Accessing the Wheeler Centre venue
See below for an audio description of an introduction to the Wheeler Centre venue, and a video showing our building and location.
Access to the Wheeler Centre entrance at 176 Little Lonsdale St, Melbourne, is via a narrow bitumen path on the left side of Little Lonsdale street as you travel north from Swanston Street. The footpath runs alongside the rough stone wall of State Library Victoria. Then, as you draw closer to the entrance, there are two metered disability parking spaces, parallel to the road. Here, the footpath dips to accommodate the car park entrance, and waist height steel bollards separate the car spaces from pedestrians.
The Wheeler Centre entrance has nine concrete steps from the road to the front door platform. The stairs are five metres across, bookended by glass panel balustrades under long metal grab rails, one on either side. A six-metre high contemporary rectangular arch frames the whole structure. The sidewalls have thick pale green glass. The right hand side glass shows the Wheeler Centre's logo, which is a white letter W made from a series of concentric Vs that cross in the centre like bird wings, on a square green background. The words 'The Wheeler Centre' are written in black below, along with the words 'Books, Writing and Ideas' written in smaller green letters, one word below the next.
To utilise ramp access to the building, continue past the base of the stairs to the left for another 15 metres, flanked on the left with a 1.5-metre high wrought-iron fence. At the end, you turn left back on yourself to move up the gentle incline of the ramp, which runs alongside the wall of the building, parallel to the road.
Three-quarters of the way up, the ramp makes a 90-degree turn to the right for a few paces, then back to the left to complete the journey to the top platform. There are metal grab rails that run the length of the ramp on either side. Turn right at the top of the ramp to enter the building.
On the platform at the top of the stairs, and extending to the top of the ramp on the right, is a strip of hazard tiles. As you enter the arched alcove, glass sliding doors separate in the centre and open into the foyer.
Once in the foyer, approximately four metres from the door, directly in front of you, sits a long wooden reception desk, slightly offset to the left of centre. The shape of the right-hand side of the desk angles away 45 degrees, and leads to a large elevator, recessed in the back wall of the room.
If you turn right, as you enter, there is a three-metre wide entrance to a corridor, which leads to a carpeted staircase. One set of stairs leads down to a café called The Moat, which is also a smaller venue in the building. The other set of stairs leads up to offices and the administration area.
The ambulant and accessible toilet – labelled gender neutral and fragrance free – along with other male and female toilets, can be accessed by the elevator, or the stairs down to the lower level.
If you turn left, as you enter the foyer, you will face a set of heavy glass and wooden double doors, which open into the Performance Space. These will either be already open – they swing toward you as you enter – or attended by an usher to operate them.
The Performance Space is a long, narrow carpeted space with five arched windows down the left side. The high ceiling has a series of art-deco pendent lights hanging along the centre line.
The single block of 250 chairs has no central aisle. Access is from the corridors which run down either side of the seating bank. Approximately 27 rows of chairs, of around 10 chairs per row, all face a stage platform at the far end of the room. The chairs are non-fixed plastic molded seats, without arms, with two curved metal frames supporting the sides. They can be readily moved to allow for wheelchair users. Three-quarters of the way down the room, a stack of room-divider panels concertina back against the wall on either side. When pulled across and locked into the fixed wall position, the Performance Space may be reduced down to a more intimate size.
The stage is a platform six metres deep by eight metres wide. It is raised 500mm from floor level. There are four stairs to the stage with a railing on the left-hand side. A portable wheelchair lift is also available.
The stage is wrapped with a two-metre high black border of curtains along both sides, and across the back. Against the back are three freestanding wooden Ws, the Wheeler Centre logos, which create the backdrop. A series of square, red, short-backed armchairs sit in a semi-circle in front of them, with a couple of white circular side-tables spaced intermittently between them. Over the stage, in groups, hang black theatrical stage lights pointed at the stage.
This audio introduction has been described by Carol Wellman Kelly, for Access2Arts, South Australia. November 2019.
Video producer: Jose Maria Eveline