Evolution & Renewal

Sydney Opera House

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

Evolution is part of the Sydney Opera House’s DNA.

It was integral to Jørn Utzon’s organic approach to design and envisioned in the Design Principles he left to guide the changes the building would require over time.

At its 40th Anniversary in 2013, the Opera House launched a Decade of Renewal to ensure that Australia’s most famous building and busiest performing arts centre continues to inspire future generations of artists, audiences and visitors. The result is a suite of projects that will touch all corners of the building and open it to the public as never before.

Embodying the enduring links between Australia and Denmark first forged by the Opera House, the Danish Crown Prince Couple, HRH Crown Prince Frederik and HRH Crown Princess Mary, were the official patrons of the 40th Anniversary celebrations, which spanned 17 events attended by more than 30,000 people and generated more than 2000 media stories with a global audience reach of 260 million people.

As part of the Anniversary, Deloitte delivered a report that put the iconic or national-identity value of the Opera House at $4.6 billion, underlining the scale of the windfall Australia has reaped from the vision and daring of previous generations.

Celebrations reached a peak around the Opera House’s birthday in October, when the Crown Prince Couple greeted masses of well-wishers on the steps of the Sydney Opera House.

HRH Crown Prince Frederik and his Tasmanian-born wife, HRH Crown Princess Mary, were glamorous patrons of 40th Anniversary celebrations, which included a gala concert, exhibitions, the Crown Prince Couple Awards and new scholarships funded by donors to inspire the next generation of architects, designers and arts leaders.

Chef Matt Moran presents a giant cupcake and singer Jimmy Barnes leads a rousing singalong of Happy Birthday.

A free 40th Anniversary exhibition was devoted to Danish design’s contemporary legacy, with classic pieces from the Utzon era displayed alongside innovative and experimental contemporary design.

Titled Danish Design at the House, reviewers hailed the show for highlighting how the traditions of minimalism, functionality and craftsmanship continue to shape Danish design, revealing why the Sydney Opera House is such a relevant and inspiring building today, more than 40 years after its completion.

The Sydney Opera House’s 40th also launched the Multidisciplinary Australian Danish Exchange (MADE). Each year, five Australian architectural, design and engineering students travel to Denmark, and five Danish students come to Sydney, to work on a collaborative project.

Fully funded until 2023, MADE will build an alumnus group of 100 cross-disciplinary professionals between the Opera House’s 40th and 50th Anniversaries to take the Danish/Australian and multi-disciplinary links first forged by the Opera House into new generations.

The alumni network will ultimately comprise 100 young professionals who understand the challenging, multidisciplinary and innovative thinking that brought into being the Opera House, a building designed on the edge of the possible.

The Decade of Renewal at the Opera House is gaining momentum. The New South Wales government has funded planning of a suite of projects that will touch all corners of the building, opening up more areas to the public and ensure its venues inspire the next global generation of artists, audiences and visitors.

The Decade of Renewal builds on changes at the turn of the 21st century, when Jørn Utzon himself designed and decorated the intimate venue that bears his name, the Utzon Room.

Following the Utzon Room came the renovation and extension of the Western Foyers providing easier access to the Drama Theatre, Playhouse and Studio Theatre under the main Concert Hall space, elegantly executed by renowned architect Richard Johnson's firm, JPW, in close consultation with Jørn Utzon.

In 2015 the Opera House opened a new Welcome Centre on the Lower Concourse, where visitors can buy tickets, begin tours, and discover some of the building’s architectural and performance history.

The Welcome Centre was enabled by a capital grant from the Federal Government’s Department of Heritage and Environment, a donation from former Opera House chairman John Symond, and Opera House Principal Partner Samsung.

The Opera House is upgrading the Joan Sutherland Theatre. This project will replace the theatre’s 40-year-old “engine” – that is, the machinery that helps the magic happen on stage.

Credits: Story

Created by Sam Doust and the
Sydney Opera House GCI Team


Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Denmark
Danish Agency for Culture

Credits: All media
The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
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