Sydney Opera House concert hall redevelopment begins

Construction has begun on the refurbishment of Sydney Opera House’s iconic Concert Hall – part of the biggest upgrade to the building since it opened in 1973.

The renewal, designed by ARM Architecture, Schuler Shook and Müller-BBM, will include a new acoustic ceiling with specially designed acoustic reflectors, new automated drapes and a 3D surround-sound system for amplified performances in an effort to improve the acoustic performance of the Concert Hall. The stage will be lowered to improve sightlines and engender a greater sense of intimacy.

A new flying rig for lighting and scenery, a new accessible lift and automated stage risers will also be included.

The project will be delivered by Taylor Construction and Waagner-Biro Stage Systems. ARM Architecture won a competitive tender for the conceptual and schematic design with Müller-BBM and Schuler Shook in 2015. Specialist theatre consultants Theatreplan UK, Arup Engineers, Steensen Varming and heritage architect Design5 also form part of the design team. Waagner-Biro was awarded the very first contract for the Opera House’s construction in 1960, delivering the support structure for the building’s roof shells.

The concert hall upgrade is part of a 10-year renewal plan for the Opera House that began in 2013 on its 40th anniversary, in the lead up to its golden jubilee in 2023.

The World Heritage-listed building, designed by Pritzker Prize Laureate Jørn Utzon and opened in 1973, was originally intended to have a 2,000-seat capacity in its main hall. This space later became the Concert Hall after Utzon resigned from the project in 1966. Today, the concert hall has a capacity of 2,679, an increase that the original acoustic advisor, Lothar Cremer, warned would be disastrous. A range of other factors, including the volume of the space, as well as the seating arrangement, made it very difficult to achieve the acoustic requirements set out in the original brief.

The acoustic upgrades to the concert hall have been designed in consultation with the Sydney Symphony Orchestra, Sydney Philharmonia Choirs and Australian Chamber Orchestra.

The refurbished concert hall will reopen in 2022.

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