National Heritage List inscription date 21 September 2005
Set in the Kings Domain Gardens, Melbourne, this hugely popular summertime music venue has been wowing crowds since it opened in 1959.
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Bringing music to Melbourne
The Sidney Myer Music Bowl was Melbourne’s first major, purpose-built live outdoor cultural venue and one of the city’s best-known locations and most visited landmarks.
The large scale sound shell music bowl has been the venue for a wide array of open air events and performances.
Interestingly, one of the first events at the new music bowl wasn’t at all musical-over 70,000 people turned out to hear the American evangelist, Billy Graham speak in 1959.
By then firmly established as one of the city’s best-known outdoor music venues, in 1967 it hosted the largest crowd ever for a concert in Australia when an estimated 200,000 people attended the Seekers homecoming concert.
Since then performers ranging from ABBA and AC/DC to Dame Kiri Te Kanawa and Bob Dylan have performed at the music bowl. The music bowl has also been home to the much-beloved Carols by Candlelight concert each Christmas Eve since 1959.
Sidney Myer’s story
A Russian immigrant who arrived in Victoria in 1899, Sidney Myer established one of Australia's largest retail businesses and become one of the nation's most significant philanthropists.
Myer, a music lover, established the annual ‘Music for the People’ series of open-air concerts with the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra in 1929. Myer expressed a wish for a permanent home for these performances which were held in the Botanic Gardens.
On his death in 1934, the Sidney Myer Charitable Trust (now known as the Myer Foundation) was established to continue the tradition of philanthropy begun by its founder. The Trust’s Myer Music Bowl project met Myer’s wish as the popular free concerts have continued and are now held at the bowl itself.
Australian architecture in the 20th century
The Sidney Myer Music Bowl is not only nationally significant for social and cultural attributes. It also illustrates a remarkable creative and technical achievement.
From the mid-20th century, architects, engineers and planners in Australian capital cities were among the first in the world to introduce innovative architectural ways of expressing community, corporate and business optimism through their projects. This transformation gained momentum as Australia emerged from the Depression and two world wars.
Architect Barry Patten, a member of the leading Australian architectural firm, Yuncken Freeman Brothers, Griffiths and Simpson, was responsible for creating this excellent example of the late 20th century style for the bowl. This style is characterised by its large-scale, free, sculptural curved spaces that float above the site.
At the time of its construction, the Sidney Myer Music Bowl was the most important example—in terms of scale, sophistication and structural expression—of a small number of structures in Australia to combine a tensile structural system with a free form roof. New construction techniques were also developed to make the sound shell both watertight and aerodynamically stable and flexible.
Significantly, the design and construction of the Myer Music Bowl was ten years ahead of similar-styled projects in Europe.
- Location and Boundary map (PDF - 202.07 KB)
- Gazettal notice (PDF - 495.51 KB)
- Australian Heritage Database record
- Australia's National Heritage - 20th Century Architecture (PDF - 727.13 KB) | (RTF - 28.3 KB)