Performing Arts Centre location needs to be reconsidered

[Forum] The proposal by the CC Conservatorium to place a Performing Arts Centre behind the existing Conservatorium building ( “ Conservatorium releases its vision for Performing Arts Centre”, CCN 179) raises a great many questions.

First, the location seems extremely undesirable, it is a diffi cult site to get to on a very steep hill, so only patrons who can drive to it and park at it will be able to attend with any ease. Secondly, the proposal for 600 parking spaces on two basement levels seems a little optimistic. The minimum area for a space, including access, is 22.5 square metres. 300 spaces would take up 6,750 square metres (about the size of 15 ordinary residential lots), not counting access ramps, lifts, stairs and lost space for columns etc. At fi rst glance, the site does not look big enough to accommodate the supposed number of vehicles.

Thirdly, the facilities proposed are very concerning. The main auditorium is to seat 1,000 and is to have an orchestra pit, a removable proscenium arch and a fl y tower, which sounds like a recipe for an acoustic disaster. A concert hall with a fly tower raises enormous problems of sound loss from the stage, a removable proscenium poses great technical difficulties for fourth-wall productions, and an orchestra pit will conflict with the use of the stage for large-scale concert performances.

This sounds like one of those attempts to give everybody something, with the result that nothing works very well. The example of the Sydney Opera House leaps to mind here. The argument for combining the Conservatorium with the Performing Arts Centre seems to rest on the case that the Conservatorium trains a large number of students and “supports” 20 musical groups. However, there is no justification for students to be housed in a Performing Arts Centre, as classes do not take place in the public spaces, and the performances of musical groups are not tied to any teaching activities, so the argument is tenuous in the extreme.

It might also be argued that, since the Conservatorium is used by so many students, a location far from the bulk of the city’s population and with such poor access suffers from a grave disadvantage. I have previously suggested that the Conservatorium should best be located at Ourimbah, where it could be linked to the university campus and benefit from cross-disciplinary inputs to its musical programme.

I have also suggested that the Performing Arts Centre would be best located at Tuggerah, where it would be most easily accessible to the greatest proportion of the city’s population. The contention that Gosford is the best location, because the Regional Plan designates it as the “regional capital”, is utterly fatuous.

The Plan does not spell out any meaning of “regional capital”, presents no arguments for such a designation, suggests no mechanisms for giving substance to the nomenclature, and leaves the achievement of this nebulous goal in the hands of developers and, heaven help us, Central Coast Council. If anyone has a convincing argument for concentrating civic infrastructure in Gosford, I am yet to hear it.

Nobody appreciates the work of the Conservatorium more than I do, and nobody would like to see a concert hall on the Central Coast more than I. However, the blinkered discussion of the project that has taken place so far does not generate optimism that we shall see a satisfactory outcome for the whole population of the city. Has anybody canvassed the residents of Budgewoi and Warnervale, to obtain their views on this expensive, long-term commitment?

Email, Mar 29 Bruce Hyland, Woy Woy

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