Major Projects at St Michael’s

One of our goals under our Strategic Direction: Towards 2030 is to develop, engaging and contemporary places for learning that reflect our values, spark curiosity and enhance wellbeing.

To achieve that goal, we are currently developing a long-term Campus Master Plan which will help shape the School campus for decades to come. We are also embarking on a number of significant projects to improve the facilities available to our students in the short term.

The first of these is the Redevelopment of St George’s Church. You can read more about this exciting project below. We will publish regular updates on the project and will also be adding new projects as they are closer to commencement.

You can also assist the School with this, and other important projects, by donating to our Building Fund. Find out more here.

A Star is born!

The much-loved St George’s Church has been reborn as the new Performing Arts Centre, St George’s. In mid April, St Michael’s was officially handed the keys to the wonderful new facility after more than 12 months of building works. With the interior complete, work began immediately on landscaping the surrounds. Every care is being taken to ensure that the surrounding gardens are attune to the heritage of the building and reflect the excellence of this outstanding performing arts space, which will benefit our students and the community.

From the outside, it appears that the Church has simply been cleaned but inside a surprise awaits. Throughout the redevelopment careful attention has been given to the many heritage features which make the Performing Arts Centre unique. The magnificent, vaulted timber ceiling, the heritage organ by renowned organ makers Lewis and Sons of London, and, of course, the beautiful stained- glass windows, crafted by leading artisans at the end of the 19th century, have been fully restored. So too, the impressive honour board acknowledging the service of members of the St George’s congregation who fought and died in the First World War. This has been relocated to the Northern entrance, along with other important military plaques, so that they are more readily accessible by family and members of the community.

And within this inspiring space, state-of-the-art facilities have been installed to ensure that our students have access to a theatre that is arguably among the best in Australia. Both the sound and lighting are of the highest quality. The next-generation sound system L-ISA is similar to that installed in the refurbished Opera House, and the Performing Arts Centre is only the second venue in Australia and the Southern Hemisphere where the system is installed. The sound and lighting will not only enhance performances but will enable our students to gain valuable production experience using the most sophisticated contemporary equipment available.

A special sprung floor has been installed to make the space suitable and safe for dance, aerobics and movement across a range of genres. Electronically controlled blackout curtains will mean the space can be configured for a variety of performances. The seating is also flexible with a main bank of raised seating for more than 200 with the additional capability to add almost 200 chairs at floor level, along with a special stand for a choir.

While our students are eagerly awaiting the opportunity to use the Performing Art Centre there is still some fine tuning to come. We expect the facility to be fully operational for the official opening which will take place on Thursday 4 May.

The opening of the St Michael’s Performing Arts Centre, St George’s, is an exciting step in a long-term plan to redevelop our campus to ensure that our students have the very best facilities to learn and flourish.

Almost show time!

In very exciting news, the redevelopment of St George’s Church as our new Performing Arts Centre is nearing completion. Virtually all structural work has finished and fit-out has commenced.

Progress on the project has been slower than expected due to the impact of unusually wet weather, global supply chain issues and general shortages of materials and labour in the building industry. However, it has been possible to make rapid progress in recent weeks.

The stained-glass windows have been restored and reinstalled and they look magnificent. Restoration was carried out by Robert Rusev Stained Glass, leaders in heritage and ecclesiastical conservation services for stained-glass. Robert himself undertook most of the restoration work. There is no doubt that they will be a unique feature of the Performing Arts Centre. An opportunity still exists to celebrate your family’s connections to St Michael’s by supporting a window. You can find out more here.

Over the past few weeks the heritage organ has been carefully reassembled by Australian Pipe Organs, whose team of master craftsman is recognised Australia-wide. The organ will be tuned in January.

The special ‘sprung’ floor for dance performances has been laid and the new hardwood floor is being installed in the rest of the building. Carpet has been laid in the tiered seating and the seats were expected to arrive before Christmas. In 2023 we will let the extended St Michael’s community know how they can have a special place in the Performing Arts Centre by choosing a seat to support and having their name on the seat.

Final elements to be completed are the sound and lighting systems. These were dependent on the commissioning of a new substation, as collectively, they draw a significant amount of power. Work on the substation is virtually complete and it is expected that the sound and lighting systems will be operational by February 2023.

It is anticipated that the redevelopment will finish in March. With that in mind we are planning an official opening in late April 2023. All at the School are looking forward to seeing the first performances in the wonderful new space which will be known as the Performing Arts Centre, St George’s.

The opening of the St Michael’s Performing Arts Centre, St George’s, is an exciting first step in a long-term plan to redevelop our campus.

The Show Must Go On!

An update on the St George’s Church redevelopment

It is a showbusiness adage that the show must go on and so it is with our St George’s Redevelopment project. Construction on this exciting project to transform this wonderful, but no longer fit for purpose, heritage property into a multi-purpose performance and rehearsal space commenced in January this year.

Much has been achieved in the intervening six months despite the trials and challenges of building in a not-yet-post pandemic world that has impacted supply chains and of course the wet weather. Early in the project it became apparent that drainage issues had caused the soil under the Church to become waterlogged and it was necessary to take significant remedial action. Once that was completed it was possible to proceed with internal fit out.

