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Sydney Opera House improves accessibility to the Joan Sutherland Theatre

Sydney Opera House improves accessibility to the Joan Sutherland Theatre
December 5, 2018

The Sydney Opera House has created an independent accessible path of travel through the venue and a new lift enabling patrons in wheelchairs or with limited mobility to enjoy the venue’s magnificent Northern Foyer.

Welcoming the upgrade, Max Burt, Inclusion Champion at The WheelEasy Foundation, stated “I’ve been a wheelchair user for more than 19 years and have been coming to the Opera House for the seven years I’ve been living in Sydney.

"This is the first time I could reach the Joan Sutherland Theatre’s Northern Foyer and see for myself the fantastic harbour view. This is a remarkable building and now people with limited mobility can experience it the way everyone else does.” 

Improving accessibility is a key part of the Opera House’s 10-year Renewal program. The latest upgrades include a new level passageway linking the Southern and Northern Foyers and a new lift connecting all levels of the Northern Foyer.

To minimise impact on the World Heritage building, the new passageway was inserted through back of house spaces with brush box timber cladding of the passageway and bronze trim elements to blend seamlessly into the existing interior design.

The accessibility works follow a $45 million upgrade to backstage theatre machinery that had reached the end of its operational life, which was completed on New Year’s Eve 2017. In addition, the NSW Government invested $26 million to fund additional safety, accessibility and venue enhancement works.

NSW Minister for the Arts Don Harwin added “the NSW Government has committed $228 million to improve the Opera House and make it fit for the 21st century – including upgrades to ensure the building can be enjoyed by everyone. It’s extremely rewarding to see what a difference this makes to the accessibility community to now be able to reach all levels of the Joan Sutherland Theatre harbourside northern foyer for the first time.”

These works implement recommendations from the Opera House’s Accessibility Masterplan by making improvements in and around the JST for patrons with access needs.

Other venue improvements and accessible upgrades to the JST include an upgrade to the assistive listening system and accessible toilets in the Northern Foyer.

As with all Opera House Renewal works, the accessibility upgrades in the JST integrate the building’s heritage and its role as a world-class performing arts venue. The Opera House’s independent Eminent Architects Panel and Conservation Council were closely involved in the development of these works to ensure they align with Utzon’s Design Principles and the Opera House’s Conservation Management Plan.

Sydney Opera House Chief Executive Louise Herron concluded “the Opera House belongs to everyone. As an organisation, our goal is to provide barrier-free access, so that everyone can enjoy the building and the art inside it. We have sensitively integrated the new accessible path of travel and lift, both feats of engineering and works of art in themselves.”

Images: Janet Greenwood, Louise Herron, Max Burt and Don Harwin, JST Renewal Accessibility,Sydney Opera House (top, courtesy of Daniel Boud) and Ian Cashen and Max Burt, JST Renewal Accessibility Sydney Opera (below, courtesy of Daniel Boud).

Related Articles

20th December 2017 - Sydney Opera House unveils Joan Sutherland Theatre refurbishment

27th May 2017 - Sydney Opera House named Australia’s favourite landmark

20th May 2017 - Biggest ever renovation set to commence at the Sydney Opera House

11th August 2016 - Sydney Opera House set for $202 million renewal

7th September 2015 - Sydney Opera House awarded for sustainability leadership

25th February 2015 - $600 million plan to upgrade Sydney Opera House and arts venues

19th October 2013 - Sydney Opera House brand more valuable than Australia

30th June 2012 - Sydney Opera House appoints Louise Herron as Chief Executive

3rd June 2010 - $130 Million to Rescue Sydney Opera House


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