At the heart of the 320,000 square foot redevelopment of the Sydney Conservatorium lies Verbrugghen Hall. Originally constructed in 1915 within the central courtyard of a nineteenth-century stables building, Verbrugghen has undergone a thorough acoustical renovation in accordance with heritage guidelines.

Before redevelopment, a deep balcony and proscenium obscured the underlying plan of a golden rectangle terminated by a semi-circular apse. While the walls were built of up to 3-foot-thick masonry, the floor and ceiling consisted of thin timber boards. Ventilation was provided by operable windows and attic vents leading to cupolas on the roof. Trains ran in two tunnels immediately east of the building, and an expressway tunnel ran to the west.

To achieve the reverberation and energy density appropriate for chorus, orchestra and organ, a 20% increase in acoustic volume and a massive room envelope have been realized. The sound-robbing ceiling has been perforated to gain access to the attic space, and a new balcony pushes 23 feet beyond the outline of the original courtyard. The roof now consists of precast concrete panels, and the floor is a concrete slab resting on vibration-isolation pads.

The 60-foot room width made possible the design of a performer riser system that accommodates a full symphony orchestra. When the shallow gallery surrounding the performance platform is not occupied by a chorus, concert audiences as large as 550 can be seated. Master class seating on the platform increases the seat count to 700. Modest acoustical variability is provided by motorized vertical banners at the upper side walls.

Renovation of the historic Sydney Conservatorium of Music restored an 800-seat concert hall and added two new 250-seat recital halls; a 300-seat opera theatre (shown with orchestra pit and extended seating covered); and new teaching, practice, and rehearsal spaces. Originally built in 1820 as stables for the Governor of New South Wales, the 1915 insertion of a concert hall into the courtyard with surrounding teaching and support facilities marked the beginning of music education at the site. New architecture connects the existing building with rooftop gardens above underground teaching spaces. Air conditioning was added to Verbrugghen Hall, with overhead supply delivered through perforated metal panels.
Project Details
Audiovisual Systems Design
Daryl Jackson Robin Dyke Pty, Ltd., Architect, Sydney, Australia
323,000 gsf
800-seat concert hall; 250-seat recital hall; 300-seat theatre
2002 Australian Engineering Excellence Award 2002 Award of Merit - United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) Asia-Pacific Heritage Conservation Award 2002 Architecture Award, Australia, Public Category 2002 Runner-Up, Sulman Award for Public Buildings