The Sydney Opera House is one of the most popular tourist attractions in Australia and produces more than 7 million tourists/people visiting the venue each year. The Sydney Opera House offers a variety of difference shows and performances as well as guided tours, which enables each visitor to explore the vast creation inside one of the world’s most recognisable buildings. Around 1.2 million people attend the many performances and shows, and over 318, 000 people take part of the guided tours available. The Sydney Opera House is also proudly, State, National and World Heritage listed. However, there are many threats that this iconic Australian icon encounters, including such issues as, conservation, and climate change. These different issues threaten the iconic building for future patrons and therefore need to be taken care of in order to maintain Australia’s most recognisable and best known iconic landmark.
“The Sydney Opera House has become, with the Sydney Harbour Bridge, Sydney’s best-known landmark and international symbol” (The Sydney Opera House, 2011). It is known as one of Australia’s iconic monuments and is one of the busiest and well-known performing art centres not only Australia, but the world. Each year, the Sydney Opera House provides over 1500 varying performance each year. It is located on Bennelong Point in Sydney Harbour, in sight of the Sydney Harbour Bridge and is also situated on the northern eastern point of the Sydney central business district (CBD).
The Sydney Opera House is a performing arts centre envisioned and largely created by a Danish architect, Jørn Utzon. However, designed in 1959, it took a total of 14 years to be completed and was official opened in 1973 by Queen Elizabeth II.
The Sydney Opera House, being a performing arts centre, promotes and supports a variety of performing arts companies, and with seven primary venues, offers audiences the opportunity to experience the very best of the many different art forms performed (Sydney Opera House 08/09 Annual Report, 2009). As well as the actual Sydney Opera House, visitors are able to experience the harbour side area that offers a variety of attractions such as shopping, dining and entertainment.
An estimated 45 million people have attended over 100,000 the Sydney Opera House since its opening in 1973 as well as an estimated 100 million people visiting the actual site (Sydney Opera House 08/09 Annual Report, 2009). Regular tours of the construction are conducted daily and many paths and forms of transport was available, leading back towards the CBD through the Botanic Gardens, which is another well known tourist attraction in Sydney.
The Sydney Opera House provides Sydney with a vast number of tourists domestically and internationally throughout the whole year, which provides great exposure to many restaurants, bars and hotels that surround the Harbour. Hotels like the Park Hyatt, Quay Grand Suites Sydney, the Shangri-La Hotel Sydney and The Four Seasons Hotel Sydney; all benefit from the exposure the Sydney Opera House gains from the estimated 7 million patrons visiting the area each year, creating a link with the hospitality and tourism industry of Sydney.
“The Sydney Opera House is a masterpiece of late modern architecture and an iconic building of the 20th century” (The Sydney Opera House, 2011). It is nevertheless, an extraordinary building and not only the city’s central cultural scene, but it is also admired world-wide and valued by the people of Australia.
On the 28th June 2007, the Sydney Opera House was made a UNESCO World Heritage Site (Braithwaite, 2007). In 2003, Utzon was awarded the Pritzker Prize, an architect’s highest honour award, which stated;
“There is no doubt that the Sydney Opera House is his masterpiece. It is one of the great iconic buildings of the 20th century, an image of great beauty that has become known throughout the world – a symbol for not only a city, but a whole country and continent.” (Sydney Opera House, 2008)
Climate change is the main concern that threatens World Heritage sites such as the Sydney Opera House (Daley, 2009). Since the Sydney Opera House is known as a World heritage Site, concerns about potential threats to the actual site are worrying. Such threats include; rising sea levels, increased ocean acidification, higher sea and land temperatures (global warming), and extreme weather events (National Trust, 2009). Because of the rising sea levels, there is a threat of the Sydney Opera House, sinking due to lack of stability.
What would happen if the Sydney Opera House was not maintained and conserved? Would the economy differ? The Sydney Opera House relies solely on the patrons it attracts for the diverse performances and activities it provides, and the substantial iconic pull it has world-wide. The Sydney Opera House also provides customers for the surrounding dining (restaurants, bars etc), accommodation (hotels), transport (ferry, train, bus etc) and vast activities that are available in the harbour. The Sydney Opera House is one of the most eventful ‘performing arts centres’ in the world, providing over 1, 500 performances each year, and therefore attended by an estimated 2 million people, who intern provide the revenue for different events that occur in and around the Opera House, as well as the many hospitality industries also surrounding the venue.
Conservation: Recommendations for Improvement
In regards to the sea levels rising, the president of the Australian chapter of the International Council on Monuments and Sites, Peter Phillips states that, “If sea levels rise, they will all be gone. We want the Minister to realise that there are genuine threats but there are genuine solutions. At its most extreme example, it could mean building a dam around the Opera House” (Cooper, 2007).
Obviously it is difficult to completely stop the impact of climate change on any Natural Heritage site; however, they are able to be saved for a minimum amount of money with a primary focus on maintenance. However, “Comprehensive statutory and associated frameworks are in place across three levels of government to ensure that the present condition of the property is maintained to an exceptional standard” (Sydney Opera House 08/09 Annual Report, 2009). They ensure that the building and surroundings are maintained through conservation programs, which are regularly undertaken. The Sydney Opera House Trust and the Australian and New South Wales Governments also thoroughly examine the maintenance situation throughout the year.
The Sydney Opera House is ensured protection under various laws as it is listed as a Heritage site on National, State and Local government heritage lists and registers (Sydney Opera House 08/09 Annual Report, 2009).
The Sydney Opera House is instantaneously recognised by a vast number of people around the world as one of the most internationally acclaimed symbolic buildings in the world today. The significance of the building does not only relate to the city if Sydney or even Australia, but the nation as a whole. The Pritzker Price officially recognises that the Sydney Opera House was “one of the great iconic buildings of the twentieth century” and that it was “an image of great beauty known throughout the world” (Sydney Opera House 08/09 Annual Report, 2009).
Key Dates for the Sydney Opera House
Jørn Utzon wins Sydney Opera House design competition (January)
Work begins on Stage 1 – building the foundations despite Utzon’s protest that plans were not finalised (March
Jørn Utzon resigns (February)
First guided tours of Sydney Opera House (July)
First performance in Sydney Opera House – Australian Opera performed Prokofiev’s War and Peace in the Opera Theatre (September)
Opening Ceremony and Royal Concert with HRH Queen Elizabeth II and the Duke of Edinburgh (October 20)
Concert Hall Grand Organ completed (May)
Opening of The Studio – new venue for contemporary performing arts (March)
Jørn Utzon is re-engaged and appointed design consultant to the Sydney Opera House (August)
Sydney Opera House Producers Unit established (October)
Sydney Opera House Utzon Design Principles published (May)
Sydney Opera House Conservation Plan published (June)
State Heritage Listing achieved (December)
Backstage Tour launched (April)
Utzon Room opened – first venue at Sydney Opera House designed by Jørn Utzon (September)
Recording Studio opened (October)
National Heritage Listing achieved (July)
Asian Language Tour launched in Japanese, Korean, Mandarin (January)
Colonnade opened by HRH Queen Elizabeth II – designed by Jørn Utzon, it is the first change to the exterior of the building since its completion in 1973 (March)
World Heritage Listing achieved (June)
The Essential Tour launched (October)
Visionary Sydney Opera House architect, Jørn Utzon dies peacefully in his sleep (November)
Western Foyers fully refurbished (July)
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