The Sidney Myer Music Bowl

Concept drawings, night and day performances Longitudinal section showing cable construction, 1959 Detail of leading edge Telegram advising award of the R.S. Reynolds prize, 1959 Laying the first sheet of roof, 11 December 1958 An early performance, showing the underside of the roof

The Sidney Myer Music Bowl project came about through the auspices of the Sidney Myer Charity Trust, bringing to fruition an idea expressed by businessman Sidney Myer.

Winner of the R.S. Reynolds award for architecture in 1959, ‘The Bowl’ was recognised as ‘a project needed by every community or city of any size in the world; a building used by people, semi-enclosing space for a cultural purpose’1

According to the jury for the Reynolds prize -

‘We are coming into an era where larger and light-weight, space spanning structures will be needed.  Many drawings or diagrams of what such shapes might be have been published, but few proposals have solved the most difficult problem – the skin itself ... Here we have an architecture that is a strong statement of the problem-solving approach, which results in a fresh, original solution.  The winners of this competition have done a remarkable job in joining several sciences and arts all into one cohesive design concept.  This comprehensive structure demonstrates their combination into one unity; architecture, structural and electrical engineering, acoustics and landscape design become one …If the approach and principles of the winners are followed, architecture may soar to new levels of freedom, utility and grace.’

The Bowl has fixed seating for 2,100 people, with a total capacity of about 25,000 in the grounds, however in the mid-1970s rock concerts drew huge crowds extending into Kings Domain. While most people were unable to see the stage, the Bowl’s unique design allowed the sound to carry far into the trees. Though not the first building utilizing tensile cables and thin shell roofing, the design and engineering methods used in the Bowl project also carried far, stimulating rapid development of this type of construction.

  1. Excerpts from Jury Report, R.S. Reynolds Prize, published in Architectural Record, June 1959, Yuncken Freeman Architects Pty Ltd and Predecessors, 1984.0047 Unit 4

Concept drawings, night and day performances, undated
Early scheme drawn by Paul Wallace of Grounds Romberg Boyd
Photographic reproductions of charcoal sketches
Yuncken Freeman Architects Pty Ltd and Predecessors, 1984.0047.00017

Longitudinal section showing cable construction, 1959
Included in submission to competition for the R.S. Reynolds Prize
Yuncken Freeman Architects Pty Ltd and Predecessors, 1984.0047

Detail of leading edge, undated
Pencil on tracing paper
Yuncken Freeman Architects Pty Ltd and Predecessors, 1984.0047

Telegram advising award of the R.S. Reynolds prize, 1959
Yuncken Freeman Architects Pty Ltd and Predecessors, 1984.0047 Unit 4

Laying the first sheet of roof, 11 December 1958
Wolfgang Sievers, photographer
Myer Emporium, 1979.0180

Reproduced by permission, National Library of Australia

An early performance, showing the underside of the roof
Laurie Richards, photographer
Yuncken Freeman Architects Pty Ltd and Predecessors, 1984.0047

See also:
Boyd’s contribution to the Sidney Myer Music Bowl, UMA Bulletin, December 2014