed by architect John Morphett.[who?] Work began in Elder Park in 1970 and on 2 June 1973 the Festival Theatre opened. The Dunstan Playhouse, the Space Theatre and the Amphitheatre followed.
Performance and other venues
Physically, the Adelaide Festival Centre has two locations: the riverside centre located on King William Road, and Her Majesty’s Theatre located on Grote Street. These two locations house six different venues: the Festival Theatre, Dunstan Playhouse, Space Theatre, Her Majesty’s Theatre, Artspace Gallery and the Amphitheatre. The Festival Centre also houses two function spaces: the Banquet Room and Lyric Room.
- The Festival Theatre is the largest proscenium arch theatre in Adelaide, seating close to 2000 people. It was designed as both a lyric theatre and concert hall, and is used not only for theatrical productions and large concerts, but also for graduation ceremonies, seminars and many other community functions. Its huge backstage area makes the stage area one of the largest in the southern hemisphere and a favourite of companies with large sets. It also houses the Silver Jubilee Organ, a ‘hovering’ pipe organ built and donated to mark the Silver Jubilee of Queen Elizabeth II.
- The Dunstan Playhouse, located in the Drama Centre behind the main building, is a more intimate venue, seating 620 people on two levels. South Australia’s State Theatre Company has been based here since 1974, and uses the theatre, the rehearsal rooms and the extensive production workshop also housed in this second building.
- Her Majesty's Theatre was built in 1913 and originally called the Tivoli. The Theatre seats 1009 people, and is located at 58 Grote Street, Adelaide.
- The Space Theatre is an extremely versatile studio theatre with no traditional stage or fixed seating, meaning its configuration is completely flexible. It can be turned into a theatre in-the-round, a corner stage setting, or a cabaret venue. The theatre seats anywhere from 200 to 350 people, depending on the configuration.
- The Artspace Gallery is the Centres gallery exhibition space. Situated in the second building above the Drama Centre, the Gallery hosts a variety of performances, particularly during the Cabaret Festival.
- The Amphitheatre is an outdoor venue with raked seating for 600 people overlooking Elder Park and the River Torrens. It is often used for community events and free entertainment during the summer.
In 2003, the area around the Adelaide Festival Centre was substantially redeveloped by the State Government. The much-maligned Festival Plaza was redesigned, including opening the underground plaza to the sky and building a pedestrian suspension bridge to link the plaza to the nearby Riverbank Precinct, as well as a small number of cafés, restaurants and retail outlets. The Riverbank Precinct and Convention Centre were hoped to attract more people to the plaza and surrounding area, but due to the decision not to develop cafés and shops in the new precinct (in favour of more convention centre car parking), the area remains under-patronised.
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