The Leonardian Centre takes performing arts at St Leonard’s College to new heights

The new 600-seat Leonardian Centre at St Leonard’s College is taking performing arts at the school to the next level.

St Leonard’s College in Brighton East has a reputation for encouraging its students to follow their passion. For many students, that passion is the performing arts, with students winning prestigious awards that recognise their accomplishments in music, musical theatre and drama.

In January, the college officially opened the 600-seat Leonardian Centre that will take performing arts at St Leonard’s to the next level.

The custom-designed performing arts venue can accommodate large-scale music and drama performances, awards nights, school debating events and assemblies, and is built to exacting professional standards.

The Leonardian Centre was designed by ARM Architecture, who designed the Melbourne Recital Centre.

“When we began discussing the development of the Leonardian Centre, we knew we wanted to create a wonderful place where young people could meet and share the culture of the College and where they could acknowledge their achievements,” says principal Stuart Davis.

“We also wanted to build a place that would inspire students and that would encourage people in our community to gather to listen to great musicians or to watch theatrical performances.”

One of the Bayside community’s first opportunities to appreciate the centre was on Monday, April 12, when Australian tenor, David Hobson, took to the stage. Hobson is a renowned performer in opera, musical theatre and television and will perform two concerts.

The custom-designed venue can accommodate large-scale music and drama performances.

The Leonardian Centre was designed by ARM Architecture, who designed Melbourne Recital Centre and the Hamer Hall redevelopment. The auditorium has a traditional shoebox shape, recognised by acoustic experts as creating the best sound quality. It includes a half fly tower that houses a professional rigging system for curtains, lights and scenery, an acoustic control room and an orchestra pit.

“The Leonardian Centre is a very high-quality venue. It can be a traditional theatre, but with the flick of a switch, it converts to a music venue with fantastic acoustic performance,” says Ian McDougall, founding director of ARM Architecture.

“But while the centre is of the highest quality from a performance perspective, the space feels very welcoming, and there is a great sense of space, light and of something unexpected.”

Sensitive design ensures the venue has a presence without overwhelming traditional elements of the school, such as historic Harefield House and its distinctive tower.

It features a wraparound foyer that can be opened onto a terrace for outdoor events and an agora space on the northern side with an outdoor stage built into the structure. The use of timbers and glass means the building is flooded with natural warmth and light, says architect Jeremy Stewart.

“There may only be two students on stage rehearsing, but the room never feels cavernous. It has a sense of ‘wow’, but not in an intimidating way,” he says.

Students across the school are already using the space, and the feedback from students, parents and the wider community is overwhelmingly positive.

“We hope this centre becomes a place that inspires our students and, over time, we hope people within our broader Bayside community also benefit,” says Davis.

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