The government of the Australia‘s Southeastern state of New South Wales (NSW) has released images of an upgrade to the Sydney Opera House. Designed by Pritzker Prize winning Danish architect Jørn Utzon and built in 1973, the opera venue is listed as a World Heritage Site. The interior refurbishment will be the building’s biggest upgrade in its 43-year history.
Carried out by “controversial” Australian studio ARM, the work is part of a $155 million (USD) Cultural Infrastructure Fund scheme put forward by NSW state authorities. This year, ARM were awarded the Australian Institute of Architects Gold Medal, the country’s highest architecture award. NSW Deputy Premier and Minister for the Arts Troy Grant said the work represents the “biggest upgrade to the Opera House since it opened 43 years ago.”
The interior of the Sydney Opera House today (Jason Tong / Flickr)
As for the upgrades themselves, extensive changes will be made to enhance the hall’s acoustic performance. According to a survey from 2011, the Sydney Opera House was named as the third worst classical music venue in Australia in a list of 20. Changes then will see automatic drapes installed along with bespoke acoustic reflectors and in the concert hall. New automated stage risers will also improve acoustical performance meanwhile, for performances using amplified sound, a 3D surround-sound system will be put in place. In addition to this, a new, quieter air-conditioning system will be installed in a bid to reduce background noise.
“For the first time the Concert Hall will deliver the true ambitions of the original creators of this incredible building,” said Sydney Symphony Orchestra Managing Director Rory Jeffes. The building’s acoustic properties however, while a primary focus, aren’t the only changes in line. Accessibility will be greatly improved thanks to the addition of 26 wheelchair seating options inside the concert hall along with numerous elevators installed throughout the building.
“The Opera House, a ‘masterpiece of human creative genius,’ belongs to us all and is central to our identity as Australians,” said Louise Herron, CEO of the opera house. “These renewal projects are designed to ensure the Opera House continues to evolve, welcoming and inspiring people in as many ways as possible.”
Meanwhile, Sydney resident Graham Sachse commented how it was “remarkable the opera house was being refurbished. “Sydney-siders tend to take the Harbour Bridge and the Opera House for granted,” he said speaking to AN. “They sort of just blend into the cityscape in the day to day rush. The NSW State Government does not have a great track record with historic building conservation or public works especially in the 1960s and ’70s. The Queen Vitoria Building was saved minutes away from the wrecking ball and we lost iconic hotels like the Australia Hotel and the Adams Hotel and all but one of the grand old picture theaters.” Sachse went on to add: “Let’s hope that whoever is designing the refit [ARM] gets it right.”
Construction for the upgrades is expected to begin in 2019 with the building being opened and available for use again in 2021 two years before its 50th anniversary in 2023.