All the World’s a Stage

Published: Friday 2 October 2015

William Macmahon Ball Theatre at the University of Melbourne

In October 2015, Victorian chapter members visited the William Macmahon Ball Theatre by Architectus.

The William Macmahon Ball Theatre is a 75 seat teaching space at the University of Melbourne, designed for the Faculty of Arts Graduate School of Humanities and Social Sciences and the Melbourne School of Government. It is a hemicyclic amphitheatre, with a deliberate government feel, that encourages face-to-face discussion and debate, engaging a wide range of learning approaches.

Marina Carrol from Architectus indicated that the brief was to design a Harvard-style lecture theatre to complement other collaborative learning spaces. The new theatre encourages more interactive classes and opportunities for debate than a traditional lecture theatre. The space is designed to enable visual contact between students. Acoustic treatment allow everyone in the room to contribute and be heard without amplification.

Academics love teaching in the theatre. They like to be able to move around in the generous central area, some treating this space as a stage. This central area also enables object displays, discussion panels, role playing and performances. The provision of two lecterns enables team teaching and facilitates debates, and students can connect to the audio visual system from their desks to run presentations themselves.

The theatre has also been utilised for unanticipated uses, including faculty board meetings and social events. Students also use it as an informal study space. While waiting for the session to start, members were able to talk to students who had been using this engaging space.

Attendees Comments:
"The natural light is really lovely."
"We can see what's happening in here from upstairs."
"The desks are large and the chairs are comfy."
"There's room to move around behind other people."
"It's just a nice place to be."

The project received a commendation in the 2014 Victorian Chapter Educative Initiative / Design Solution for an Innovative Program Award.

Architects: Architectus Architects