A $26 million project building recording studios and refurbishing existing buildings is expected to create multiple benefits for both the University and the community.
The project involves constructing a new two-storey recording studio building while also refurbishing the nearby University of Otago College of Education's Music Suite, Teaching Wing, Tower Block and part of the Education Resource Centre.
Work started in 2018 on the new building in a car park beside the Robertson Library, behind the Mary Hopewell Theatre and College auditorium, in Union Street East.
The project will be completed in early 2020 and will provide:
- A greater sense of a performing arts and music community on campus, and in Dunedin
- A modern, permanent base for most of the Department of Music, Theatre and Performing Arts Te Kāhui Tau's staff, students and activities - instead of them being spread around six locations on campus
- Co-location of staff, students and activities that is expected to improve efficiency, communication, collaboration, and innovation
- Another way to attract students, and make recruiting and retaining staff easier
- Closer links between the Department and College, potentially developing a collaborative strength unique to Otago in teaching and research
- Communal (circulation) areas for socialising, displays and performances, where students can learn from each other cutting-edge support for everything from a first-year student learning to use a microphone to a doctoral student running complex acoustic experiments
- New flexible spaces capable of hosting a variety of events - including theatre performances and concerts - enhancing opportunities for students to perform, be seen, foster industry links, create career opportunities, and learn from each other
- Purpose-built, versatile studios that are equipped for recording everything from contemporary bands and small orchestras to solos, and for teaching contemporary and rock music performance
- Support for the arts community by making cutting-edge recording studios available for community and commercial use
- Ultra-fast desktop connections that will create collaboration opportunities locally, nationally and internationally for teaching, learning and research in music, theatre and performing arts
- Cutting-edge support for everything from a first-year student learning to use a microphone to a doctoral student running complex acoustic experiments.
The new two-storey building will have nine purpose-built studios and music teaching/practice rooms.
The main studio will be two-storeys. Its ground floor will house the the main control room, two isolation booths for recording and the main recording space - capable of accommodating an orchestra and of hosting performances for an audience of more than 100.
There will be a gantry (walkway) around the upper interior walls. The rails will be used to hang microphones, lighting, video screens, and speakers, and will have positions for cameras.
The other studios and teaching/practice rooms will be on the first floor.
Parts of the first floor of the western end of the neighbouring University of Otago College of Education Music Block will be renovated, including the existing Music Suite. The new spaces will include a flexible Theatre and Music studio, a smaller teaching room, a guitar lab, four music and theatre rehearsal/practice rooms, a workshop and spaces for storing instruments and equipment.
Sharing video, data and audio
The teaching room, music practice room and studios can be routinely linked simultaneously to share video, data and audio - or just some of those spaces can link, or they can all be busy with different uses. The community and commercial interests can also apply to use those spaces.
The project will create more opportunities to collaborate on teaching, research performance, and production - across the department by consolidating staff and students, with the college through sharing premises, with the wider University and the community by actively encouraging people to come to the new facility, and nationally and internationally through easy access to ultra-fast technology.
College Teaching Wing
At the College, the project involves internally reconfiguring and refurbishing the Teaching Wing.
That will create a hub for technology and science (previously in the Music Block), visual arts and food technology - reflecting the change to integrated teaching environments by letting classes move easily from one specialised room to another, even during a single class.
The new facilities will also reflect changes in digital technology and teaching methods.
Maths will move from the ground floor of the Teaching Wing to the first floor, and a ground-floor extension will link the Teaching Wing and the eastern end of the existing Music Block, creating a circulation area.
A new lift for the Teaching Wing will make the wing more accessible, and a lift in the new building - combined with the new link to the existing Music Block - will make the Music Block more accessible as well.
College Tower Block
The Tower Block's staff offices will be refurbished internally as well.
The college will contract from three floors to two, and the Department of Music, Theatre and Performing Arts will occupy two floors. College postgraduate students will move from the fourth floor of the Tower Block into the Educational Resource Centre old campus shop building.
Minor work on part of the Education Resource Centre will provide postgraduate office space.
Both the new building and existing buildings will be added to the University's Future State Network, with desktop computer connections of up to a gigabit a second so large amounts of data can move very quickly.
The college lecture theatres will also have Wi-Fi for the first time.
Fire protection systems and seismic strengthening will be enhanced in existing buildings as needed as well.
The Humanities' future
The University considers the East Precinct a key area for the future development of the Division of Humanities and the relocation of the Music, Theatre and Performing Arts Te Kāhui Tau is the first step towards that future.
Some of the Department's staff, students and activities are already based in college buildings.
Albany Street's future
The existing recording studio at 180 Albany Street building was constructed in 1967 to house the New Zealand Broadcasting Corporation (NZBC), so was designed for broadcasting. It was based on Abbey Road Studios in England, where the Beatles recorded.
When the NZBC stopped using the building, the University leased it, before buying it in 2008. The University wanted to keep using the building and believed the site would be suitable for future development because it is next to other University property.
180 Albany Street once provided a mix of studio, office, teaching and research spaces - for performances, practices and recording - but is currently only used for studio production and large-group contemporary music teaching.
The building contains asbestos. Independent consultants have determined it is safe for staff and students to use in the interim, with safety measures in place that include prohibiting access to some areas and relocating activities that can be done elsewhere.
180 Albany Street will be demolished once the new building is constructed and operational. Demolition is the most cost-effective option for dealing with the asbestos, and will free that site for development.
Because the new building is being constructed on a car park, about 45 parking spaces will be lost, but 150 new spaces have been created in a new car park on the former Wickliffe site, on the corner of Clyde and Albany Streets.