Melbourne architecture firm ARM Architecture to give the Opera House a major makeover

Melbourne-based architecture firm, ARM Architecture, has been given one of Australia’s most prestigious design challenges. The organisation has been selected as the lead consultant in the refurbishment of Sydney Opera House’s largest internal space—its Concert Hall.

ARM won the competitive tender for the project in September 2015, along with US theatre designers Schuler Shook and German acoustic engineers, Müller BBM.

The project is part of a bigger 10-year renovation of the World Heritage-listed Opera House for which the New South Wales Government has set aside A$202 million. It will be its biggest revamp of the Opera House since it was opened in 1973.

A large part of the project’s challenges for ARM, and its overseas partners, will be to improve the Concert Hall’s acoustics—an issue which has seen decreased quality performance in international comparisons, and of which has been criticised as not being up to scratch for decades.

ARM, which also has an office in Melbourne, should be up to the task, having designed several performing arts venues across Australia. Its projects include the redevelopment of Hamer Hall in Melbourne and the Perth Arena, both of which earned it highly coveted awards from the Australian Institute of Architects.

Melbourne’s Hamer Hall is a 1982 heritage-listed building, conceived by architect Sir Roy Grounds who also designed the neighbouring National Gallery of Victoria and Arts Centre Melbourne theatres building.

According to ARM, its brief in 2012 was to repair Hamer Hall’s performance acoustics to world standards and install state-of-the-art stage technology and back-of-house facilities. It also had to improve Hamer Hall’s usability for audiences and performers and better calibrate it with its surroundings (especially Southgate, the buzzing retail and restaurant precinct that has grown up around Hamer Hall since it opened). And all of this needed to be done with the utmost care to respect and preserve Hamer Hall’s heritage elements.

ARM also has an international reputation for creating culturally significant buildings and precincts that stretch the boundaries of architectural and urban thought.

The firm relies on a strong ethos of research to support the social and contextual, the technical and the design aspects of its work.

Its founding directors—Howard Raggatt, Ian McDougall and the late Stephen Ashton—were joint winners of the 2016 Gold Medal, the highest honour awarded by the Australian Institute of Architects.