Formerly known as the State Theatre, the Forum Melbourne – designed by American architect John Eberson – first opened its doors in 1929 with the largest seating capacity of any theatre in Australia. Today, the theatre is considered a Melbourne icon and is a staple of the city’s live music scene. In addition to hosting musicians, comedians and popular festivals every year, the venue serves as a function space for a wide variety of high-society events.
But as with everything, there comes a time when one must consider the future. With buildings, this usually means a decision as to whether restore and renovate, or demolish and recreate. Marriner Group, the current owners of the Forum, opted for the latter option, and undertook a 12-month transformation of the venue which held at its core a preservation of the theatre’s heritage.
“The Forum renovation is 21 years in the making. Having lived and experienced the space for a long time, when it came to undertake the work, we knew exactly what we wanted to achieve,” says Jason Marriner, CEO and co-owner of the Marriner Group.
In charge of the new design were Melbourne-based architects Trethowan Architecture, and interior designers Jackson Interiors.
The difference is evident as soon as you enter the venue, where the entrance foyer carpet has been removed to reveal 200,000 mosaic tiles and polished marble stairs. Beyond this are three new bars, 14 new seating booths and fresh polished hardwood floors throughout.
Hydraulic adjustable-height flooring at the rear, in place of the rear bench rows, caters to the needs of the many and varied events that the Forum Melbourne hosts each year. An elevator has that installed that can accommodate cars into the venue, allowing even more scope for visitors to the venue. Additionally, the greens rooms, state-of-the-art stage lighting, sound and front-of-house rigging have been comprehensively updated.
The redesigned Forum Melbourne can accommodate 250-550 for dinner, 400-1,500 for cocktail events, and up to 800 for presentations. Standing room in the main auditorium has been widened, increasing its capacity from 1,500 to 2,000.