Sydney icon's $202 million facelift gives greater access to all visitors

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A $202 million renovation for the Sydney Opera House will see new public art spaces, a function centre, better acoustics and greater access for people with disabilities.

One of Australia’s most iconic landmarks, the Sydney Opera House, is set to undergo its largest renovation since it opened in 1973.

The Renewal Project is promising to make the venue more accessible than ever before, with new artwork, improved acoustics and better showcasing of its spectacular views.

“[The project] will give it a future that it deserves for everyone that visits here,” NSW Deputy Premier and Minister for the Arts Troy Grant said.

The NSW Government has committed $202 million to the overhaul which includes upgrades to the world famous Concert Hall and the establishment of new areas including a function centre and a Creative Learning Centre for children.

“For the first time children and young people will have their own dedicated space at the Opera House,” Louise Herron, Opera House CEO, said.

“And what a beautifully located space it will be,” she added.

The biggest changes will occur in the Concert Hall, which hosts world-leading classical and contemporary musicians, speakers and other performers. A new acoustic ceiling and other specially-designed acoustic reflectors will be installed to help distribute sound and improve the hall’s acoustic performance.

“With these changes to the concert hall the audience will get to hear the music as it should be heard, with the world’s best acoustics,” Sydney Symphony Orchestra Chief Conductor David Robertson said.

More than 8.2 million people visit the Opera House every year, making it Australia’s number one tourist destination. The Renewal Project is particularly focused on making that a more enjoyable and accessible experience for people with mobility issues. Three new elevators will be built along with 26 wheelchair positions in the Concert Hall.

“There’s a huge emphasis on access and everybody being able to access more parts of the Opera House,” actor and performer Emily Dash said.

Ms Dash, 25, has cerebral palsy and told SBS the upgrade is part of a wider discussion about making disability more visible.

“It symbolizes a major shift in thinking that we need as both audience members and performers,” Ms Dash said.

“The view from the Northern Foyer, I’ve never been able to see that iconic view, so that’s really quite exciting.”

Architect Jorn Utzon’s design wasn’t popular with everyone initially, but his son, Jan Utzon said the venue’s ongoing success continues to defy expectations.

“He’d be very proud and very happy that the Opera House is so loved by Australians,” Mr Utzon said.

Renovations will begin from next year and will take over four years to complete.

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