The floor was removed and footings prepared for the raked theatre seating which will be a feature of the new space. Concrete foundations for the seating have now been poured and framing of the seating has commenced. Work has begun to install new flooring and structural steel to support our Audio-Visual systems. As part of the project the foyer has also been enlarged and reconfigured to allow it to function as both a box office and a classroom.

An especially sensitive part of the project has been the restumping of the historic organ made by Lewis & Sons of London. The organ is of exceptional quality and will be a unique feature of the new performing arts space. On the advice of a leading organ expert, it was deemed better to progressively restump the floor under the organ rather than remove the organ and reinstall it. This work was delicately done and has also been completed.

Another unique feature of the redeveloped space will be the magnificent stained-glass windows, which are currently being restored. The restoration of the windows is supported by generous donors who can celebrate their relationship with St Michael’s by choosing a window to support and having their gift acknowledged on a plaque adjacent to ‘their’ window. You can find out more about supporting a window here.

With much of the internal structural work nearing completion attention will turn to fit-out, including the installation of the state-of-the-art sound and lighting systems and the special sprung floor. While good progress has been made overall, the project has been slightly delayed owing to longer than expected lead times on some equipment arriving from overseas.  It is anticipated that the project will be completed early in Term 1 2023.

For an insight into the importance of this project to St Michael’s watch this video.

And for more background on the redevelopment see the story below.

A new era of Performing Arts

St Michael’s acclaimed Performing Arts program is about to enter a new era with plans in place for an exciting new immersive theatrical space to be available to students by early 2023.

The School is justifiably proud of its Performing Arts program which both nurtures students of outstanding talent and encourages all students to discover the joy of creativity. In recent years the Performing Arts program has been based in the heritage-listed St George’s Church. This much-loved building has a rich history as a vibrant hub for the community. However, over time the building has degraded making it increasingly unfit for the School’s purpose and putting at risk its distinctive heritage features.

We are therefore delighted that, in 2022, St George’s will be redeveloped to house state-of-the-art performance facilities, including a 400 seat auditorium. The design will leave intact the original fabric of the building and preserve the many heritage features, so that on completion the Church will be a striking blend of tradition and innovation.

The refurbishment will benefit our students by providing high quality dedicated facilities for Music, Drama and the Performing Arts as well as much-needed space for general School use.

Benefits to our students

The former St George’s Presbyterian Church has been a part of the St Michael’s campus since it was originally leased in 1987. In 1991 it was first used as a Music School and the precinct has subsequently become the home of the Performing Arts program at St Michael’s. The School purchased the Church and surrounding buildings in 2013.

When the refurbishment is completed, the Church will provide much needed, enhanced facilities including:

  • A flexible auditorium which can be adapted for multiple uses and which can be modified to accommodate future needs.
  • A performance space that can respond to the diverse performance requirements across a range of art forms including dance, drama and solo and group musical performances.
  • A high-quality sound system that supports a range of performance opportunities.
  • Sympathetic and effective lighting solutions which not only enhance performances and productions, but which highlight and celebrate existing and new architectural features.
  • A sprung floor suitable for dance performance and aerobics.
  • A new and inviting foyer providing an accessible and attractive entrance to the Church, professional box office facilities and additional classroom space.

Not only will the new facilities provide an enhanced student experience they will result in considerable savings on venue hire, reduce disruption to student learning and reduce risk as students will no longer need to travel to as many external venues. Additional functional venue space will be available for the School, an important factor on a campus where space is at a premium.

The project is integral in facilitating our Strategic Direction: Towards 2030 which includes developing engaging and contemporary spaces for learning and providing enhanced opportunities for us to develop strategic partnerships with key cultural, business and community organisations.

History and Heritage

The refurbishment is also intended to highlight the Church’s history and its importance to the community. Its intended use as a Performing Arts Centre echoes the early strong musical tradition of the Church. It also offers the opportunity for increased public access which would again allow the community to view the many outstanding architectural features for which the Church is celebrated.

There is also potential to generate a commercial revenue stream through venue hire. The venue should have broad appeal given its evocative setting and the intended quality of the performance facilities.

Some of the important heritage features of the refurbishment are:

  • The restoration of the 32 magnificent stained-glass windows.
  • Refurbishment of the historically significant organ. (The organ by Lewis & Sons of London is one of only 5 imported to Australia and is the oldest surviving organ still in use in Australia. It has been lauded for its exceptional quality).
  • Restoration of the magnificent timber ceiling.
  • Relocation of the historical honour boards and plaques to the Northern entrance to allow them to be more accessible to the community. (This includes the historically significant Honour Board currently located in the vestibule but hidden from view, commemorating the 20 men of the 14th Battalion who died in the First World War and the 89 who served).

The refurbishment of St George’s Church is an ambitious and exciting project that will not only allow our students to benefit from a modern, state-of-the-art performance facility but it will open-up an important and much-loved heritage building to the community.

Work is expected to commence in early 2022 with a completion date of early 2023.

For all enquiries, please contact:

Mr Farai Mufuka
Director of Business
Telephone: 03 8530 3275
Email: fmufuka@stmichaels.vic.edu.au

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