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Issued Friday, 25 August 2006

SIGNIFICANT ACCESS IMPROVEMENTS FOR SYDNEY OPERA HOUSE

NSW Premier Morris Iemma today announced $38 million in funding to upgrade the public entrances to the Sydney Opera House including a major refurbishment of the foyers designed by Jørn Utzon.

“Sydney Opera House is one of our national treasures and is an icon of our city,” Mr Iemma said.

“This is an important step forward and will make a visit to Sydney Opera House so much easier and more enjoyable for everyone.

“The Utzon designs include the total refurbishment of The Studio, Playhouse and Drama Theatre foyers, with the consolidation of box office, cloaking and bar facilities,” Mr Iemma said.

“We’ll also be making changes to make sure the Opera House is more accessible for the elderly and visitors with disabilities by adding extra lifts and escalators,” Mr Iemma said.

“More than four million people visit the Opera House each year and with approximately 20% of the population with mobility difficulties this project will improve the Opera House experience for hundreds of thousands of people,” Mr Iemma said.

The Bennelong stairs from the vehicle concourse to the Box Office Foyer will be demolished to allow construction of a public lift and give covered, level access to the Western Foyers.

The Foyers Access project will include a number of elements to improve access for elderly visitors or visitors with disabilities:

  1. Construction of a public lift from the Lower Concourse level to the Playhouse, Drama Theatre, Studio and Box Office Foyers.
  2. Escalators will also be incorporated into the stairs from the Box Office level to the Southern Foyers of the Concert Hall and Opera Theatre.

Sydney Opera House Chief Executive, Dr Norman Gillespie said patrons who have mobility difficulties, currently have to be escorted via goods lifts to the Concert Hall and Opera Theatre.

“When Sydney Opera House was built, people were less aware about access issues. There are over 60 steps up to the Concert Hall and Opera Theatre and each night an increasing number are assisted by staff to their seats through backstage areas,” said Dr Gillespie.

“From my point of view, and our point of view as architects, we want to give spectators and visitors to the Opera House a beautiful extra experience and we are so happy to have this opportunity to create such a lively, marvellous atmosphere” said Jørn Utzon from his home in Denmark.

The designs for the project were included in the 2004 Colonnade/Foyers development application.

Modifications to the development application to reflect changes to the design will be lodged with Planning NSW in the next week. The Colonnade was opened by Queen Elizabeth II in March.

Construction on the Foyers Access project is scheduled to commence in December this year.

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