Auckland Town Hall
Auckland Town Hall is a prominent civic landmark of neo-Baroque style. Taking pride of place on Queen Street in Auckland’s CBD, it was specifically designed by Melbourne architects JJ and EJ Clark to fit the wedge-shaped piece of land acquired for it. Protected as a Category A heritage building, it was opened in 1911 by Baron Islington, New Zealand’s Governor General at the time. From 1994-1997 the building was fully restored, allowing the addition of modern amenities and re-establishing the building’s standing as a multi-functional venue and world class performance hall.
Constructed from Oamaru limestone, this historic five-storey building with its distinctive clock tower, has many special features including kauri floors, decorative pressed metal ceilings and plasterwork, stained glass windows, cast iron balustrades, porcelain and glazed ceramic tiling, and hand blown chandeliers.
Auckland Town Hall as the centre of life in the city
Auckland Town Hall has been at the centre of the city’s political and cultural life since its opening, and over the years has hosted countless significant events and figures. Some of the famous (and infamous) ones include: a reception for Gallipoli survivors in 1915; a civic function for Edward, Prince of Wales in 1920; a Red Cross dance (with entertainment by Artie Shaw’s band) attended by Eleanor Roosevelt, First Lady of the United States in 1943; the official New Zealand welcome of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth and His Royal Highness The Duke of Edinburgh and Queen Elizabeth, The Queen Mother, in 1953 and 1958 respectively; The Beatles tour in 1964 (kick-starting Beatlemania in New Zealand and linking New Zealand to international youth culture); a speech by Germaine Greer in 1972 attacking anti-abortion campaigners and during which she swore and was subsequently arrested; a dinner for US President Bill Clinton and other APEC leaders in 1999.
On the classical music front, some of the great musicians and singers of the past century have travelled to New Zealand for performances at Auckland Town Hall: Sir Yehudi Menuhin, Sir William Walton, David Oistrakh, Isaac Stern, Jacqueline Du Pre, Andre Segovia, Victoria De Los Angeles, Dame Elisabeth Schwarzkopf, Vladimir Ashkenazy, Mstislav Rostropovich, Kronos Quartet, Dame Joan Sutherland, Kathleen Battle, Nigel Kennedy, Julian Lloyd Webber...
And Auckland Town Hall’s Rock 'n Roll legacy is just as strong: The Rolling Stones, The Who, Elton John, Lou Reed, Talking Heads, The Boomtown Rats, The Cure, Iggy Pop, Tom Waits, Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds, Marilyn Manson, Suzi Quatro, Lucinda Williams...
The centrepiece of Auckland Town Hall is the Great Hall, seating up to 1,529 people in theatre-style on three levels, and featuring a 17 metre (approximately 60 foot) stud and permanent concert platform.
Considered to have one of the finest acoustics in the world, this is Auckland’s premier venue for fine music and orchestral performances as well as being a popular choice for rock concerts.
Housed in the Great Hall, the Auckland Town Hall Organ
also dates from 1911 and is the largest musical instrument in New Zealand. The organ has recently been restored to its former Romantic-era status and was unveiled to the public in March 2010. The organ required a major rebuild due to the extensive remodelling it underwent in 1969-70 during the Organ Reform Movement, giving it the then-fashionable Baroque sound.
The Concert Chamber is adjacent to the Great Hall and seats a maximum of 431 patrons over two levels. Also renowned for its acoustics, this is the preferred venue for those entertainers whose art form lends itself to a more intimate setting.
The original Proscenium Arch of the Concert Chamber was only rediscovered during restoration, as were the oval stained-glass windows which had been removed and covered over. The stained-glass windows were found intact in the basement storage and returned to their rightful positions.