The façade of the MTC is an innovative solution to the problem that faces all designers of theatre buildings: how to deal with the flytower. Some theatres show off the flytower structure with cladding or light, however architects Ashton Raggatt McDougall opted to conceal the flytower of the MTC theatre in an optical illusion. The white pipework of the façade creates a massive two-dimensional picture, especially when viewed from one special location, effectively creating a completely separate geometry to the actual black boxes containing the building. The brief from the architect was for light to reveal the white pipework whilst hiding the black building behind. We worked through numerous possible solutions before arriving at a simple arrangement that draws its inspiration from simple theatrical lighting techniques and that is achieved through excellent optics, careful positioning and careful aiming. The fact that many people refer to the building as ‘that building covered in neon’ when in fact no neon is used, is testament to the success of the lighting in rendering the architect’s vision.
One of the other features of the MTC is the ‘Word Wall.’ The inspiration for the Word Wall came from LED moving message displays. How could we create such a thing without the massive cost and infrastructure requirements of an LED screen. The requirement for the walls to be perforated for acoustic reasons led to the idea of creating a series of light boxes which could be linked into the activity within the theatre. The result of collaboration between Electrolight, Ashton Raggatt McDougall and Melbourne Theatre Company is the Word Wall. The theatre can be different for every production, allowing colour to spill out into the auditorium from the stage.