Last updated: 05:00 PM ET, Tue August 16 2016

Major Renovations In Store for Sydney Opera House

Destination & Tourism | Josh Lew | August 16, 2016

Major Renovations In Store for Sydney Opera House

Photo by James Ruggia

One of the world’s most iconic buildings will soon be getting a makeover. The Sydney Opera House will undergo major renovations over the next four and half years. The most recognizable part of the building, its sail-like roof, will not be changed, but the interior of the building will get an upgrade. 

The price tag for the project is more than AU$200 million. That might seem like a lot when compared to the cost of constructing the Opera House more than four decades ago. The building costs were only about $100 million in 1973. However, some estimates suggest that the Opera House, which draws more than eight million tourists and concert-goers each year, generates about $775 million for the Australian economy annually. So in terms of income from tourism, the entire project will be paid for in a matter of months. 

What exactly is going to happen to Australia’s trademark landmark?  

Despite being designed for musical performances, the Concert Hall at the Opera House is actually known for its poor acoustics. Sydney Opera House chief executive Louise Herron explained the sound problems: "The problem is with the very high ceiling a lot of the sound that the orchestra actually makes rises and isn't reflected down, so that the musicians on one side - for example the second violins - have trouble hearing the double basses… It means, it's not such a good experience as it could be if the sound is more contained." 

To remedy this, a new ceiling will be installed with sonic reflectors that will carry sound much better. The stage will also be lowered and a new air conditioning system will be installed under the seating area. 

Read More: Sydney Opera House Shines In Brilliant Vivid Sydney Light Show 

Removing 1970s-era systems and designs

A big part of the project is simply replacing some of the old technology and systems that were installed when the building was first constructed in the 1970s. For example, the current air conditioning unit is the size of several shipping containers. The new cooling system will be a fraction of that size and will also be more efficient. 

The project will remove or replace some of the more dated aspects of the design. The large exterior marquee will be removed, and a new entrance and foyer will be built to allow people to access the building more easily. More hallways, elevators and an easily accessible escalator will be built to make getting around the Opera House much, much easier. Seating will be added outside the Concert Hall in an effort make the venue more comfortable. 

The project will also include the construction of a function center for social events and a new learning center geared towards visiting children and families. Dedicated wheelchair seating will be added to the theaters as well. 

What about visiting during the renovations?

Work on all these upgrades will be completed in 2021, but what about people who have plans to visit the iconic building before then? Though there will be evidence of the renovations, the Opera House itself will remain open during the project. Some of the theaters will be closed for periods of time while they are renovated.

Since the exterior won't change at all, tourists will still be able to get the requisite photo of the building from Sydney Harbor. 

So the iconic exterior of the Sydney Opera House will not change, but upgrades to the interior will make it possible for visitors to enjoy better sound quality, more comfortable and attractive interiors, and a more welcoming and accessible experience overall. 

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