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Issued Wednesday, 29 May 2002

LONG TERM FUNDING FOR THE SYDNEY OPERA HOUSE OFFERS NEW IMPROVEMENTS IN LINE WITH UTZON'S VISION

"As time passes and needs change, it is natural to modify the building to suit the needs of the day. The changes, however, should be such that the original character of the building is maintained." Jørn Utzon

Today the Chair of the Sydney Opera House, Mr Joseph Skrzynski, welcomed the announcement by the Premier and Minister for the Arts, Bob Carr, of an additional allocation of $45 million for major venue improvements at the Sydney Opera House. Premier Carr made the announcement at the launch of the Utzon Design Principles developed to inform all future building works at the Sydney Opera House.

The Premier stated that the finalisation of the Utzon Design Principles and the personal involvement of Jørn Utzon in the building works, had encouraged the NSW Government to confirm long term funding for the Sydney Opera House's Venue Improvement Plan for six major new works projects.

In launching the Utzon Design Principles, Premier Carr stated that the document would be a primary reference document, encompassing a set of simple statements that articulate the architectural guidelines for the Sydney Opera House. The Utzon Design Principles had informed the preparation of the Venue Improvement Plan, which is included in the funded projects.

"The Utzon Design Principles will also anticipate and address the functional demands of one of the busiest performing arts centres in the world, to ensure this architectural masterpiece will forever reflect his creative vision." Premier Carr said.

The involvement of Jørn Utzon in advising on the Venue Improvement Plan has also led to him developing entirely new proposals to increase the public areas and access options at the Sydney Opera House.

Utzon himself has produced a bold proposal for the building exterior, by opening the Western foyers to a new colonnade to extend and enliven public areas developing closer links between the building and the Harbour. This type of extension of the original design and concepts by the original architect signals great scope for creative renewal for the future.

Mr Skrzynski said that the Venue Improvement Plan integrated Utzon Design Principles with the key business objectives of improving the performance spaces and experience of the Sydney Opera House customers and its major presenting companies.

"The Venue Improvement Plan outlines six projects that will ensure the Sydney Opera House can continue to meet its commitments to improving artistic quality and the customer experience and will deliver high impact benefit in both areas. The funded projects all related to addressing functional and access issues identified by presenting companies, performers, audiences, visitors and disabled users over recent years, " Mr Skrzynski said.

The six projects are the Opera Theatre orchestra pit extension; the Opera Theatre auditorium refurbishment and the Forecourt performance infrastructure as sixth venue. Concert Hall acoustic improvements, Western boardwalk colonnade and foyer refurbishment and Reception Hall refurbishment, including improving disabled access in both the Concert Hall and the Reception Hall.

One of the first realisable benefits for the general public will be in opening up the Forecourt as a sixth venue. This is especially popular for free events such as the Celestial Bells show attended by tens of thousands of visitors during the Sydney Festival and also for ticketed events such as the award winning Buena Vista Social Club – live on the Forecourt. Already an extensive program of free outdoor events is being planned for the Forecourt this summer.

The works will provide for a flexible, transportable stage, seating, dressing rooms and backstage support for a greater number of performances and major events. A wide range of presenting companies then could use this venue.

Issues relating to disabled access will also be addressed as a priority, with some immediate work in areas such as the Box Office foyers and the Reception Hall. There will also be additional seating for patrons in wheelchairs and wheelchair access to the orchestra pit. The improvements to the Western foyers and the infrastructure work on the Forecourt will be carried out in line with appropriate disability access guidelines.

Richard Johnson, of architectural firm Johnson, Pilton and Walker, has been working with Jørn Utzon for the past three years on the Utzon Design Principles. He said that Utzon had also pondered on the important issue of access to the building and how this could be improved to optimise the experience for all visitors.

"The design principles will provide the Sydney Opera House with the opportunity to address access to the building ensuring it is in line with the integrity of Utzon's vision of the building."

 

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