The Perth Concert Hall is a familiar and iconic sight in the Perth CBD. Located on St George’s Terrace, the building has played host to performances of all kinds since it first opened its doors on Jan 26, 1973.
You may be surprised to know the building is renowned both nationally and internationally, with its acoustics ranked some of the best in the Southern Hemisphere by performers, critics, and industry experts. We’ve put together some fun facts about this beloved building, as well as some little-known info about its inner workings. Take a look inside!
Image Credit: Emma van Dordrecht
Designed by Perth architectural firm Howlett & Bailey, the building is a fantastic example of Brutalist architecture. Derived from the French word for ‘raw concrete,’ Brutalist buildings often appear monolithic and imposing, due to the extensive use of poured concrete in their construction. This particular style gives the Perth Concert Hall a strong sense of gravitas, with its innovative use of white, off-form concrete visible throughout the whole building.
Earning PCH its reputation for the best acoustics in Australia is the careful planning and design that went in to creating the space. Overseen by acoustician Sir Harold Marshall in association with Warwick Mehaffey from the ABC, computer modelling was used to predict how well patrons could hear from every single seat in the hall – all 1891 of them!
The official opening of the building was a huge event, said to have had the largest gathering of dignitaries in Perth since the Empire Games in 1962, including then-Prime Minister Gough Whitlam. Coinciding with the 21st anniversary of the Festival of Perth (now Perth Festival), the opening consisted of an orchestral concert, followed by a midnight-to-dawn ball.
Image Credit: Jarrad Seng from The Magical Music of Animation, 2020
The venue has seen its fair share of iconic and talented acts, hosting performances of all kinds. From music royalty like Ray Charles, Nina Simone and BB King, to modern stars such as Michael Bublé, The Veronicas and Tim Minchin, as well as the comedic talents of Rowan Atkinson, Billy Connolly and Spike Milligan. Even Hi-Five have graced the stage. PCH is also home to WA’s state orchestra, WASO, who regularly fill the hall with music all year.
Being such a large building, it’s full of secret spots and hidden rooms. One such room can technically be seen from the audience: located behind the panelling to the right of the organ is the sound engineering room where technicians work their magic during live broadcasts or recordings. Speaking of the organ, there are 66 pipes visible from the hall. However, there are actually 3000 pipes in total, allowing organists to select whatever notes or sounds they need.
There’s also a tiny, secret bathroom, made especially for Queen Elizabeth II when she originally visited. With a distinct pastel colour scheme, it’s only accessible via the Perth Concert Hall Boardroom. The PCH site also includes a disused tunnel, which acted as an underpass under St George’s Terrace, which was mainly closed due to antisocial behaviour, as well as the tunnel’s egress point in close proximity to the American embassy. The tunnel has been used a few times in recent years as a music venue and pop-up bar location, most recently in 2016 as part of the City of Perth’s Winter Arts Festival.
Keen to see behind the scenes at this fantastic building yourself? The team at Perth Concert Hall run guided tours a few times a month, for the simple cost of a gold coin donation. Check out the info page here to find out when they’re on, and explore backstage, upstage and through narrow passageways in one of Perth’s most iconic buildings.