Sydney Opera House New Building Programme

Article excerpt

The Sydney Opera House is to undergo a series of renovations and improvements - Chris Monk has been looking at them

The Sydney Opera House, without doubt one of the architectural wonders of the world and perhaps the best known building of the 20thcentury was, late last year, officially protected by its inclusion on the Australian State Heritage Register, the Australian version of Grade 1 Listed Building status, to mark the thirtieth Anniversary of its official opening.

The Opera House's profile within Australia has risen rapidly in recent years, starting perhaps with the decision in 1999 to approach the original architect, Jørn Utzon, to develop a set of Design Principles. These principles are to act as a guide for future and immanent changes, with a view to improve both the facilities and the working environment as well as assessing the actual fabric of the building. The New South Wales' Government set aside A$69.3million in this year's budget for these changes, money it ear-marked in 2001.

The Opera House

Although the whole building is called The Opera House, actually it is many smaller units, the main two being the Opera Theatre, the northern group of four interlocking shells, and the slightly larger Concert Hall, the southern group of shells. There is also a Drama Theatre, Playhouse, Art Gallery and two Box Offices. In addition there are several restaurants, cafés and shops.

Utzon's Design Principles reflect his vision for the building, laying the groundwork for the House to continue to develop and extend its activities without losing its architectural integrity.

The Improvements

The projects, which will be carried out over five years, include its Reception Hall, Western Loggia, Concert Hall and Opera Theatre.

When complete, in mid-2004, the rejuvenated Reception Hall will be a superb and versatile venue. It will also be the only authentic Utzon interior within the House. Unlike other spaces, which were structurally altered after Jørn Utzon left the project in 1966 after a series of disputes, the Reception Hall had only superficial modifications. The plywood panelling is being removed to reveal the folded concrete ceiling beams which are to be cleaned and polished. The beams will be further highlighted by a glaze finish and concealed lighting.

Work on the new Loggia, or colonnade, will commence in mid-2004, opening the Western Venue Foyers, comprising The Playhouse, Drama Theatre and The Studio, to the Western Broadwalk and Harbour, with large windows and doorways creating a light, open and bright environment. In total, nine new openings will be created: six windows and three extra door entrances, with almost 50% of the Foyer façade becoming glass.

The Opera House is also looking to optimise the acoustic qualities of the Concert Hall. …