The guidelines set for the project were to promote the principles of equity and social inclusion. The brief addressed three main areas:
The Joan Sutherland Theatre auditorium, with internal upgrades for patrons and performers.
A new connection between the Southern Foyer and the Northern Foyers, a bespoke bronze and glass lift designed to fit between the existing concrete ribs and façade’s complex geometry;
And replacement of the Theatre Machinery within the JST Stage to improve functionality, safety and efficiencies for the performers and stage crew.
Working within World Heritage carries with it, very special challenges and opportunities. These projects all relied on a very considered assessment of the spatial and aesthetic nature of the spaces they were interfacing with. From the outset, all design decisions were assessed against the Utzon Design Principles and the Conservation Management Plan. Detailed design resolution worked around challenging spatial constraints, utilising materiality to provide a sense of orientation and distinction between the new front of house experiences and those the performers experience.
At its 40th Anniversary in 2013, the Sydney Opera House launched a decade of Renewal works with the primary objective of preparing the building for the needs and expectations of future generations of artists, audiences and visitors. The JST Accessibility upgrade formed part of the Accessibility Master Plan and is an important part of this long-term vision, aiming to make the Joan Sutherland Theatre a more inclusive and accessible venue to all. It balanced the needs of preserving the design excellence of a World Heritage listed building and world class performing arts venue while complying with the current regulatory requirements.
At a first glance little appears to have changed in the JST however, despite the small nature of these projects, each one has contributed to changing the way in which the Opera Theatre is experienced, opening the venue to unprecedented perspectives. The project design carefully considered potential and cumulative impact, first explored in the process of compiling the SOH Accessibility Master Plan which defined 80 individual projects. The impacts of the upgrades were assessed to not diminish the outstanding universal values that underpin its World Heritage Listing. This project helps sustain the iconic international standing of this Opera House.
Theatre SeatsJoan Sutherland Theatre
TZG and Grimshaw
Design 5 - Architects
Crafted detailing of the brushbox timber panels, expressed concrete walls and bronze accent elements dress the space, establishing it as a natural extension of the foyers language and referencing both Utzon and Peter Hall’s work.
The lift structure, that appears light and ‘effortless’, in actual fact is working hard to support the existing concrete ribs and precast stairs. The facade, altered to make space for the lift, elegantly frames the transparent shaft, almost dissolving in the reflection of the harbour.
The project has received fantastic reviews from the performance companies at the Opera House regarding the acoustic and operational performances of the theatre; and from Accessibility Groups, whose members can now access the Northern Foyer and one of Sydney’s best views of the Harbour; previously inaccessible.